The Impasse in the Ivory Coast
Dr. Gary K. Busch was a guest on AfrobeatRadio on WBAI 99.5 FM. Listen here: AfrobeatRadio on WBAI 99.5 FM takes on the Crisis in Ivory Coast
The electoral standoff between President Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast is far more than just a typical electoral conflict between African candidates. It exemplifies and dramatizes some of the root conflicts which beset Africa, It is a paradigm case of self-serving ignorance on the part of an international community; the woeful inadequacies of the United Nations and its peacekeeping efforts; and the generational splits within African political leaderships which entrench old and compromised leaders in positions of power, trading on stories of old victories and sacrifices and, thus, effectively shutting the door to the rise of younger talent within their parties.
There is a great deal of reference made to the actual results of the second round of the election. There were egregious lapses in the process in the rebel-held areas of the North and, if the observers are to be believed, irregularities as well in the South. Just how these two match up to each other in terms of numbers has never been tested by any outside party. The Electoral Commission improperly gave its verdict on incomplete and untested tallies and the Constitutional Council overturned these tallies in one day of consideration. In fact, as far as anyone knows for sure, and the African Union has produced an internal memo which states the same thing after its examination, no one really knows who was the victor and who can say so with authority. However, the Constitutional Council was empowered by the Ivoirian Constitution to be the final arbiter of all electoral decisions and it was they who announced the victory for Gbagbo.
Democracy cannot work without sovereignty because without sovereignty an elected government has no foundation for its laws, policies and court decisions. This why a Constitution is so critical to any democracy as it codifies the rules under which the citizens subsume their individual power into a common weal. Without reference to a Constitution, government is illegitimate and there is no agreed common weal. And, if for some reason, sovereignty is tainted or diluted, democracy cannot function in anything but a trivial manner. These are all descriptors of the political situation in the Ivory Coast.
It might be useful to examine the fundamental concerns of the Ivoirian citizens in these matters, as opposed to the narrower interests of the politicians.
President Gbagbo and his FPI Party won the election of 2000. They then formed a government and attempted to govern. There was resistance to the Gbagbo administration by the PDCI and the RDR, as the FPI began to remove some of the remaining vestiges of Houphouetism which had survived the military rule under Guei. Among these was the derogation of much of the Ivoirian national powers to the former French colonial power. The Pacte Coloniale, which had tethered the economy, trade, finance and military structures to France was carried out in every Ivoirian ministry, bank and institution by the hundreds of French nationals sent to the Ivory Coast as ‘advisors’ under the French Ministry of Co-operation. In some Ministries there was one Frenchman for every Ivoirian. Ivoirian sovereignty was demeaned by the presence of the French ‘co-operants’ who made many of the actual decisions in running the country. French soldiers and police were based in the Ivory Coast and were responsible for the training, equipping and deployment of the Ivory Coast forces; indeed they were also responsible for the promotions given to Ivoirian officers.
French business was given the right to operate monopolies in crucial sectors of the economy. French companies control water, electricity, construction, port operations, transport, a dominant part of the oil and gas industries and much of the food trade. Under the new Gbagbo government this tight control was relaxed as far as possible. When a new bridge was to be built in Abidjan the French quoted a very high price. The Chinese offered to build a two-level bridge on the same site for about half the price tendered by the French. The co-operants in the ministries assured that there was no acceptable technical specification which would allow the Chinese to win the right to build the bridge. The bridge wasn’t built.
The Ivoirian economy was operated under French control and guidance. The use of the CFA franc meant that 85% of the cash flows of the Ivoirian economy were banked in Paris under the control of the French Treasury, after passing through a central BCEAO bank in Senegal. This was ‘flag independence’ with a vengeance. The Ivory Coast had a flag, a national anthem and a seat at the UN. The French controlled almost everything else. The sovereignty of the country was founded in law but handled, in reality, much as it had been under colonial rule. When the FPI and Gbagbo moved to shake off these shackles they were also attempting to assert the sovereignty of the Ivory Coast and the primacy of the Ivoirian Constitution. That is what gave them their legitimacy.
