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Ivory Coast puts African credibility on the line

December 6, 2010

IVORYCOAST-ELECTION/Mediation has already started after another bad election in Africa.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki was in Ivory Coast at the weekend to try to sort out the mess after election results ratified by the United Nations were rejected by the Constitutional Court, the army and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who had himself sworn in again as president quickly. His opponent Alassane Ouattara said he was president.

Mbeki, all smiles as he met Gbagbo, is used to brokering deals. He helped negotiate the deal for Zimbabwe’s unity government between President Robert Mugabe and now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, ending months of turmoil at the time. Tsvangirai had led in the first round in early 2008 but boycotted the second after violence against his supporters.

That unity deal came months after former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan came up with an agreement in Kenya following an election in which incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was also accused of rigging, but had himself quickly sworn in. Violence followed in which at least 1,300 people were killed before a power-sharing pact was reached.

The agreements in Kenya and Zimbabwe certainly ended ruinous crises (or at least put them on hold), but could they also have been lessons in how to keep a shot at power when all might seem lost?

IVORYCOAST-ELCTION/Until the early 1990s, most African presidents were there for life – comfortable as long as that life was not curtailed by an ambitious chief of army staff. Then came elections - some good and many not so good – under donor and popular pressure.

Could there now be a new model? Hold an election and if you win then great – you are a democrat after all – but even if you don’t there’s an escape route. The worst that happens is that an elder statesman shows up to mediate a deal which may still leave you in a strong position – perhaps even the strongest position?

IVORYCOAST-ELECTION/Much is at stake for the United Nations in Ivory Coast, and not only the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on helping end civil war and on organizing and overseeing the election. By coming out very clearly to say that Ouattara had won the election, it will surely be discredited if that is not respected in some form.

Africa’s credibility is also on the line. A significant reason for an improving investment profile is the decrease in the number of wars and the increase in the number of elections. The mess in Ivory Coast doesn’t help and overshadows the first free election in neighbouring Guinea, where the two sides (eventually) agreed there would be one winner and one loser.

But nobody has as much at stake in Ivory Coast as Gbagbo himself and he has always been a fighter.

When Ivory Coast’s then ruler, Robert Guei, declared victory in a poll a decade ago that everyone knew the opposition had won, he was driven from power by popular protests called by the opposition leader with the support of the international community behind him. That opposition leader was of course Laurent Gbagbo.

Should Gbagbo stay or go? Will Mbeki be up to the task of sorting out the mess? What alternative is there to mediation?

Comments

Thank you… This is clearly a reporting of events. Lately, we have witnessed some partisan AFP reports; which could have long lasting consequences. (1) It is clear that most international organizations, especially the UN took side on this political conflicts of events. Could we blame them? (2) It is also clear that Gbagbo is using all tools in refusing to relinquish power. Could we blame him? I am closely following the situation to see how events would unfold; in the meantime, I’d address the 2 points mentioned above.
(1) Their argument (Opposition Party or RHDP, UN, EU,& other international organizations)is not legally sound. The prelimanry election results were given by the independent electoral commission or CEI after the 3-day legal deadline for proclaiming a winner. The polls closed on Sunday, November 28 2010. Poll results were expected by CEI at most by Wednesday, December 01, 2010 at midnight. This did not occur because election commissioners could not reach an agreement. Therefore, any results given on Thursday, December 2nd 2010 should just be dsregarded on legal basis. At that moment only the Ivorian Higher Council could decide; which it did to the disatisfaction of one side (RHDP, EU, UN, etc.)
(2) I definitely dislike Gbagbo, not because of the person he is but because of his methods. If our country has come this low, he is primary responsible for it. Since 1990 to this day, he used all kinds of methods to concquer power and to maintain it. And as a result, he is paying the price. Worse, the country has been fading and now heading to a terrible power clash. Nevertheless, credit to him because he puts himself on the legal side of this battle.
The truth is all sides were vying for power, and they all agreed on how to proceed. In the end, Gbagbo was way too smart for them to acknowledge.
Legally, he wins the battle; and as of now, UN is really looking for a way not to discredit itself any further.
Gervais

