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The End Game in the Ivory Coast?

5 March 2011 5 March 2011 Tags: No Comment Print This Post Print This Post

Clashes in Ivory Coast. Source: www.africandiplomacy.com

by Dr. Gary K. Busch

The long political impasse of the Ivory Coast is coming to an end. The forces of the rebel leader, Alassane Ouattara have failed to get others to remove the elected President of the country, Gbagbo by force, sanction or military provocation. Now, electricity, water and most communications networks are shut off in the Northern rebel areas. Since 28 February the switch has been turned off.

The ONUCI (the United Nations occupying force) in Abidjan have found that they are being denied fuel supplies so have taken to theft and murder to keep their supplies available. The rebel cause is unable to deliver any services to its captive populations on its own. During the nine years of occupation of the North they have built no institutions for public service or administration nor for the supply of water, electricity and fuel but have relied on the good will of the Gbagbo Government to supply these to them. Moreover they have not paid any taxes to the legitimate government during this period. They have not paid income taxes, customs duties, excise taxes or rents for the properties these tin pot warlords occupy or the services provided for them. There have been no contributions for social services (schools, hospitals, roads, etc.) during these nine years. All the costs of running the country and maintaining its position in the world through diplomacy, economic treaties, participation in international organisations, bank transfers to the French Treasury through the BCEAO and support for the CFA franc have been done by Gbagbo’s government.

The imposition of rebel warlords as members of the Cabinet of a joint government imposed by the French and the UN added nothing to their contributions to the State but cost the Ivoirian taxpayers a small fortune as each rebel minister demanded cabinet rank wages, fancy cars, and jobs for their families. It was a major cost to the government and the people of the Ivory Coast to keep these rebels in the styles in which they chose to live. This was tolerated and accepted by the people as it was part of an agreed process of disarmament and disengagement by the rebels. It was agreed that no elections should take place before the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) of all the armed forces was completed and the unification of the country achieved. Indeed, the UN specifically extended the term of Gbagbo as President through United Nations Resolution 1633 (2005) which extended Gbagbo’s term of office until this was achieved. This resolution demanded that all the parties signatories to the Linas-Marcoussis, Accra III and Pretoria Agreements, as well as all the Ivorian parties concerned, implement it fully and without delay…” [emphasis added] That is, the rebels must disarm before new elections could be held. That was part of every agreement. This was largely the agreement created by Thabo Mbeki who was the UN-appointed mediator. Nothing has changed in the legal requirements since.

Flag of Ivory Coast

What has changed is that the French were able to persuade the UN and President Gbagbo (but not his party, the FPI) that it was possible to hold elections in a divided country with armed rebels in charge of the North of the country and on the basis of a rigged electoral role provided by the French military company SAGEM. The presidential election in Ivory Coast was held on October 31st, 2010, with a second round on November 28th, 2010. The results of the election are disputed and the position of the Electoral Commission wholly discredited, even by members of that commission. The French and American ambassadors showed up at the campaign headquarters of Ouattara with one of his key electoral advisors. Without any authority the ambassadors and the Ouattara campaign manager announced that Ouattara had won the election. The next day the Constitutional Court said that Gbagbo had won the election. Since then the ‘international community’ has said that Ouattara was the legitimate president but the constitutional authorities of the country have said Gbagbo was the President.

None of this really matters any more. The ‘international community’ has introduced sanctions on the Ivory Coast and a ban on the country’s ability to deploy its assets retained by the French Treasury, It brags that it will starve Gbagbo out by stopping his financial ability to pay the army and the state employees. This has failed abysmally. Yesterday, 4 March 2011 Laurent Gbagbo paid over 60 per cent of civil servant salaries, suggesting Western sanctions meant to starve him of funds and force him to leave have not had full effect. The balance will be paid in three days.

Gbagbo has had great support from other African countries (except for the colonial satrapies of France). The UN and the French have been demanding that the ECOWAS and other African states invade the Ivory Coast to oust Gbagbo. They have refused, or offered such a feeble response, that any deployment of their forces in a hostile climate would quickly end with their soldiers being sent home in body bags. Two of the countries with the strongest armed forces on the continent, Angola and South Africa have been openly opposed to any military initiative to oust Gbagbo. These are two armies which have spent years in real battles and have plenty of equipment and battle-hardened soldiers who have experience in African wars. The supporters of Ouattara are raggedy irregulars who call themselves the New Forces and incompetent and inexperienced conscripts from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger who have only ever fought over cattle, water and civil disputes. The Nigerian Army is sitting this out as they have their own battles to fight against a Muslim fundamentalist uprising in the North and an election to supervise. The presence offshore of the South African frigate Drakensberg has had a laxative effect on UN planners.