There is a great deal of propaganda being circulated that the Gbagbo’s FPI is a regional party which is hostile to the North, particularly to the immigrant Muslim populations from Burkina Faso and Mali who have settled in the Ivory Coast. This is not true. It was the government of Henri Konan Bedie, the PDCI successor to the long-time leader, Houphouet-Boigny, who exiled and drove from the Ivory Coast more than 12,000 Burkinabes as soon as he took office. This was not the FPIs doing; it was done by the PDCI opposition who now attack the FPI for being hostile to the North. Foreigners may be impressed but no one in the Ivory Coast with even a short memory is fooled.
This hypocrisy is even more pronounced over the issue of Article 35 of the Constitution. The rebels and the two opposition parties of the South (the PDCI and the RPR) made the issue of Ivorian parenthood a major impediment in the search for peace. The main candidate of the RPR, Alessane Dramane Ouattara, a former Prime Minister, had been prohibited from standing for the Presidency because his father came from Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) and Ouattara, himself, travelled on a Burkina Faso passport… This prohibition derived from Article 35 of the Constitution. It is Gbagbo who is being blamed for this. However, the truth is very different. This Constitutional amendment to Article 35 which advanced the notion of ‘Ivoirite’ was voted upon and ratified by the country in a referendum and was supported by both the RPR and the PDCI. They both had major national campaigns seeking a ‘yes’ vote on the proposed Constitution; both Bedie and Ouattara personally campaigned for a ratification of the Constitution. This was not a Constitution of the FPI or Gbagbo; it was a reform Constitution of Guei in consultation with the RPR and the PDCI. They lived to regret it but it was their creature.
When the parties at the Linas-Marcoussis negotiations raised the amendment of this Article 35 as an issue it was not opposed by the Gbagbo Government. In subsequent negotiations, Gbagbo agreed to put this as a bill in front of the National Assembly. The National Assembly met and voted to repeal those sections of Article 35; there was no controversy. There was no impediment raised to Ouattara running for President. Indeed, the shock was that the PDCI, the party which banned Ouattara from running, was locked in an electoral alliance with Ouattara.
On the Wednesday, in September 2002, when the rebellion began, there were about 650 rebels holed up in Bouake. These were Guei appointees who had been purged from the Army. They had little equipment and ammunition, as they had expected a conflict of no more than five days. President Gbagbo was in Rome, meeting the Pope and the rebels felt sure that the coup could take place quickly with the President out of the country.
Fortunately for Gbagbo, his loyalist Army was led by his Minister of Defence, Moise Lida Kouassi; a former cellmate of Gbagbo’s when they were jailed under Houphouet-Boigny. The internal security was in the hands of another cellmate, the Minister of the Interior Emile Boga Dougou. The team of the President and his two Ministers represented a powerful force for change in the Ivory Coast and had substantial support from the Ivory Coast population… The Gbagbo government had demonstrated, during its short term in power, a spirit of nationalism which had mobilised the population.
As the coup began in the second largest town, Bouake, the loyalist troops under Lida Kouassi responded. They were able to surround the rebels, trapping them in the city, and killing about 320 of them. They were positioned for a final onslaught on the remaining 300 rebels but were suddenly stopped by the French commander of the body of French troops stationed in the Ivory Coast. He demanded a delay of 48 hours to evacuate the French nationals and some US personnel in the town. The loyalist army demanded to be allowed to attack Bouake to put down the rebels but the French insisted on the delay. As soon as there was a delay, the French dropped parachutists into Bouake who took up positions alongside the rebels. This made it impossible for the loyalist troops to attack without killing a lot of Frenchmen at the same time.
During those 48 hours the French military command chartered three Antonov-12 aircraft which were picked up in Franceville in Gabon. These Ukrainian-registered aircraft were filled with military supplies stocked by the French in Central Africa. Two of the planes started their journey in Durban where Ukrainian equipment and military personnel were loaded on board. The chartered planes flew to Nimba County, Liberia (on the Ivory Coast border) and then on to the rebel areas in Ivory Coast (Bouake and Korhogo) where they were handed to the rebels. Busloads of troops were transported from Burkina Faso to Korhogo dressed in civilian clothes where they were equipped with the military supplies brought in by the French from Central Africa and the Ukraine.
