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Côte d'Ivoire: Lessons for Africa

This post is part of our special coverage Côte d'Ivoire Unrest 2011.

Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara are locked in a power struggle as both claim victory after November 28 presidential election. The Independent Electoral Commission of Cote d'Ivoire (CEI) declared Alassane Ouattara winner of the second round of the country's presidential elections while the head of the Constitutional Council declared Laurent Gbagbo the winner. France and USA have threatened sanctions if Gbagbo does not quite. African leaders have asked him to leave power.

Salisu Suleiman asks, “So what are the lessons for Nigeria and the rest of Africa?”:

The most important message must be that there are no perfect democracies anywhere in the world. Even Western democracy, particularly the American presidential model, which is very often our reference point, has significant drawbacks. A critical factor in the democratic experience is the inclusion of as many citizens as possible in the electoral process. If, in the process, certain compromises like zoning or rotation of offices have to come in, it may be worth paying that price in the interest of peace and stability.

I am not an advocate of zoning, but If Ivoiriens had zoned the presidency to one region, the sharp ethnic and religious connotations in the aftermath of the elections would be less obvious. The contest between Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae in 1999 is a case study. The same thing happened in 2007 when late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua contested against Buhari and Atiku.

In the run up to next year’s presidential elections in Nigeria, the debate has assumed the discordant tunes of north/ south with a dangerous religious overcast. Every debate has been reduced to what the mother tongue of the president should be. At the moment, the undeclared battle between President Jonathan and former Vice President Atiku’s camps is degenerating to new lows. No prisoners are being taken. Every voice of reason is branded as being either ‘for us or against us’.

Alex Engwete discusses what he calls “instrumentalization of civilians”:

Once again, African civilians are paying a heavy price for their
politicians’ malpractice and turpitudes–this time around, in Abidjan,
Côte d'Ivoire (photo above).

Yesterday [16 December], northern politicians Alassane Draman Ouattara (recognized
by the international community as the president-elect) and his
PM-designate Guillaume Soro sent their “unarmed” supporters in the
streets to attempt and seize the buildings of the national television
station and of key ministries still being held by the “illegitimate”
regime of southern politicians led by Laurent Gbagbo who has total
military control of the south of the country.

The death toll was quite staggering: 30 dead demonstrators and bystanders.

Using civilians as human shield is a criminal act:

Firing at unarmed civilians is no doubt a horrendous state crime, but
instrumentalizing them and using them as cannon fodder or human shield
are likewise criminal acts. While Ouattara and Soro are sending people
to the slaughter, they are themselves holed up in the luxurious
precinct of Hôtel du Golfe under the protection of a 900-strong
heavily armed UN peacekeeping contingent…

Rebecca Sargent comments on Alex's post saying that international reports paint Outtara as an angel:

One of the more balanced views I've read from outside the country. I am soo frustrated with reading international reports that paint Ouattara as an angel and concrete “winner” of the elections or that speak of the rising price of cocoa with more concern than the people dying in the streets here. There may not have been mass slaughter in the streets today, but the local papers were awash with violent propaganda.

Dr. Gary K. Busch wrote a blog post entitled “France And The Ivory Coast-The Empire Strikes Back”:

After 46 years of independence, France still controls most of the infrastructure and holds its foreign currency reserves as part of the 14-nation Franc Zone. The airline, telephone, electricity and water companies, and some major banks, are French-controlled. ‘Accords de coopération’, signed after Independence by the late President Félix Houphouët-Boigny and France's then Premier, Michel Debré, are still technically applicable. France maintains a stranglehold of Ivorian commerce and currency which vitiates national initiatives towards independence.

This privileged position of France is confirmed by a report from the UN Commission: “The testimony we have assembled has also enabled us to see that the law of 1998 concerning rural property is linked to the dominant position that France and French interests occupy in Cote d'Ivoire

According to these sources, the French own 45% of the land and, curiously, the buildings of the Presidency of the Republic and of the Ivorian National Assembly are subject to leases concluded with the French. French interests are said to control the sectors of water and electricity.” The report only superficially touched the dominance of French interests in Cote d'Ivoire, but they are not hard to find.

Commenting on Dr. Gary's post Babs Olowo says the country should be split into two:

It will be better if the country is split into two. I know people will be yelling that is this a bad move and it will be sending bad signals, I do not see any sign of reconciliation here.

Similar faith applies in Nigeria, Sudan. Marriage of convenience by the colonialist. What is exacerbating the issue in this country is religion intolerance as well.

South and North should go their separate ways. They are different people. Can anyone out there tell what the North and South of Ivory Coast have in common?

Muhammad Nalys says Dr.Gary's analysis shows that he is a die-hard Gbagbo supporter:

A disappointing commentary indeed. It seeems the writer is a die-hard Gbagbo supporter and does NOT wish the Ivory Coast well. Yes, there are foreign troops but what was the genesis of their presence? It was precisely the spectre of Gbagbo's divide and rule tactits that led to the civivl war.
THE French and indeed most of the Western powers have had their own motives but the whole mess was the result of the ambitionsns of Gbagbo, that at least was clear from the start of the civil war.
It is puerile to argue that the elections were NOT fre and fair just because there are foreign troops in the nation. What led to the second round of voting that Gbagbo is disputing? Certainly if the elections were not reasonably fair he could have objected to the first round. To now turn around and carry out a military coup and blame some external forces is simply neither accptable nor fair. African countries must not be held to ransome by the blind ambitions of one man!

Alex Thurston posts a roundup of news reports, international reports and blog posts relating to the situation in Cote d'Ivoire.

Time line: Key developments in Ivory Coast since the disputed second round presidential election on Nov. 28:

This post is part of our special coverage Côte d'Ivoire Unrest 2011.

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