Gbagbo’s departure imminent

Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Cote d’Ivoire who refuses to step down despite losing an election, faces imminent departure. According to the BBC and the Times, his own army chief (Phillippe Mangou) and other members of the security forces have already defected from his camp. The rebel forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized president of Cote d’Ivoire, are closing in on Abidjan, the commercial capital. The rebels are already in control of Yamoussoukro, the capital, and the important port of San Pedor. Mr. Gbagbo has been illegally exporting cocoa from the port in violation of a UN embargo. Gbagbo’s home town, Gagnoa, has also fallen to the rebels.

The only question left is what should happen to Mr. Gbagbo after he leaves the Ivorian presidency. His refusal to leave office after losing an election has already led to the death of hundreds of civilians. The most gruesome example of his lack of concern for his own countrymen is when he ordered his soldiers to fire mortars at a local market in Abidjan. Dozens, most of them women traders, were killed. An estimated one million people have fled their homes. In my view Mr. Gbabgo should stand trial for crimes against humanity, IN ABIDJAN, in order to serve as an example for other African autocrats that elections have consequences.

Mr. Gbagbo should not be part of any unity government.

In addition, an inquiry should be made into who exactly funded his months long attempt at supplanting Ivorian electoral democracy. The likes of Edwardo dos Santos of Angola and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (who reportedly sent him weapons) should also face penalties – even if just adverse mentions – for their role in aiding and abetting a murderous autocrat.

More on this at the FP

Africa needs zuma (to have a coherent foreign policy)

This week the Economist rightly called out South African president Jacob Zuma on his country’s lack of a coherent foreign policy. South Africa was reborn in 1994 with the moral authority and international goodwill to be Africa’s shining light in the world. Instead, under Mbeki and now Zuma, the country has squandered all that away.

Mbeki did it with his intransigence against reason on the issue of HIV/AIDS and support of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Mr. Zuma is doing the same with his support for Mugabe and equivocal pronouncements against other murderous tyrants on the Continent. Since his election he has not spoken strongly against any injustices or electoral fraud on the Continent; this task has been left to Ian Khama, president of tiny but relatively prosperous Botswana.

Sub-Saharan Africa is desperately in need of a regional hegemon to help it chart a coherent path in global politics. Latin America has Brazil. South Asia has India. East Asia has China. Even Europe has Germany. In Africa, Nigeria (pop. 150+m), South Africa (~40m, biggest economy), Ethiopia (85m) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (~70m) – all potential regional leaders – have woefully underperformed.

Nigeria is Nigeria. Ethiopia is dirt poor and needs to clean its own mess, Somalia’s and Eritrea’s, before it can venture further afield. The DRC is struggling to keep itself afloat. South Africa, by far, has the capacity and the requisite soft power to take up the job of regional guiding light. The country is slated to become a BRIC country soon, making the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

It is a shame that Mr. Zuma has chosen to abdicate his role as the Continental leader. He alone, among the members of the Continent’s club of kleptocratic autocrats (a.k.a AU), has the clout to stand up to the evils we continue to see in Cote d’Ivoire, Darfur, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

Open letter to ecowas (on cote d’ivoire) from icg

Brussels, 22 March 2011


We are deeply concerned about the worsening security situation in Côte d’Ivoire and urge enhanced efforts to stop the country’s slide into full-scale civil war, which would likely involve ethnic cleansing and other mass atrocity crimes. On 10 March 2011, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union ended the debate on the outcome of Côte d’Ivoire’s 28 November 2010 presidential election by endorsing the report of the panel of the five heads of state who confirmed Alassane Ouattara as the sole legitimate president of the country. Unfortunately, this pronouncement has done little to relieve the crisis, because the incumbent regime responded with renewed armed attacks on Ouattara supporters and violent repression of the population.2 0

Daily attacks on civilians, including reports of forced disappearances, rapes and torture, continue, and the death toll far exceeds the UN’s confirmed count of 440 dead. Fighting between forces loyal to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and those allied to Alassane Ouattara has increased, including the use of heavy weapons, and widespread population displacement paralleled by hate speech and incitement to violence are worrying indicators of a deepening crisis and the potential for ethnic cleansing and other forms of mass killing. Côte d’Ivoire is no longer on the brink of civil war; it has already begun.

The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), with the support of the African Union, should offer Gbagbo a final chance for a peaceful departure, while actively preparing to oust his regime by all necessary means before it is too late. The massive investment the international community has made in peace and security in West Africa for nearly two decades is under threat.

In a 3 March report, the International Crisis Group identified three scenarios in the short term: “decay and lasting division of the country”, “social crisis and popular insurrection”, and “civil war”. We stressed that the civil war scenario accompanied by civilian massacres was the most likely, and that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire constituted a serious and imminent threat to peace and security throughout West Africa. Unfortunately, the facts on the ground are proving us correct.