All of a sudden there were 2,500 fully armed soldiers on the rebel side as mercenaries from Liberia and Sierra Leone were also brought in by the same planes… They were equipped with Kalashnikovs and other bloc equipment which was never part of the Ivory Coast arsenal. France supplied sophisticated communications equipment as well.
Once the rebels were rearmed and equipped, the French gradually withdrew, leaving operational control to the Eastern European mercenaries who directed the rebels in co-ordination with the French headquarters at Yamoussoukro. The French continued to subvert the loyalist army at every turn and attempted to purge the army of its key officers. The rebels succeeded in assassinating Boga Dougou and taking the wife of Lida Kouassi as hostage in a rampage in Abidjan. The French, who were bound to defend the legitimate government of the Ivory Coast under the same Pacte Coloniale, turned things on their head and armed and equipped the rebels. They have continued to support the rebels and have provided a protective shield for them by dividing the country in two and patrolling the dividing line. The French-sponsored Presidents of neighbouring countries (Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso) have assisted the French in their support of the rebels, just as they assisted the rebels in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
When the French were able to divide the country in two, the inhabitants of the North found that they were sheltering foreign mercenaries and failed Ivoirian soldiers who had been cashiered from the Army. The civil servants in the North left in fright. Doctors, nurses, teachers, professionals of all sort fled the North for the safety of the South. There was no one of any competence to run the institutions in the North. The schools closed; the hospitals shut their doors; civil administration came to a close; politics was dominated by the rebellion. Many of the rebels quarrelled with each other over ‘turf’, Soro’s plane was shot down by a missile and he escaped with his life although his comrades were killed. There was no repair of the roads or the infrastructure. Rebels and French peacekeepers raided the banks and stole all the money that was there. Some of the French peacekeepers were tried and sentenced for rape, murder and bank robbery in French courts. The rest walked free.
Most of these rebels were not Ivorian at all. They were the wandering mercenaries of the Liberian and Sierra Leone wars who had attached themselves to the military coup leader, Robert Guei whom Gbagbo defeated in a free election. There were three rebel groups which appeared in Ivory Coast: The Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI) – which was the first to take up arms against the government; The Movement for Justice and Peace (MJP); and The Ivorian Popular Movement of the Great West (MPIGO). Of these the MPCI had a political base within the Ivory Coast formed from Guei supporters and the large immigrant communities of Burkinabes, Malians and Guineans who had come to Ivory Coast as economic migrants. The other two groups were ad hoc groups of Liberians, defeated Sierra Leonean rebels and Guinean dissidents offered shelter and support by Charles Taylor of Liberia. The familiar faces from the Liberian civil war could be seen in the television clips of the rebels. Moskito Bockarie from Sierra Leone was familiar face among the rebels. Ukrainian pilots and mercenaries from these wars and the wars in the Congos and Angola appeared regularly. A substantial proportion of the rebels spoke English with each other rather than French. These parties later coalesced into a fragile coalition of ‘Houphouetists’ for the election
No one in the North paid taxes. No one paid rent (but they did pay for protection). No one paid for the utilities provided to the North by the South. Education virtually ceased. Soldiers were billeted on a supine Northern population. Industry died. Commerce thrived in stealing the cocoa, coffee, cotton and hardwoods of the North and shipping them to the world market through major French traders operating in the North. No customs or excise duties were paid and a small business of importing duty-free mopeds became the staple industry of lower-level soldiers. Rebel leaders suddenly acquired large sums of money and started buying property in Paris and banking their wealth in Ouagadougou. Despite ruling the North for almost ten years in safety and impunity these rebels have not been able to set up any government, civil service or a political infrastructure in the lands they occupy. This is one major reason for the citizens in the South to fear the empowerment of the rebels and their political godfather, Ouattara, in Abidjan. They have no record of any civil achievement nor have they built any structures for administering to the needs of the country.