Posted by gervais.ahoure | Report as abusive
 

Democracy is not perfect, but there is nothing better at this time. There should not be special adjustments to Africa, for the danger is too great that an autocrat would take himself for God and extend his rule indefinitely, “in the interest of the people”. If Gbagbo loves his country, he should simply go and enrich the political debate by fighting the new regime in Parliament for example. He has been a strong opponent and can contribute to improving democracy in Côte d’Ivoire. Regarding legal issues and legitimacy, it is quite shameful to have prevented the publication of results within the deadline. I don’t think he has won any legal battle. Can we talk about law when somebody tears down results that are not in favour of his candidate? From that minute on, the presidential camp lost all credibility. With the looming international isolation, aid freeze and bulging external debt, StrategiCo. has downgraded its rating for Côte d’Ivoire, to the “high risk” category. http://www.strategico.fr

Posted by lydieboka | Report as abusive
 

Lydie, I do agree with your point; that whenever someone like an election commissioner is acting disrespectfully of his institution, we all should condemn it vigourously. Though he later explained the rationale for his act, he is still wrong for doing it in such a way.
But I also was shamely surprised that the following day, the president of the Ivorian Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko, came before the cameras to address issue of the delay in the deliberation process. All he did say was that they (commissioners) were still working on their disagreements as to find a common ground; that whenever they reached a solution, results would be announced. I was surprised and dismayed that he could not even condemn the acts by Damana Pickass (the commissioner who tore the preliminary results the night before on the basis they should not be announced they were not approved by all commissioners..!). After Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko spoke, I kind of knew they were all deadlocked very, very seriously. Why? To be honest, we, from the outside, did not what was going on. Presumably, the President of CEI did not want to take a chance or his responsability and force an agreement upon them. Thus, I think he decided to let the clock run out. On Thursday, December 2nd, 2010, results were finally announced not from the CEI headquarters but rather from the Golf Hotel. Why? we do not know. But what I drew my attention was the very high turnout, 89%…! Why are those numbers so high while most observers were saying at the end of the pollings that 2nd round turnout was much lower than on the 1st round (which ended on about 80%). People were talking about something around mid-70% or lower.
The rest, everybody knows what happened thereafter…! Honestly, I think as of now emotions are running very high. Nevertheless, over time, smoke would clear and we would learn or find out what really did happen.
Regards,
Gervais

Posted by gervais.ahoure | Report as abusive
 

Lydie,
Please do not defend what you can’t defend.
We are talking about the future of Ivory Coast. In Africa, we don’t need strong people, we do need strong institutions and when I say strong institutions, I mean let’s respect the law of the land.
I do agree with you, Democracy is not perfect but it’s the best mean to regulate a civilized society as the law.
I agree with Gervaisahoure 100%
Good night and may God bless all f us

Posted by Movais | Report as abusive
 

Ivory Coast puts African credibility on the line but rather imposing that Sovereignty and Supreme Court of African countries be respected equally. Each sovereign country has its own Law and Supreme Court which MUST be respected by the Citizen of the country, citizens from any foreign country, local and international organizations, any political leader, President from around the world.
The rules of the Ivory Coast presidential elections were well known to all competing candidates. They have all freely accepted the rules set by the Constitution of Ivory Coast and they had agreed to compete for President according to the rules. Mr. Ouattara was well aware that the Supreme Court of Ivory Coast has the LAST World, which was referred to as certification. The UN had never been granted the legal authority or power to certify the elections. According to the rules, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had three days to proclaim the partial results. Should the EIC failed, the Constitution grants the Supreme Court the power to take charge of the entire process.
1- We all know that the IEC had failed per the rules of the presidential elections set by the Supreme Court.
2- The IEC had behaved as supporter of Mr. Ouattara. The President of the IEC was a supporter of Mr. Ouattara, three vice-Presidents out of four were also supporters of Mr. Ouattara. Three (3) member out of four (4) of the IEC was a supporter of Mr. Outtara. T
3- Mr. Ouattara has waived his rights to challenge the same rules he freely to play by while running for President.
4- The Supreme Court was the last institution to take charge, not the UN. The Supreme Court had every RIGHT to make a decision in the same case as Gore V. Bush in 2000.
5- No one, no organization, no President, no King can contest the decision of the sovereign Republic of Ivory Coast.