People should not be misled by Gbagbo’s appeal for inter-Ivorian dialogue and his call for an end to the violence, delivered through the spokesman for his unrecognised government on 18 March. The outgoing president did not make a clear and definitive recognition of Ouattara’s election win, and the following day, Gbagbo’s Minister for Youth, Charles Blé Goudé, called on young Ivorians to enlist in the army en masse “to free Côte d’Ivoire from bandits”.

The future Gbagbo proposes for his country is war, anarchy and violence, with ethnic, religious and xenophobic dimensions. Ivorian state television, which is controlled by the outgoing regime, recently aired images of the bodies of rebels killed by security forces, described as nationals of other countries in West Africa, namely Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali, which in the context of years of indoctrination through xenophobic rhetoric is open encouragement for reprisals against immigrant communities.

ECOWAS must not give in to Gbagbo’s blackmail. The physical and economic security of West African nationals living in Côte d’Ivoire will never be secured by a regime that coarsely manipulates the rhetoric of solidarity with “brother countries” while threatening their citizens and unleashing militias to terrorise opponents. All of West Africa faces the risk of being severely weakened by the return to civil war in Côte d’Ivoire and the disintegration of its central government. ECOWAS must now take decisive political and military measures to prevent a much greater crisis emerging.

Excellencies, as you meet on 23 and 24 March in Abuja, we invite you to:

  • ask the High Representative to be appointed by the president of the Commission of the African Union to provide a last chance for the outgoing president to leave in a dignified manner with guarantees of security, and to require an immediate response from him;
  • decide on the establishment of a military mission whose objective would be to allow the regional community to protect, along with UNOCI forces, all people residing in Côte d’Ivoire in the very likely case of the eruption of massive violence, to support military action and decisions which could be taken by ECOWAS in accordance with developments in the months to come, and help President Ouattara and his government to ensure authority over all defence and security forces and to control the entire territory;
  • ask the United Nations Security Council to consider emergency measures that could take the form of preventive military actions by UNOCI to more effectively protect civilian populations, such as disabling the mobility of armed elements undertaking indiscriminate attacks with heavy weaponry in Abidjan;
  • ask the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the UN Security Council to adopt individual sanctions against those who reject the decision of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union dated 10 March 2011, those who are responsible for deliberate attacks on civilians, and those who openly call for violence, or are responsible for broadcast and print media messages inciting hatred and violence.

ECOWAS has played a key role since the beginning of the Ivorian crisis. Its leadership is more important than ever. Since 28 November 2010, Gbagbo’s efforts to remain in power no longer leave any doubt about the serious threat that his regime poses to peace and security throughout West Africa. The cost of inaction is much higher now than that of taking strong political and military measures.

With our highest consideration,

Louise Arbour
President of the International Crisis Group

will the world sit and watch as ivorians massacre each other?

Laurent Gbagbo appears set to plunge his country back into civil war.

FP reports:

For the last several months, the Ivory Coast has been crawling back to civil war. Now, both sides are actively bulking up their forces in what looks like an alarming calculation that this country’s crisis will get worse before it gets better.  The Ivory Coast has been divided between a rebel-controlled north and a government-controlled south for the last decade. The fragile detante that restored peace in 2005 is shattering. Thousands upon thousands are fleeing the capital today in fear of exactly that.

In the southern city and capital of Abidjan, “thousands” of youth have joined the army, heeding a call from outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, the man who lost November’s presidential election. The drive has been led by Gbagbo’s notoriously militant youth minister, Blé Goudé, who is under U.N. sanctions for violating the country’s peace agreement and impeding the U.N. peacekeeping missionin the country. He told Reuters, “Our country is under attack, so we’re organising ourselves to re-establish order … The legal way to do it is to put them in the regular army.”

Mr. Gbagbo lost an election late last year to challenger Alassane Ouattara but has refused to step down despite mounting international pressure. Most of the world, except Angola, Zimbabwe and a few autocratic presidents here and there, have condemned his refusal to step down.

Angola and Zimbabwe are arming Gbagbo. He is also busy recruiting militias within Abidjan and in neighboring Liberia. Mr. Ouattara, his challenger and Cote d’Ivoire’s legitimate president, has the backing of Forces Nouvelle, the rebel outfit that has controlled northern Cote d’Ivoire for most of the last 10 years. A blood bath between the two forces appears inevitable.

