In Ivory Coast, the action by the United Nations and French forces may have tipped the balance.
Diplomatic pressure in the form of financial sanctions and a travel ban and military threats failed to force Laurent Gbagbo out of office.
Last week his opponent, Alassane Ouattara swiftly gained large swathes of territory but failed to dislodge Mr Gbagbo's forces from key points around the main city Abidjan.
The United Nations and France began targeting Mr Gbagbo's heavy weapons yesterday, in accordance with a UN resolution to protect civilians.
Now senior officials in the Gbagbo camp are negotiating a ceasefire with the French.
For an overview of what is going on BBC Focus on africa's Audrey Brown spoke to our correspondent, John James.
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