Map of Ivory Coast

Being unable to starve Gbagbo out and without the military resources needed to take on the regular Army (FANCI) and the FDS and CECOS units, the irregular rebel force which has been concentrated on the Golf Hotel where Ouattara and his colleagues have hunkered down have relied on surreptitious acts of brutality against the civil population and the gendarmerie to try to provoke a response from Gbagbo’s forces. They have formed “the invisible commando” force which shoots at soldiers and policemen whenever a protest march is formed. They shoot, and often kill policemen, and then melt away into the arms of the UN emplacements and wait for a response from those who have been shot. They then call this response ‘genocide’ or an illegal use of force against civilians. The government forces have shown great restraint in their retaliation and the Ouattara people are growing ever more desperate. Two days ago they killed seven women and blamed this on Gbagbo’s forces, despite the fact that the presence of the ‘invisible commando’ force was filmed. Their crocodile tears have been reported as real by the UN and the US and have been echoed around the world as if they were true.

The UN knows it is a lie and only compounds this with additional lies. The UN Secretary-General just announced that Gbagbo had acquired three Mi-24 helicopters from Belarus in defiance of the UN sanctions. This was not only a deliberate lie but served to mask the fact that the UN had indeed brought in three Mi-24 helicopters for its own use. This was not admitted until three days later.

There is a mysterious aura which surrounds the UN and NGO personnel when it comes to facing reality. It is a special mind set which allows their personal prejudices and egos to be seen by them as facts even when confronted by the opposite. During the First Afghan war we were contacted by the UN, the NGOS and the journalists to see if we would fly them into the northern territories (then controlled in part by Massoud). We agreed and arranged for them to be picked up from Dushanbe where we had two helicopters. The UN, NGOs and journos arrived in Dushanbe and said, in great horror, “But these helicopters are armed.” I said “Of course they are armed”. We had two MI-24 gunships, fully armed with six Spetsnaz troops on board with long Afghan experience. They said “It is inappropriate for us to fly in armed helicopters. We are neutrals. We do not judge. We only want to help and report. Why are the helicopters armed?” I said they were armed because we wanted to be able to return. One helicopter would hover to provide ground cover and the other would deliver passengers. I explained that the people on the ground could not distinguish the fact that the plane was full of unarmed humanitarians until we landed and they introduced themselves. Therefore we would take all precautions. They flew but we started to get all sorts of calls from editors and assorted NGO luminaries asking us to use unarmed helicopters. After a week I told them to walk. I sent them a map of the Khyber Pass and told them where to go. It was a good lesson about these humanitarians. If they couldn’t see about their own safety what kind of judgements could they be making about other people’s problems. They are a special breed with a special kind of arrogance. As a rule they should not be believed or trusted.

So, despite the fact that the UN is continually lying to the rest of the world about the situation in the Ivory Coast and relying on their coterie of morally challenged NGOs and journalists to back up their specious claims, the UN presence is deteriorating badly. Gbagbo has ordered them out of the country but they refuse to go. Instead of supervising the disarmament of the rebels, which is their primary role in the mandate they were given for the Ivory Coast, they continue to rearm and supply the rebels with newer and more lethal equipment. Now they have helicopter gunships. Unfortunately for them Gbagbo’s troops do not rise to the bait. They have refused to engage in open warfare with the UN. The UN is opposed by unarmed civilians and they cannot deal with this.

There is a lot of rubbish being spoken about the civil war breaking out. There never was a civil war. The French stopped the Ivory Coast Army from wiping out the last holdouts of the rebellion in Bouake in 2002. Without the French and the UN forces there would be a civil war which would last for about three days. The 8,000 well-trained and armed forces of the legitimate government would wipe out the Forces Nouvelles even if the rebels actually decided to fight. It is only the French and the UN which are credible enemies. The problem for the UN and the French is that there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of French and other foreign nationals in the Ivory Coast who will be targets the moment the ‘international community’ attacks. It takes only a glance at Libya to see what happens when ‘African mercenaries’ are caught, lynched and burned by Libyan democrats to envision what might happen if the French or others start killing Ivoirians.

So, the UN can push it but not too far. They can’t risk a full-fledged conflict without serious risk to themselves and to the civilian hostages. As long as Gbagbo’s forces refuse to retaliate the UN is powerless. It is the rebels who are growing weaker every day. They have no legitimacy in the lands they have occupied over nine years and now, with no water, electricity, hospitals; schools and transport the local population are likely to rise against them. They have nothing to offer. Ouattara demanded an end to cocoa sales. This affected only his own people. The rebels are finished. It is only a matter of time before the people of the North throw them out. Gbagbo needs to do nothing. The men trapped in the Golf Hotel realise this and they are growing desperate.

Soon the ‘international’ community will see that their hypocrisy and deceit in the Ivory Coast will be exposed for the whole world to see. They are talking about a military response to the crisis of North Africa but doing nothing. They want ’democracy’ but apparently only for Muslims. What a shambles.

Dr. Gary K Busch, an international trades unionist, an academic, and a political affairs and business consultant.

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