Even now, their indifference to the needs of their own people is evident. The pro-Ouattara coalition Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP) has called for civil disobedience to protest the stalemate. In the North those schools which were partially resuscitated in 2007 are now closed in response to the appeal, according to Save the Children in Côte d’Ivoire, This means some 800,000 primary-age students are not in school.
Perhaps the most devastating effect of the rebellion was the reaction of the French and the international community to the division of the country. In an effort to restore order and constitutional rule the treaties signed in Linas-Marcoussis, Accra, Pretoria and Ouagadougou were designed to restore peace and order in the Ivory Coast; all enshrined the notion of condominium. That is, the international community insisted that the Prime Minister step down and be replaced by an appointee chosen by them and that there were Cabinet posts reserved for the ministers appointed by the rebel political parties. Gbagbo and the FPI, who had been democratically elected in 2000, had to accept a prime minister not of their choosing and a Cabinet made up, in part, by rebels.
These new Cabinet ministers demanded large salaries, cars and jobs in their ministries for their friends and families. No notion of competence or training was used in the selection of the new Cabinet ministers. Only that they were chosen by the rebel bands. In fact, few actually showed up to work. The civil administration of the country was incoherent and conflicted as the national interest took second place to the demands of rival Cabinet ministers. The FPI was effectively stymied by internal dissent from a Prime Minister who refused to obey the wishes of the President and a Cabinet which refused to obey any rule other than the Law of the Jungle. The United Nations sought an international agreement to beef up the French presence in the Ivory Coast and sent ‘peacekeepers’ to the country. These have remained there ever since, effectively commanded by the French military which has the communications and heavy equipment there. The UN peacekeepers are an extension of the French military that have also been transformed into UN peacekeepers by UN decree.
In 2006 the International Advisory Group appointed by the United Nations decided that the National Assembly should also be abolished because the rebels were not officially represented in it. The citizens reacted against this demand and took to the streets in protest. The French peacekeepers retaliated by destroying the Ivory Coast Air Force. They seized the airport and sent a hundred tanks and armoured personnel carriers to oust Gbagbo from office by violence. The citizens gathered at the Hotel Ivoire which was on the way towards Gbagbo’s residence and, unarmed and peacefully, they confronted the hundreds of French soldiers in their tanks. The French soldiers, following a direct order from Chirac and his Minister of Defence Aliot-Marie, opened fire on the protestors with automatic weapons and snipers on November 9, 2006 and killed 68 unarmed civilians and wounded 1,300 more. The United Nations and the French offered no apologies to the Ivory Coast citizens for this act of war against the country which widened the distrust of their real intentions. The United Nations was seen as an enemy of the Ivoirian people and an institution which did not respect the sovereignty of the Ivory Coast state.
They key to the Ivory Coast dilemma is that there has been no disarmament. Every peace agreement that has been signed, every mediation which was accepted by the parties, every political agreement among the parties has stipulated that the rebels must disarm. This was agreed by them over and over but they have refused to disarm. The terms of the election required that at least two months before the election there would be a verifiable disarmament of the rebel forces. This was not adhered to and the international community has refused to act to make the rebels disarm since the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement in 2002. Every compromise that the Gbagbo government made under these agreements was prefaced by an agreement that the rebels would disarm. The Gbagbo government was held to its commitments under these agreements but the rebels were left alone.
This question of disarmament is not just a military matter. It has to do, as well, with the ability of electoral officials to move freely throughout the country to prepare a valid electoral roll. In the absence of any civil service infrastructure in the North it became vital to allow officials to wander freely in the North to engage in the verification of voter’s credentials. They could not do this without armed guards and protectors because the warlords of the North controlled the registration process. It was impossible to prepare a valid and reliable electoral roll without disarmament. It was also impossible to certify a free and fair election when voters were intimidated by armed men patrolling the electoral stations, preventing people from voting, and threatening the observers. This is all documented in the AU report.
