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If in Libya, why not also in Ivory Coast?

March 23, 2011

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?


Earlier today I was asking myself the same question and it is very hard to not imagine that oil is more important to the world that chocolate, why else would the events in Libya be attracting so much more attention than similar atrocities being committed on African’s across the continent. What worries me is that the winds of change are blowing but more often than not the response will be that of Libya and the World’s policemen (US, UN, NATO, EU, etc.) cannot be in all the places they will be needed at the same time. The AU in my opinion is rather pointless and too often seems to want to fall back on ex-South African president Thabo Mbeki’s ‘quiet diplomacy’!

Posted by Deaconnam | Report as abusive

Simple the two scenario are not same; Libyan people started the move in Tripoli, while UN is orchestrating what is happening in Ivory Coast. Nations should be allowed without any form of inducement or cohesion to settle their problem internally. Election dispute in Ivory Coast would have been a thing of the past if UN had not taken side in the dispute.

Posted by Truequest | Report as abusive

Maybe the UN verdict into the elections was not perfect and there were problems from both sides. However, peace is nearly always better than war. I admire those leaders who have preferred to step down, even if they don’t think the outcome was fully fair, rather than see a lot of bloodshed. A leader’s position should never be more important than the lives, safety and futures of the people. Are values not more important than power?

Posted by TomMinney | Report as abusive

This is an interesting description of the problems and the solution too:  /view/politicsweb/en/page71656?oid=2274 29&sn=Detail&pid=71616

Posted by TomMinney | Report as abusive

Is the western world really interested in saving the libyan population ? Nope. They are just looking after the Libyan oil. If saving the people was really important, they should be going to Cote d’ivoire where Gbagbo is killing his own people every single day just to stay in power. unfortunately there’s no oil in Cote d’Ivoire.

Posted by K.germain | Report as abusive

world should oppose ongoing western air strikes launched against Libya on the ground that ordinary Libyans would be affected and the air attacks would prove counterproductive to the US’ purported humanitarian objective.
there are many other hot spots around the world would US do the same . In fact as per records US has never been seen saving lives where they matter most.

Posted by pseudodemocracy | Report as abusive

The video of the female protesters being killed is disturbing. Those unarmed women were not a threat to anyone.

Someone did not like what they were saying or perhaps more accurately, someone didn’t like that those women decided that they had a right to voice their opinions.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive

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