Entries tagged with “Cote d’Ivoire”.


For any of you who might have spent time in Ghana, you’ve likely heard that shout: “Oh, Ghana!”  It is a good-natured expression of frustration with the everyday annoyances that make life what it is in Ghana.  Power cuts out in the middle of a World Cup match? “Oh, Ghana!”  Traffic completely stops in Cape Coast because the local herd of cattle have gotten into the road? “Oh, Ghana!”  Anyway, you get it.

Well, today’s “Oh, Ghana!” moment comes courtesy of Ghanaian President John Atta Mills, who has taken a particularly depressing stance on the turmoil in Ghana’s neighbor, Cote d’Ivoire:

“Ghana is not taking sides,” he said, pointing out that “We have about one million Ghanaians living in Ivory Coast who could be victims of any military intervention.”

Super, the head of state of the most legitimate democracy in West Africa, and arguably all of sub-Saharan Africa, has decided not to cash in any of that legitimacy to help resolve a fairly clear electoral situation right next door.  Of course, this ignores the fact that there are many millions more Ghanaians living along the border with Cote d’Ivoire that could be affected if things go badly, or that cross-border flows of Ivorians trying to escape conflict could pour into Ghana, which lacks the capacity to adequately address their needs.  Further, Mills’ response to the crisis is . . . prayer.  Prayer is fine, but it is no substitute for working in this world for a solution.  No, Mills’ stance is a depressing bit of hedging one’s bets.

The good news, I suppose, is that there is nothing inherently Ghanaian about this attitude toward the situation in Cote d’Ivoire.  Nana Akufo-Addo, the New Patriot Party’s (NPP) presidential candidate in 2008 (and likely in 2012), issued a statement earlier this week that more or less addressed the absurdity of Mills’ position.

“Much as most of us Ghanaians believe in the efficacy of prayer, prayer cannot be a replacement of or substitute for an active policy of Ghanaian diplomacy and engagement. It is said that heaven helps those who help themselves.”

Amen.  Now go, Ghana.  Do something now.

The people looking for a birther conspiracy behind our (very minimal) support for the rightful winner of a democratic election in Cote d’Ivoire are more or less totally unhinged at this point – and they are making insane leaps of logic that are internally contradictory.  They are also issuing astonishing ad hominem attacks (for example, here).

So, to review this logic.  The very minimal support from the United States for Outtara in Cote d’Ivoire is an indication that Obama is helping one of his Muslim buddies take over a good Christian nation.  However, our rather engaged and substantive support for the Sudanese referendum that will almost certainly lead to a new African country next week – and a country that will be Christian and animist dominated, no less, doesn’t count for anything.

Wow.

So apparently our minimal support for the rule of law in Cote d’Ivoire is not a problem because the guy we’d have to support is Muslim.  Because of that, we can forget that Gbagbo clearly stole the election, or that he has mobilized issues of citizenship to disenfranchise a large percentage of the Ivorian population.  Good news, Christian dictators – you are free to toss democracy, just keep the Muslims out.  Does anyone hear the echoes of US Cold War policy re: communism?  Anyone?

One of my favorite twitterers, @bill_westerly, is right: “some enemy: fight wit honner und sword uf reason. some enemy: immune to reason, just kick in duh goolies und laff.”

Hmm, the last month of cocoa pricing, via the International Cocoa Organization

Prices are only up 7%?  Despite everything going on in Cote d’Ivoire?  I can only assume there is a massive oversupply out there cushioning this market . . .

The US has finally imposed sanctions on the Gbagbo government in Ivory Coast.  This won’t accomplish anything.  Take the response of the Ivorian Interior Minister (via allAfrica.com):

A top adviser to Gbagbo has said the sanctions are “a threat” to Cote d’Ivoire and his interior minister told RFI the measures “make me smile.”

Of course they do – this is just what Gbagbo and his people wanted – now they have evidence of “outside interference” in Ivorian affairs which they can mobilize as a rallying point for patriotism – and in so doing, relegitimize Gbagbo as the defender of the country.

While it is interesting that Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs William Fitzgerald is leaving military intervention on the table as an option, note that he has effectively ruled out US military engagement:

He said it was unlikely that U.S. troops would participate if that option was taken and that it was more likely to be an African force.