It is worth mentioning that Mr. Ouattara had mastermind three coups d’etat and the last one of September 2002 had led to the civil war, which caused more than 10,000 deaths, 30,000 disabled by war violence and had forced more than half the population of Ivory Coast to find a safe place in Abidjan. Abidjan is overcrowed today because of Mr. Ouattara civil war and his rebels. The rebels are murdering, raping, and committing any kinds of barbaric actions in half of Ivory Coast.

Mr. Ouattara is well aware that many Citizens of Ivory Coast are not ready to forgive him for the three coups d’etat he made in Ivory Coast and for the civil war. Citizens of Ivory Coast still remember him claiming openly and publicly that he would destroy Ivory Coast by any means necessary if he was not elected President…

Posted by KoleMale | Report as abusive
 

We are then talking about the same thing: strong institutions, not one with blatant conflicts of interests and a handful of “faithful” friends whose future hangs on a person desperately clinging to power. We are talking of the rule of law, and for that, wouldn’t it be time to turn the page to ten controversial years and weird elections, to say the least? And most definitely, Africa no longer wants to see somebody tearing up people’s votes, a total lack of respect for those who patiently lined up to cast their votes. Africa no longer wants the world to see one camp is trying to solve problems with muscles, not brain.

Posted by lydieboka | Report as abusive
 

There’s a lot of negative depictions about our great continent and the people always seem to be divided. Here’s a look at a positive outcome of an African Family trying to represent African and in it’s entirety in a positive manner.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G q3HDnt51I

Posted by growinupafrican | Report as abusive
 

As an Englishman who has lived and worked in a number of African countries, including six very enjoyable years in Abidjan, I am greatly saddened but unfortunately not surprised by the current impasse in Côte d’Ivoire. Whoever won the election, it is difficult to believe that the loser’s supporters would have accepted the result without a fight. There is a lot of discussion taking place now about the legality of the two governments and the rights and wrongs of the electoral process and the announcement of the results, but to me the issues are deeper than this.

In my view multi-party democracy in Africa, or anywhere else for that matter, will always have a problem if the parties align themselves with Regional or ethnic groups – “democracy” will be no more than a mechanism for ensuring power lies in the hands of the largest group.

In Côte d’Ivoire it has been clear for the last twenty years that if a free and fair election was held it would be won by the RDR party, as the ethnic/religious group it represents is numerically the largest. The only ways the parties in power could stop this happening was by disqualifying their candidate (the strategy of Bédié and Guei) or by disqualifying the voters themselves, as Gbagbo has now done.

Gbagbo was put under enormous external pressure to hold these elections but in reality this pressure was misguided as the country was not ready. Rather than resolve the underlying north-south issues it was almost certain that it would take the country back ten years and to the brink of civil war. Tragically this has proved to be the case. Despite the power-sharing government, the country was, in reality, still operating as two separate entities and the external pressure on Gbagbo should have been aimed at making him work harder to re-unify the country rather than hold an election that could only exacerbate the split. I really hope I’m wrong, but I can see no way out of the present stalemate without violence unless one or both sides are prepared to make major concessions, and at the moment there is no evidence that they are.

The only solution in the long term that I can see to this problem of party-ethnic alignment is to change the constitution and require a successful presidential candidate to demonstrate a defined level of support, say 25% or 30% of the votes cast, in every region of the country. This would mean that candidates would need to start thinking about satisfying voters’ needs across the country and not only in their current power bases. But for the country of Côte d’Ivoire, as we know it today, to become a more democratic state in the true sense of the word the country will still need to be around, and I am afraid that at the moment there is a real risk that it won’t be.

Posted by Sankofa-king | Report as abusive
 

So very easy to say: DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN!…..because this is what the west expects and can understand! What they CANNOT understand nor admit are the complexities of a situation like this, and their role and culpability in it. Ivory Coast is a sovereign country, independent for over 50 years, but some…France for example would still like to believe that it is a French protectorate, and they plus the UN are laying the ground work for their second Rwanda.

Disinformation is running rife on this subject. For, the so called international community it is very convenient to pile on… accusing Gbagbo of being just another African dictator clinging to power, because the world is accustomed to it. But this is much more complex, and EVERY single article published by western media fails deliberately to include relevant facts, such as:
- there was rampant intimidation, vote rigging and other irregularities in the rebel controlled zone
- the electoral rules were not respected….the delay for proclaiming the results were over….the partisan head of the electoral commission fled in the dark of night, alone without any other member of the commission to the opposition candidate’s headquarters proclaim some manufactured provisional results to the foreign press.
- Only the Highest court of the land can certify the final results after taking into account all complaints duly submitted.
- The blatant disregard by the United Nations representative going beyond their designated role…and “”certifying” results…blatant meddling in the affairs of a sovereign country.

