A Mother Cannot Give Birth To Something Bigger Than Herself
How long will this farce of pretend government in the Ivory Coast be tolerated by the other African states? The French and UN forces attacked and killed thousands of peaceful Ivoirians supporting the presidential candidate for whom they had voted and brought in its place the French puppet Ouattara and a ragbag of barely civilised, illiterate irregular troops calling themselves the Republican Force (FRCI). The issue at hand is not about the divergent claims about who won the election. It is about how one creates a productive and peaceful country from the rubble of its destruction and wresting democratic control of the nation by harnessing the corrupt and murderous thugs and rabble who have been imposed to run it.
Ouattara cannot control the warlords who actually run his country. He admitted during his visit to Washington that he is afraid for his life. That is why he spends most of his time out of the country on ‘missions’ which keep him away from the assassin’s bullets. His Prime Minister, Soro, has not been seen or heard of for two weeks as he, too, is afraid for his life. The two major warlords, Wattao and Vecho, are fighting each other for the right to collect ‘informal taxes’ on anyone or anything that passes through their territories by using their brutish lieutenants to enforce roadblocks on all maj0r routes and within Abidjan itself. This is in addition to their smuggling of diamonds and cocoa from the territories they control. There is a total breakdown of law and order as these hordes of armed rabble search for sustenance among a captive audience.
The post-war violence has not been much different than the violence perpetrated during the conflict, except that the French and UN helicopter gunships and tanks are not presently being used. According to Guillaume Ngefa, the acting human rights chief in the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) “Violations committed include proven cases of summary, extrajudicial executions, illegal arrests and detention, the freeing of people in return for cash, extortion, and criminal rackets against numerous drivers.” There have been twenty-six extrajudicial executions in Côte d’Ivoire cited last week by the UN, including that of a 17-month-old baby; over a hundred other human rights abuses were perpetrated in the past month by the FRCI. This is not only in the military fiefdoms operated by these tin pot warlords in the North since their rebellion in 2002, but in the heart of Abidjan itself.
Mr. Ngefa also voiced concern at violent clashes between the army and young villagers in several areas, denouncing “acts of intimidation, extortion and numerous obstacles to free movement committed by army elements.” Citing cruel and inhuman treatment and violation of property rights, he said similar abuses had also been perpetrated against ethnic groups, such as the Bété, Bakwé, Attié and Ebrié. People are being attacked, robbed and killed for their tribal identity. This is what the UN and France have achieved.
What did they expect? The rebels who separated the North from the South of the country after their 2001 rebellion were not regular soldiers. There were less than 1,250 regular soldiers in the New Forces which morphed, by decree, into the FRCI. These rebel troops were shoemakers, porters, rubbish collectors, itinerant labourers. They were joined by experienced mercenaries from the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia who showed them how to run these rackets. At the time of the rebellion, all the civil servants, educators, doctors and the other members of the professional class fled the North. The poor farmers who were left there paid no taxes, no rents, no customs fees, and no services to the central government. They paid these to their local rebel commanders. They are still paying these to their local commanders. Only now, this corrupt and vicious system has been spread to cover the whole of the Ivory Coast when this malignant northern scum took over power in the South and the municipalities.
There is no government. At the top there is only a bunch of black Frenchmen kowtowing to the wishes of their French masters in giving out contracts and cash to the French business community. Alternatively they have the FRCI raping, looting and persecuting. There is nothing in between. The rebels looted and destroyed the records in every ministry in the capital. They burned and looted all the schools and universities. There is little left on which to build. The feeble efforts at disarmament of the rebels have succeeded in rounding up some ancient equipment from the 1970s, most of which had already been turned in for cash in prior disarmament operations. Things are growing worse and there is little hope of any improvement.
The whole operation by the UN, the French and the notional ‘international community’ has been a nightmare for the people of the Ivory Coast. These FRCI troops have not worked in ten years. They have no useful skills. They have survived by pillage and extortion for a decade. Who would believe that they would give this up to return to their wretched lives as porters or itinerant labourers? The Ivoirians knew this which is a good portion of the reason they supported Gbagbo. Only the French benefit from this continued dependence. Why the African states and the other European states tolerate this behaviour is an imponderable question.
This wizened, disease-inflamed and corrupt system will never give birth to a democratic organised nation capable of fulfilling the role demanded of it. Pity the Ivory Coast as it is the victim of other nations’ indifference and moral bankruptcy.
By Dr. Gary K. Busch
Gary K. Busch is an international trades unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political affairs and business consultant for 40 years, and has traveled and worked extensively in Africa.