So what can be done? The AU’s mediation efforts have failed. The UN mission in Abidjan has been sloppy. ECOWAS, the regional bloc remains divided over the Ivorian issue. Confusion reigns. At the onset of the crisis most of those concerned wanted to avoid any conflict. But that calculus is already off the table. Now it is not whether there will be conflict, but how bad it will get. I say it is about time ECOWAS sent in troops (despite Ghanaian opposition) to take out Gbagbo before he becomes too entrenched in Abidjan.

This will be a lot less costly than waiting to send in a peacekeeping mission after hundreds of thousands have died.


conflating inept autocracy with independent mindedness

Col. Gaddafi has been having an independent foreign policy and, of course, also independent internal policies. I am not able to understand the position of Western countries, which appear to resent independent-minded leaders and seem to prefer puppets. Puppets are not good for any country. Most of the countries that have transitioned from Third World to First World status since 1945 have had independent-minded leaders: South Korea (Park Chung-hee), Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew), China People’s Republic (Mao Tse Tung, Chou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Marshal Yang Shangkun, Li Peng, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jing Tao, etc), Malaysia (Dr. Mahthir Mohamad), Brazil (Lula Da Silva), Iran (the Ayatollahs), etc.

Between the First World War and the Second World War, the Soviet Union transitioned into an Industrial country propelled by the dictatorial, but independent-minded Joseph Stalin. In Africa, we have benefited from a number of independent-minded leaders: Col. Nasser of Egypt, Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania, Samora Machel of Mozambique, etc.  That is how Southern Africa was liberated. That is how we got rid of Idi Amin. The stopping of genocide in Rwanda and the overthrow of Mobutu, etc., were as a result of efforts of independent-minded African leaders. Gaddafi, whatever his faults, is a true nationalist.  I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests. Where have the puppets caused the transformation of countries? I need some assistance with information on this from those who are familiar with puppetry. Therefore, the independent-minded Gaddafi had some positive contribution to Libya, I believe, as well as Africa and the Third World. I will take one little example. At the time we were fighting the criminal dictatorships here in Uganda, we had a problem arising of a complication caused by our failure to capture enough guns at Kabamba on the February 6, 1981. Gaddafi gave us a small consignment of 96 rifles, 100 anti-tank mines, etc., that was very useful. He did not consult Washington or Moscow before he did this. This was good for Libya, for Africa and for the Middle East. We should also remember as part of that independent-mindedness he expelled British and American military bases from Libya, etc.

That is Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, talking about Col. Gaddafi. More on this here.

My thoughts on this: Dictators have no internal affairs (HT Han Han). I will forever be skeptical of autocrats screaming “sovereignty.” Oftentimes it is when they are jailing, exiling, killing and dispossessing dissidents left, right and centre that they will shout loudest about the principle of non-interference.

How different would Uganda be today minus economic aid and any form of interference from the West? Let’s not pretend that it is Western interference that has stunted African economic, social and political development. Achebe was right. The trouble with Africa is simply and squarely a problem of leadership. For every Lula, Lee Kwan Yew or even Stalin, Africa has had Mobutu, Museveni and Mugabe. Where the former had controversial (and sometimes despicably murderous) but well thought out and ideologically driven plans for transforming their societies, African leaders have more often than not willingly mortgaged away their country’s futures while engaging in ideologically bankrupt and crass tribal politics.

African resources have created billionaires elsewhere while African masses  starved. African leaders signed off on most of these deals in exchange for kickbacks. The African tragedy over the last 50 years is just that. An African tragedy. Foreigners only played a supporting role.

At a meta-level I sympathize with Museveni. It is the nature of the international system that the strong prey on the weak. But where I disagree with him is how to deal with this fact. He wants the strong to benevolently keep off and condone his mediocrity. I prefer the continued pressure from the strong so that even states like Uganda can develop capacities to stand up to the strong, both economically and militarily.

It is a pipe dream to continue nurturing and protecting mediocre leadership all over Africa while expecting the strong nations of the world to benevolently keep off. China, India, Brazil, Russia and the usual suspects from the West will continue preying on Africa as long as clowns like Kabila, Mugabe, Gbagbo and the thieves in Abuja are in charge. Let’s not kid ourselves. What would stop Europe from re-colonizing Africa if Brussels and Washington signed off on the idea? And if Russia and China joined in, would they defend Africans or access to African resources?

I am glad that the threat of regime change is alive and well. Perhaps it will wake up the inept kleptocrats all over Africa from their 50-year stupor.


Elizabeth Dickinson at FP writes:

Believe me, I know: You have no bandwidth for the Ivory Coast today. But that may be exactly why the situation in this West African country — far from the geopolitics of Libya and the human tragedy of Japan — is going south so quickly. It looks increasingly like outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo has made a calculation that the world just doesn’t have enough free hands to stop him if he pushes the country back into war.