The international community cannot complain that the election was not free and fair when it was they, for almost ten years, which allowed the rebels the freedom not to disarm and to achieve impunity from any sanction. The Ivoirian people asked how it was possible to have a proper election in a country divided in two parts and where a fully-armed rebel force was allowed to continue to retain its weapons in defiance of every agreement it had made.
There have been many observers who have noted that the Ivory Coast military remains loyal to President Gbagbo. This is not really surprising as each soldier and officer took an oath which pledges them to the defence of the Constitution. Since President Gbagbo is the constitutional president it is no mystery. Perhaps more importantly, when the rebellion took place those who sympathised with the rebels deserted the Ivory Coast army and fled north. The army was purged of dissidents and became much more homogeneous of the ethnic groups of the South. This was not entirely true of the police and gendarmes.
When the hostilities ended there was an effort by the United Nations to integrate the rebels with the regular army. This was an impossible task. The rebels demanded that they keep their rank and pay in the new army and demanded to be paid their wages for the period in which they were in rebellion. They demanded to retain their own chain of command and armour. This was clearly a non-starter with the loyalist army command and troops. They said they would explore integrating some units, but only after they disarmed. The rebels refused to disarm and participated in seven attempted military coups against the Ivory Coast state since 2004, led by French officers sent directly from France for this purpose and Burkinabe and Malian mercenaries provided by the Mali and Burkina Faso governments.
Clearly there is no basis for the integration of the two opposing forces and no wishful thinking of the United Nations will make it otherwise. However, if the United Nations and the French decided not to assist the rebels the loyalist forces of the Ivory Coast would be able to destroy the rebel forces throughout the country in less than a month. That is why they demand UN protection and ECOWAS troops to do the fighting for them. Although there is a sanction in place by the UN in the acquisition of the Ivory Coast military to acquire weapons there is no effective balancing sanction against the rebels. This situation has made it more difficult for the loyalist forces but has not proved to be a major hurdle. The three hundred rebels and their hired security mercenaries which are sitting around the Golf Hotel protecting Ouattara have been armed by the United Nations and are wearing UN uniforms and identifying badges.
A vital dimension to this conflict is the fact that most of the Ivory Coast population is under 26 years of age. There is a great gap between the population and the group of geriatrics which run the political structures in the country. In reality, there are very few people in the country who want either Ouattara or Gbagbo. Ouattara is not popular because he is considered the “Godfather of the Rebellion” and a Black Frenchman. His loyalties lie with the IMF, the World Bank and his friends in France. He remains a symbol of “Francafrique”. On the other hand there are very few citizens who like Gbagbo. Since 2006 he has effectively renounced his opposition to French neo-colonialism. He renewed many of the French contracts which maintained the monopoly of France in the Ivory Coast economy without any transparency or competitive bidding. He renewed all the contracts for electricity, telephone and water. He gave Bollore the control of the new container terminal in the port of Abidjan and new construction contracts to Mr Fakhoury. He allowed Total to build a new refinery and pipelines and gave Total a new oil lease on the border with Ghana. He turned on his former friends in the labour movement and consolidated power, and its rewards, in his own hands and those of his cronies.
The problem for the electorate in the Ivory Coast is that they are stuck. They must choose between two unsavoury candidates. Younger, more dynamic leaders in the ranks of the national parties are stifled by the dead hand of the gerontocracy and kleptocracy which rules the political scene. There are trained and competent potential leaders in the FPI and the PDCI and RDR parties who can unite to bring about some progress. Right now the electorate refuses to support Ouattara because he is the leader of the rebels; not because he is not competent. They do not want the rebels to duplicate in the South what they have destroyed in the North. They support Gbagbo because he is the constitutional leader and, at least for the moment, seems to have given up the notion that he could become the fair-haired boy of Francafrique. He is taking a nationalist view which is very popular. The UN has made it clear that without Gbagbo there is only Ouattara, the French and the rebels. That is not a choice they want to make. The young people of the Ivory Coast have shown over and over that they want to see a leadership which asserts Ivoirian sovereignty in the face of external powers seeking to dominate them. This is the twenty-first century; colonialism is dead and should be buried. If there is an end to the neo-colonialism and an ascendance of real Ivoirian sovereignty then democracy will stand a chance. They can use the levers of power to oust the gerontocracy and build a better tomorrow for a united Ivory Coast.