This is not a threat.  ECOMOG, the armed monitoring group of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), was able to retake Freetown in Sierra Leone during that civil war, but could do little else.  And that was a relatively successful intervention in a much smaller country.  This is like threatening to hit someone, but only with a nerf bat – annoying, but not really terrifying.

This has gone too far down the road now – someone is going to have to commit real troops to this conflict, and quickly – the UN peacekeepers won’t be able to hold the line much longer.

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.

Not that anyone is paying attention, but Ghana’s next door neighbor Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast to my less cultured peeps) had an election last Sunday. Which was blatantly stolen by the current president on Friday, when it became clear that he was going to lose (again).  History is repeating itself, but nobody seems to notice or care.

The seeds of the civil war in Cote d’Ivoire were planted by Henri Bedie, who took power in 1993 largely by fiat (he declared himself president when the only president the country had known since independence, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, died).  There was a brief power struggle between Bedie and Alassane Ouattara, then the prime minister.  Why is that name interesting?  Because he was the opposition candidate in last week’s election.  Bedie was obviously concerned about running against Ouattara, and in 1995 managed to exclude Ouattara from candidacy for the presidency by changing electoral rules, effectively changing the citizenship rules of Cote d’Ivoire by arguing that Ouattara’s parents were from Burkina Faso, and therefore Ouattara could not be an Ivorian citizen.  Of course, the fact that Ouattara had served as prime minister before was pushed to one side in this decision . . .  In any case, this more or less effective change in citizenship rules (both parents have to be from Cote d’Ivoire for a person to be a citizen) became law in a hasty referendum right before the 2000 election, once again blocking Ouattara and basically disenfranchising many living in the northern part of the country, where movement across borders to Burkina, Mali, Northern Ghana and Guinea is quite common.  Combine this with the fact that the north of the country is heavily Muslim, with a dominantly Christian and Animist south (a common situation across West Africa), and you have a perfect storm – religion, ethnicity and citizenship all aligning, with one group getting nothing and one group gaining everything.  Bedie was deposed in a coup in 1999, at least in part over ethnic tensions that played out into the military, but this did not seem to teach anyone anything.  In 2000, Laurent Gbagbo won election as president by continuing this exclusionary process.  Two years later, civil war broke out.

So, after three years of power-sharing under a unity government, and an election meant to reunify the country, what did Gbagbo’s people do this time?  Oh, the Constitutional Council (run by Gbagbo’s friends) just annulled ALL OF THE RESULTS from the seven regions in the north of the country, which was obviously going to vote heavily for Ouattara.  Gbagbo’s friends didn’t challenge a few ballots, or a few polling places, or demand a recount of the votes.  Nope.  They just voided the ENTIRE NORTH OF THE COUNTRY due to “irregularities” (read: voting for Ouattara).  You know what’s really funny, though?  Even after voiding Ouattara’s strongest supporters, Gbagbo’s people could only claim that their man won with 51% of the vote!  Holy crap, he is barely loved in his own electoral stronghold!

Humorous and pathetic though this result might be, this probably just cost Cote d’Ivoire three years of slow progress toward reconciliation, and could be the trigger for more conflict.  Looks like the French military is going to have to get back to work in there . . . ugh.

But there is an important lesson here – this is a conflict that has an ethnic component, but it is not an ancient ethnic conflict that is unresolvable.  Ethnicity was, by and large, a nonissue in Cote d’Ivoire from independence to 1993.  The same might be said of religion.  It was not until political leaders decided that these differences were useful political tools that they were mobilized into drivers of conflict.  There are clear villains in this story, and clear pathways to reconciliation and resolution – this conflict is only 17 years old, and it comes after three decades of coexistence without major issues.  This is not a quagmire – it is a place where these issues can be resolved, and where guilty parties can be identified and brought to justice.  There is plenty of hope for Cote d’Ivoire – just look at how the country could come together around its Soccer National Team (Les Éléphants – how I love that nickname), and how much power players like Didier Drogba have in the country.  That team was a major factor in the formation of a unity government in 2007, and even today people will listen to Drogba, a man who wants the conflict to end.  Someone please get him the tools he needs to make it end before it all turns bad again . . .