cocoa exports and help from angola, zimbabwe keeping gbagbo afloat

Zimbabwe and Angola have been cited by UN investigators as violators of the standing arms embargo against the Ivorian despot Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Gbagbo refused to leave office after losing to challenger Alassane Ouattara in elections last year.

Now it emerges that despite the ban on cocoa exports the Gbagbo faction in Abidjan continues in the trade. Africa confidential reports that:

Trade sources in Moscow and London report that business allies of Laurent Gbagbo have begun exporting cocoa out of the port of San Pedro in defiance of President-elect Alassane Dramane Ouattara’s export ban. Last month, the officially recognised President called for the ban, which he has extended to the end of March. He promised action against traders who violate the ban, which has the United Nations’ backing, and all the major buyers have complied. The European Union has forbidden any EU-flagged vessel from lifting cocoa. The export ban will carry on into April, we hear.

A key player in Gbagbo’s operation is Ali Lakiss, the Lebanese Managing Director of the Société Amer et Frères Cacao (SAF-Cacao), the biggest locally-owned cocoa company, who manages the exports, say European-based traders. We hear Lakiss is close to Simone Gbagbo, wife of the losing presidential candidate, who has major interests in the cocoa business. These efforts may help Gbagbo’s finances but his military position is steadily worsening

And in a somewhat positive twist, factions appear to have emerged within Gbagbo’s election-stealing coalition.

Rumours swirl around the military that the fighters who tried to storm Army Chief General Phillipe Mangou’s house on 14 March were dissidents from his own forces – rather than the pro-Ouattara ‘invisible commandos’ some had blamed. Some think dissatisfied generals could have encouraged the attack on Mangou: he criticised the army’s killing of six women in a demonstration in the Abobo suburb of Abidjan, two weeks ago. His remarks further damaged relations with the generals who are really in control.

This is good news. The international community must continue its stare-down of Gbagbo.

This should be a lesson to the kleptocratic, ideologically bankrupt and woefully inept autocrats all over the African continent that elections have consequences.

On the less sanguine side of things, and as pointed out by Africa Confidential, a military takeover by Gbagbo’s generals might be ominous for the prospects of democracy in Cote d’Ivoire. The generals might not necessarily be willing to hand over power to Ouattara.

With every day that passes the land of the late Felix Houphouet-Boigny seems to be inching closer and closer to an ineluctable civil war.

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