West African Conflict and the Jihad:
One of the most important aspects of this conflict is largely overlooked but is crucial to understanding the consequences of this conflict. Since the days of the Liberian and Sierra Leone civil wars Al-Quaeda has increased its presence and influence in West Africa. In the weeks preceding the 9/11 attacks in New York, the representatives of Al-Quaeda completed a US$20 million ‘blood diamonds’ deal with the RUF in Sierra Leone According to official reports the Lebanese diamond trader, Aziz Nassour, used his couriers to exchange US$300,000 a week for blood diamonds every week for almost ten months ending September 2001. The couriers took scheduled flights from Brussels (the heart of the diamond trade) to Abidjan. They then took smaller planes on charter from Wesuwa Air to fly to Monrovia and Freetown where they picked up the diamonds from the RUF. The Al-Quaeda operatives set up safe houses in Monrovia and Freetown to trade diamonds for arms for the rebel movements. Two of them, Samih Ossaily and his mistress. Nora, were arrested and jailed. Several others were freed, but the operation has grown and spread. These were mainly Sunni Muslims. However they were soon joined by Iranian-backed Shia. Hezbollah now has offices and trading spots across West Africa and the DRC.
The bulk of the traders and carriers are Lebanese. These are not the traditional Lebanese in West Africa who were primarily Maronite Christians. These have been supplanted by Lebanese Shia Muslims attached to Hezbollah and Amal. They act as the arm of the Iranians and their Revolutionary Guards. Wherever there are problems in West Africa one can find Shia Muslims trading guns for diamonds and gold. A recent case was discovered in Nigeria with a shipment of weapons from Iran. These Al-Quaeda and Shia traders are the main suppliers of weapons to rebel movements across Africa. The RUF rebels in Sierra Leone transplanted their affinities to the Ivory Coast when they went to fight as mercenaries in the rebellion in the North.
In Mozambique there are several training camps for West African jihadists. They arrive from Pakistan or the Gulf through Kenya and are flown down, business class, to Mozambique. They then disappear for a period of months. They then appear as graduates and, with pockets full of cash; they try to make their way home. Many are picked up by the Mozambique authorities and put in camps. Periodically the Mozambicans gather them together and deport them to their home countries. There have been flights of Guineans, Malians, Burkinabe and Senegalese from Mozambique to their home countries. Once home they are theoretically jailed. In fact most are soon released.
This accounts for a large and growing group of jihadists across West Africa, especially in the Muslim north of most sub-Saharan countries with a border on the Sahara or the Sahel. These groups have been active in creating an Al-Quaeda movement in the region and have been active in insurgencies, kidnapping of French technicians and rearming a wide range of rebel groups. The Al-Quaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) are a source of equipment and markets and operate their own airline. They use around eleven aircraft (Boeing 727s and some Antonov) and fly throughout the region from Algeria and the Sahel.
In addition they work closely with the burgeoning cocaine trade from Colombia into West Africa which uses smaller airports in Mauretania, Mali, Sierra Leone and the main drug importing country of Guinea- Bissau. There is a synergy between the Al-Quaeda operators and the drug barons. There is a giant and profitable trade in diamonds, gold and cocaine throughout West Africa run by drug lords and jihadists. The Western powers, especially the US DEA have these under surveillance and US Special Forces have set up military training programs, JCET (Joint/Combined Exchange Training) with the African militaries to combat these.
That is why it is such a mystery to understand why, in the face of this Muslim radicalism which is sweeping West Africa that the Western powers and the UN are fighting to impose a Muslim rebel leader as head of the Ivory Coast. To most military officers this is madness. In Nigeria when Goodluck Johnathan consulted with his generals (many of whom now come from the Middle Belt, not the North) they said to him “After Jos and Abuja do you really want us to shoot Christian civilians to put the Muslims in charge of Ivory Coast?”
Why Do The Western Powers Support Ouattara?
