Will West African intervention save or detonate Ivory Coast?

6 01 2011

Unless you live under a rock, you should probably know that one of the biggest issues facing Africa right now surrounds the failed election process in Ivory Coast.

AU suspends Ivory Coast

In November after nearly 10 years Ivory Coast finally held a Presidential election, and as is usually the sad reality where African elections are involved, the world waited with baited breath to see if democracy would be peaceably served. Fast-forward a few months and what do we have? A mess! There has been no unequivocal ruling from the country’s electoral commission to say who actually won the election. But the UN, AU, USA, EU and most of the international community believe that incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo lost to his rival a former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.

Some say he lost. Others, that he won through bullying tactics and forcing people to vote. At this point it is hard to know, what to think. It doesn’t help that the UN, EU and USA were the first ones to say he lost either; it fuels fears of neo-colonialism and Western intervention in matters they do not understand.

Regardless of the dubious role of the international community in this matter, it is hard to believe Gbagbo’s case, his reticence in sorting it out seems to speak volumes. He has Ouattara under blockade at a hotel and there were reports of security forces opening fire on Ouattara’s headquarters last night. Gbagbo is in a strong position at home, his armed forced support him and he has some civilian support as the disputed elections have reignited tribal tensions. But international support is nonexistent, and sanctions are starting to be imposed left right and centre. I don’t know much about the politics of this nation but what I do know makes for uncomfortable reading. There are reports of Gbagbo’s political opponents being abducted and hidden dead bodies.

Yes, there are always to sides to any story, but for anyone with eyes this guy is a tyrant. And he is punch drunk on power in a dangerous way. That is the most worrying thing of all. His insistence that power must be his puts Ivory Coast in a precarious place. In the face of his behaviour I believe one of two things will happen. Either he will retain power in some way, be it a power-sharing deal like Kenya or as a solitary military tyrant. Or alternatively, the country could overthrow him, and I can’t see how that could happen except by violence. And after men in military uniforms fired on United Nations peacekeepers last month and Gbagbo ordered UN and French peacekeepers out, fears of a bloody civil war seemed well founded.

So cue African leaders. I agree Africans should solve an African problem, yes. But some help please? I can’t help but feel that France should be doing more somehow. Anyway, back to the African leaders.

Sorry, but I am not inspired. They say they want to help remove Gbagbo peaceably, but to me it just looks like a group of guys trying to help an old friend out. The African Union have approached him with Prime Minister Odinga from Kenya as their envoy. I cannot believe that the African Union allowed this man to act as their envoy! What gives him the right? He too lost and let a thousand people die, all because he wanted power. He eventually entered into a power-sharing deal, receiving the post of Prime Minister. This is ludicrous! He wants to come and set a nasty precedent that it doesn’t matter of you lose just hang on for enough people to die and you can get power too.

So then the West African cavalry arrive in the form of ECOWAS. They bravely told him to step down, or face military force but, in reality, ECOWAS seem scared and rudderless in the face of Gbagbo’s behaviour. There have been veiled threats of reprisal attacks made against the immigrant communities in Ivory Coast of any country that tries to forcibly remove the tyrant. This, along with the fact that ECOWAS do not have the troops to fight and considerations for the Ivorian citizens who have faced nearly 8 years of protracted civil war, coups and countercoups; ECOWAS and its Chairman, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan have a difficult time ahead of them. Removing a resistant incumbent is way out of their area of expertise. But failure to do so after taking a stance against him could be the undoing of the West African regional bloc.

Jonathan has not seemed to do anything much at all except issue an ECOWAS/AU joint statement to tell Gbagbo to relinquish power immediately and face no repercussions. As yet this has yielded no results.

But why should he get to live with amnesty in exile or at home? Let’s be real. This is Africa. The dude is going to get some palatial villa somewhere with house girls, drivers, a team of people dedicated to telling him that he is the best thing since sliced bread and he’ll probably get paid too! This is not the right way to do it! And after so long since the election, I’m guessing a recount is out of the question. But by-God can he have to face the fact the people have already died, the 20,000 people who have fed as refugees into neighbouring Liberia and thousands more that have been displaced elsewhere for his insanity?! There are no indications that diplomacy can or will change Gbagbo’s mind so this African intervention seems doomed. And even if they do by some stroke of God manage to avoid bloodshed, at what cost? Saving blood in this case may not save Ivory Coast or the continent of Africa at all.

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