Thu 9 Dec 2010
Cote d’Ivoire gets a bit dicier, as the UN declares Ouattara the winner in the presidential election. Russia was concerned about issues of sovereignty in this vote (of course they are – they have their own fairly entertaining electoral issues), but Gbagbo’s theft was so blatant, and so quickly condemned by the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), that it took remarkably little time to get everyone on board here. Well, that and Cote d’Ivoire doesn’t yet have viable oil or other resources anyone absolutely must have, so this turns out to be fairly “low stakes” for the Security Council. Not so much for the Ivorians, of course.
Why is this decision, so clearly rooted in facts, possibly problematic? Well, the likelihood is that Gbagbo will try to use this decision to rally his support around the “meddling of foreigners in Ivorian affairs” (or something to that effect). Nationalism can be an ugly tool, and in this case the subtle argument will be that to support Ouattara is to cave in to foreign pressure, to sell out the country. Once you have set this argument in motion, it is pretty easy for the situation to turn violent, as the fight becomes about nationalism, not candidates. Hopefully the UN and ECOWAS are prepared to move quickly here, as their statements will likely precipitate this sort of crisis. If not, we could see a resumption of armed conflict with great potential for regional spread (Sierra Leone and Liberia are still recovering from an earlier civil war/cross-border conflict). Public pronouncements only do half the job – but create an awful lot of responsibility to which we must live up.