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If in Libya, why not also in Ivory Coast?
When Ivory Coast’s election last year left the country with two men claiming to be president and a flood of warnings of the threat of civil war, the world’s diplomatic and media interest was unprecedented.
After a turbulent four months, which have seen two North African revolutions, a tsunami and near nuclear meltdown in Japan, and Libya’s ongoing war, how that has changed. The West African nation’s crisis is grizzly but also in a slow-burn mode and hardly getting a look in with all the drama elsewhere.
The international recognition of Alassane Ouattara as victor and sanctions slapped on his rival, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to step down, are still in place. But so is Gbagbo, and Ouattara remains holed up in a hotel, protected by a ring of United Nations peacekeepers. Threats, made by West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc, to oust him have rung hollow.
Scores of people have since been killed, hundreds of thousands of have fled their homes amid heavy fighting and rights groups are warning crimes against humanity may have already taken place. Both sides have been accused of abuses but the most serious charges – including the killing of women protestors calling for Gbagbo to leave – have been levelled at Gbagbo. One was even been caught on camera, here, but Gbagbo’s camp has denied responsibility.
The country’s economy has disintegrated while the IMF warns the regional one is in peril. The long-flagged war has, arguably, already begun.
Yet, it appears there are only so many crises the world can handle at any one time and, right now, television cameras and diplomats are looking elsewhere. Nigeria’s foreign minister has accused the international community of double standards by imposing the no-fly zone in Libya while doing little in Ivory Coast. Liberia, still recovering from its own conflict, is struggling to raise funds it needs to deal with the refugees it is now taking in. Ouattara has scolded his U.N. backers for not doing enough to protect civilians.
With a crisis like Libya taking place, is it only natural that Ivory Coast should drop down the agenda?
Civilians in Ivory Coast, where there is a U.N. peacekeeping mission with a robust mandate, have also been promised protection. Yet, so far, no robust action has been taken, even though the U.N. has accused pro-Gbagbo forces of using heavy weapons against civilians in Abidjan.
What is the difference between Ivory Coast and Libya? Is it just the scale of the abuses or are there other factors at play? Some analysts and this blogger say Libya’s oil makes it more important than Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower.
The African Union had only just finally ironed out internal divisions over supporting Ouattara when it then had to set up another crisis team to deal with Libya. It is wary about too robust an intervention in either case and was still speaking out against military intervention in Libya even after a U.N. resolution had authorised it, and the Western forces had fired their first shots. Can the AU play a meaningful role in resolving Ivory Coast’s crisis. If so, what?