THE IVORY COAST DEBACLE - OH WHAT A COLLECTIVE AMNESIA AS REGION'S CHIEF GUNRUNNER BECOMES THE WINNER
So much has been written about recent events in Ivory Coast that you would be tempted to think that the villain who needs to be taught a lesson in all this is none other than the man who is reported to have defied the will of the people - President Laurent Gbagbo.
According to the country's electoral body, the run-off poll was won by Alassan Ouattara and hence should be the new President of the troubled cocoa-producing country. However according to President Laurent Gbagbo, this goes against the country's constitution which, according to him states that the results of such elections and declaration of the winner can only be done by the Constitutional Council. This body duly declared President Gbagbo as the winner thereby annulling the announcement by the Independent Electoral Commission that Alassan Ouattara was the real winner.
The African Union has recognised Mr Ouattara as the winner and has duly suspended an Ivory Coast that is headed by Laurent Gbagbo. The United Nations says it recognises the man as the real and new President of the country with the United States threatening targeted sanctions against those who impeded progress in Ivory Coast. The European Union has also joined in the chorus of condemnation according to this report from the website of France 24. This is diplomat-speak for Laurent Gbagbo and his close associates who have so far refused to give way to a new administration headed by Alassane Ouattara.
The present unwholesome situation could have been avoided if the guarantors of peace had taken a good and hard look at the constitutional provisions relating to the conduct and announcement of elections. The United Nations and all representatives on the ground working towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict should have persuaded both sides - the Laurent Gbagbo government of the south and the former rebels of the north to agree that the words of the Independent National Electoral Commission should be the final in the declaration of a winner after such elections. If they did, no one could have predicted that this was to provide the straw of legitimacy that Gbagbo hangs on to in the sea of condemnation engulfing his declaration as winner by the Constitutional Council.
It was a grave error on the part of the brokers of peace.
The recent show of force between the former rebels of the New Forces and that of government troops thought to be loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo shows quite clearly that despite all reports that the New Forces had disarmed and had been integrated into the national army were just not accurate. The New Forces are still a force to be reckoned with and could well be supported by the Burkinabe President who was the mediator between the government of the south and the former New Forces rebels of the north.
That was a flaw, a grave flaw.
It is no secret that the New Forces in the north attempted to oust the Gbagbo government by force with what some observers at the time believed was with the active support of Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso. Indeed one of the reasons proffered by the rebellious north was that they had been largely marginalised by the southern-based administration in Abidjan. They claim that they had been denied their civil rights which, most importantly, included the right to citizenship. The claim that they had, for long been regarded as foreigners from Burkina Faso who had no business in the political affairs of Ivory Coast.
Allasane Ouattara, the former World Bank economist could have served at one time as Prime Minister of the the country and hence duly qualified as a citizen but he knows that he has never been accepted as such by Laurent Gbagbo who continue to see him as a Burkinabe planted in Ivory Coast to further the expansionist ideas of Blaise Campaore.
The New Forces largely got their wish. Citizenship was granted them and this set the scene for elections that were eventually won by Mr Ouattara never mind reports that all in the north of the country were forced through intimidation and other tactics to ensure they vote for Ouattara or face the consequences.
The peace guarantors seem to have forgotten the fears of Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters. They seem to have forgotten the atrocities committed against perceived foreigners by Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters. These foreigners mainly from the sub-region were hunted down like animals - raped, maimed, killed and dispossessed with their properties torched where they could not be carted off. And all the while, Laurent Gbagbo was there urging the killers to even greater outrage not only against these perceived foreigners, but against all those perceived to be from the north of the country. The pan-African news outlet AllAfrica.com carried this report on the targeting of foreigners.
Mr Laurent Gbagbo is a very scared man and it is worth reminding you of an item carried by the Sierra Herald calling on the international community to monitor the actions of the Laurent Gbagbo government with a view to bringing him and other perpetrators to justice.
While this pogrom was being carried out in the government-controlled south, the rebels made the north a no-go area as they carried out alleged acts of murder, rape and ethnic cleansing against all those caught up in the north when hostilities broke out between the two halves of the country.
The Ivory Coast debacle has to be treated with care.
It must be treated with caution taking into consideration all the factors that need to be addressed if peace, real peace is to return that country.
For the time being, the real winner is not Mr Allasane Ouattara, but his puppet master next door, the chief gunrunner and mischief maker of the sub-region Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso.
(NB - All pictures are from the BBC website pages)