- “They” keep mentioning that the Highest court chief hwas a Gbagbo ally, but never ever mention that the electoral commission was packed with Ouattara’s allies. Doesn’t a President in every country name Supreme Court judges,etc.

- Weren’t the 2000 elections in the United States decided by the Supreme Court, ultimate arbiter? Did Gore go set up a parallel Presidency in the Watergate Hotel? Did the UN, EU, rest of the world meddle, even when the said President elect started a war and invaded a country on a false pretext?

- before this, the UN was also charged with ensuring that the rebels in the North were disarmed which they did NOT do.
- the vendetta of French President Sarkosy against Gbagbo (long Story)…French wanting to control the economy of the Ivory Coat, on their terms.
- The French threatening the West African nations (4/15) to sanction Gbagbo, African Union obliged to tow the party line, inciting the EU to impose sanctions, the Security Council to reprimand and sanction. Sarkosy is a long standing intimate friend of opposition candidate Ouattara, and wants someone he can control. He has long been trying to get Ouattara in power, and this time is not being subtle about it.
- Now the United Nations are arming and transporting the rebels.
They are preparing the ground for another Rwanda type situation, and do not care….same inciters FRANCE, UNITED NATIONS
- Finally, it would seem that elections only matter to the West when the issue is the candidate they want (remember Hamas, Chavez, Iran….)

Woe to any legitimate candidate that does not fit in the designated box; he automatically becomes a terrorist, a dictator, drug addict or trafficant, or madman. (He who wants to kill his dog accuses him of rage)

Etc, etc, etc……please research truth and facts and stop parroting the international party line.

Posted by ndree091 | Report as abusive
 

Ivory Coast does not put African credibility on the line….rather it one AGAIN puts the UN credibility on the line.
Once again the ineptitude, flagrant meddling and lack of impartiality by the UN should definitely warn any African state about having a UN peace keeping mission on its territory.

It leaves nothing but misery, war and strife in its wake….Congo, Rwanda, Ivory Coast.
Exact parallel to asking the US to be a fair referee in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Ban Ki-Moon would love to see Gbagbo out of the way; because he is afraid of the consequences of him staying. Should there be some form of genocide, then someone would be looking more closely into what EXACTLY the UN was doing on the ground.

Arming instead of disarming the rebels, ignoring the reports of fraud and intimidation by election observers, and doing the bidding of France and other Western powers eager to get their hands on the riches of the Ivory Coast.

Posted by ndree091 | Report as abusive
 

I think the one thing that is becoming clear is that few of the leaders in Africa are worthy of running the country. They either become corrupt like Gbagbo or they are thugs like Ouattara. Too many want to be president for life like Hosni Mubarak, Moamar Ghadafi and Robert Mugabe.

At one time, such a state of affairs could have been blamed on the former colonial powers like France, England and Belgium. Similarly, the U.S. and the former Soviet Union could have become the bogeymen because of their proxy wars on the Dark Continent in the 1970s and ’80s.

But, that is all past now. A new generation or two has been raised. Alas, the leaders from those more turbulent years refuse to give up power and those who want to oust them have dark, ulterior motives themselves.

It doesn’t really matter who wins for the loser will simply take up arms and become a rebel.

But, it is true that I am a foreigner who does not understand things in a far away land.

However, that does not mean that I have to take it lying down. I would tell the U.N. peacekeepers to leave. Then, I would tell the rest of the world to cross Ivory Coast off their lists. Don’t buy anything from them. Don’t travel there. Don’t have anything to do with them.

I love cocoa as much as the next person, but I won’t die if I don’t get it. But, some poor soul might die in Ivory Coast as Gbagbo pockets the profits.

Peace is possible and so is democracy. If the IRA, Ireland and Great Britain can sign a peace treaty and begin the healing process, then so can Africa.

Until then, give me a call when the people get their act together and I might start drinking cocoa again.

Posted by marshallfox | Report as abusive
 

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