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.
The Central Bank of West African States has signaled the beginning of the end of Laurent Gbagbo’s attempted auto-coup. The BBC reports that the regional reserve bank has denied access to Mr. Gbagbo and his cronies. It is only a matter of time before unpaid soldiers switch alliances and pledge their allegiance to the man that can deliver the paycheck, Mr. Ouattara. Or so I hope.
Mr. Gbagbo lost Cote d’Ivoire’s presidential election to opposition challenger Alassane Ouattara but refused to step down. The international community has thrown its weight behind Mr. Ouattara as the legitimate president. Both men have named their respective cabinets and remain holed up in the commercial capital Abidjan.
The UN’s secretary-general has warned there is a “real risk” of a return to civil war in Ivory Coast after the disputed presidential election.
Ban Ki-moon said the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, was illegally trying to expel the UN’s peacekeeping force after it recognised Alassane Ouattara as victor.
The UNSC should pass a resolution preemptively holding incumbent Laurent Gbagbo personally responsible for any deaths that occur because of his refusal to leave office. Already dozens have died in riots in the Ivorian commercial capital of Abidjan. Mr. Gbagbo lost to Mr. Alassane Ouattara by 8 points.
Since then the world’s biggest exporter of cocoa has been in a state of limbo, with both men swearing themselves in as president. The UN and the wider international community have recognized Mr. Ouattara as the duly elected president of Cote d’Ivoire.
The BBC reports that both Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo have sworn themselves in as president. It is becoming ever more apparent that Cote d’Ivoire is on the edge of plunging back into civil war.
Laurent Gbagbo, through Cote d’Ivoire’s constitutional council, has declared himself winner of the Sunday presidential runoff. Ivory Coast’s independent electoral commission and UN and other observers continue to maintain that Alassane Ouattara, the opposition candidate, won the election with 54% of the vote.
The ethnic arithmetic of the election disfavored the incumbent Mr. Gbagbo (a Bete, 6%) after the third place candidate, former president Konan Bedie (a Baoule, 23%) endorsed Mr. Ouattara (a Dioula, 1.4% but who also commands most (up to 90%) of the northern Muslim vote).
Gbagbo should not be allowed to get away with this. Cote d’Ivoire’s election was not a close call. Ouattara won, fair and square. If any unity government is formed Mr. Gbagbo can only be a junior partner in it.
Needless to say this outcome may plunge the country back into civil war, mostly along the same ethnic and regional contours as in 2002-04.
The Ivorian electoral commission declared Alassane Ouattara, the northern candidate, as the winner of the presidential runoff held on Sunday. Ouattara got 54.1% of the vote. Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo disputed the results and had the country’s constitutional court reject the pronouncement. His supporters contend that there were significant irregularities in three regions in the north of the country.
Gbagbo (left) and Ouattara
UN and other mission observers declared that the election globally reflected the will of the people of Cote d’Ivoire. The BBC reports that the country’s military has sealed the borders amid rising tension and confusion over the political stalemate in the country. Mr. Gbagbo has been president since 2000.
For the sake of institutionalism the international community should not allow Mr. Gbagbo to remain in power. His 10-year tenure has not done much in terms of healing relations between the two halves of the country that fought the 2002-04 civil war. The fact that even his incumbency advantage could not help him beat Ouattara signals his general incompetence and the mass’s disaffection with his rule.
Cote d’Ivoire has a population of 21 million people, 49% of whom live in urban areas. Life expectancy in the country is a dismal 56 years. Only 48% of Ivorians age 15 and over are literate. Ivorians’ per capita income is US $1700 and 68% of them depend on agriculture for livelihood. 42% of Ivorians live below the international poverty line of $2 a day.
Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans and a significant producer and exporter of coffee and palm oil. Because of the political risk in the country Cocoa for March delivery climbed $110, or 4 percent, to $2,868 in New York.
There are no prizes for guessing why the government of Ivory Coast is delaying the release of provisional results from Sunday’s presidential runoff. It is almost certain that the challenger, Alassane Ouattara, won against Laurent Gbagbo, who has been dictator president since 2000. Mr. Gbagbo, seeming desperate, has already indicated that he will challenge results from three regions in the north.
I will post the provisional results as soon as I get an inkling of what they look like.
Map of Cote d'Ivoire
The Ivorian civil war (2002-2004) split the country in two, with the rebels (New Forces) controlling the north. Mr. Ouattara is from the north while Mr. Gbagbo is from the south.
The BBC reports that the main election observer missions in the country had no problems with how the election was conducted in the north.
The information vacuum has fueled security uncertainty and speculation. The Daily Nation reports:
“People are going a bit crazy. There are hundreds of rumours of violence so the atmosphere is rather tense,” said Marcel Camara, 37, hunkered down with his aunt and two cousins at their home in the Abobo district of Abidjan, where a curfew has been in force since Saturday.