African business, politics and lifestyle
Is Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo being a poor sport?
Yesterday Ivorian reggae star Alpha Blondy, a staunch supporter and populariser of incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, said in an interview with French paper Liberation that Gbagbo has to play fair and accept he lost the Nov. 28 election.
His comments reminded me of when I used to repeatly underperform in cricket at school. The coach consoled me with the old cliche that sport isn’t about winning but about taking part and playing fair.
Gbagbo has refused to cede power despite U.N.-certified electoral commission results that showed his rival Alassane Ouattara won with 54.1 percent of the vote.
Gbagbo’s camp alleged fraud, despite observers saying there was no evidence of it, and the pro-Gbabgo constitutional council cancelled around half a million votes to reverse Ouattara’s win.
While Gbagbo and his supporters may believe they are playing by the rules, there is international concensus they are not.
The United Nations, West African Regional bloc ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, and the United States are among those that have condemned the reversal of the results as a crude attempt to rig the election retrospectively.
U.N. mission chief Y.J. Choi, accepted by all sides as the referee before the polls, blew the whistle on Gbagbo, showed him the red card and told him to hit the showers. He refused.
“Gbagbo is still my candidate, but if you’ve lost, you’ve lost. That’s fair play,” Alpha Blondy told the paper.
It’s interesting that, whether in sport or politics, so many supporters of a side don’t share Alpha Blondy’s view that fair play is more important than winning.
When Uruguay striker Luis Suarez blocked a goal with his hand in the last minute of the world cup quarter finals game with Ghana last year, enabling them to win, he became a national hero in Uruguay, where very few felt that he had brought shame on their team by cheating.
Similarly, many Gbagbo supporters who may acknowledge he lost the poll fair and square still back his refusal to go.
“There are those who know that he lost who have allowed themselves to be convinced that Ouattara … should never be allowed to head Ivory Coast,” analyst Giles Yabi wrote on Afrik.com last week.
Winning, it seems, is more important than playing fair.
But it raises the question: how many of the 46.9 percent of Ivorians who voted for Gbagbo would rather have seen him bow out gracefully like a true sportsman?