Aside from the fact that the French have a vested interest in keeping the Ivory Coast as a colony and not allowing the Ivoirian defiance to spread to its other neo-colonial enterprises, there is still a question why the US, Britain and the EU go along with France in this policy. The UN is easy to understand. One should not expect any more from an incompetent and ignorant Secretary-General and his political fixer who doubles as his personal envoy to the Ivory Coast. They are reacting to an affront to their dignity. They found they cannot order member states about and reacted when opposed. They are no threat except for the media. This doesn’t explain why the Western countries can be so openly hypocritical in their singling out of the Ivory Coast as an example.
There are seventeen more elections to go this year in Africa and most will be as rigged and divisive as the Ivory Coast election. Most of the African Presidents on whom they are relying on to kill Ivoirians for them are illegitimate, corrupt and often murdered their predecessors before taking office or were elected by rigged ballots. This cannot be any kind of a principled defence of democracy; especially as they overlook other recent ballots (Burma, Belarus, etc.) which were egregiously rigged. The answer is more likely to be economic.
One of the most significant events in West Africa last year was the purchase of the Swiss oil trading company Addax by the Chinese firm Sinopec. Addax was a frequent deliverer of oil to the Ivory Coast and was a major player in the West African oil mafia. The loss of a key player to the Chinese was seen as a real threat. Since then the French oil companies have been buying up oil assets in the region using obscure shell companies. The Western oil companies seem to be using the Ivory Coast as the first battle against the Chinese moving into the oil and gas business in the region.
The Gulf of Guinea is rapidly becoming a major international oil play. Abidjan has a good refinery and will soon have another. Looking through the list of vessels delivering crude to the SIR refinery in Abidjan more than half were Addax vessels. Now they are Addax/Sinopec vessels. This has frightened the oil companies, especially Total. They do not have the money to compete with the Chinese and now Russian companies like Lukoil are entering the Gulf of Guinea market in a big way as well. The only way the French can compete is to try and maintain control of the strings of power in the Ivory Coast to find ways to delay or deter the Chinese and Russian invasion in what they thought of a their patch. The US and European countries share this ambition. Perhaps that is their reason for their blind and self-destructive policy in the country.
The Way Forward:
It should be abundantly clear to everyone that this impasse is not going to be solved by additional pressure on Gbagbo. Each day his support grows and each day that Ouattara is holed up in his tent at the Hotel Golf costs the UN a lot of money and face. The ECOWAS countries are unwilling and incapable of putting together an invasion force. Moreover it would likely impinge on their nationals residing in the Ivory Coast. Despite the provocations of the rebel band in Abidjan life there is pretty calm and uninterrupted. No one is being threatened except when the people in Abobo or similar enclaves are agitated by the rebels and attack the police. There has been a substantial rearmament of the loyalist forces by other, friendly African states and whoever is sent to fight will know he has a war on his hands. The 50-odd present of the population which voted for Gbagbo will not just roll over and disappear. The war will go on for a long time once it is started and civilian casualties will be high. There is every likelihood of African states with very powerful armies entering the fray on behalf of Gbagbo.
The way forward seems clear. There will never be a resolution of who won this last second round of the election no matter how many times the UN says so. The answer is to send Ouattara back home to the North and to prepare for a new election which is monitored. First, however, the UN forces must insist that the rebels disarm. That would finally be a useful project for the UN. If there were disarmament there could actually be a free and fair election. Perhaps it would be possible to persuade Gbagbo to allow the FPI to choose another candidate. That would save face for the international community and would almost certainly lead to a better democracy than the tainted version being peddled by Ban Ki-Moon and his friends. It has been Ouattara’s candidacy and his ties with the rebels which has sustained Gbagbo in power for so long. His candidacy is what has prevented the FPI from choosing a new candidate. Perhaps the international community can be persuaded that real democracy is a positive choice in this business. If not it will be the Ivory Coast’s poor citizens who will continue to pay the price.
By Dr. Gary K. Busch
Gary K Busch, an international trades unionist, an academic, and a political affairs and business consultant.