Entries tagged with “ECOWAS”.

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.