Have been watching this brewing for the last few days… I see that it still has not been resolved.
Ivory Coast was to resolve the political crisis through elections, which I believe were delayed several times by Gbagbo. Now after the election, the election commission declared Alassane Ouattara who is from the north, to be the winner. Laurent Gbagbo, however, the loser in the poll, refuses to recognize the results and has continued to declare himself the President. The UN is sheltering the apparent winner, Ouattara, in a hotel, while Gbagbo has recently demanded the UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast to leave. However, the U.N. has refused, as detailed in (this link) .
So, readers, I’d like to ask who do you believe? The entire international community, the Election Commission and the northern forces which say that Ouattara won, or just Gbagbo and the Supreme Court?
What will happen next? It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of pressure on Gbagbo to step down, but there have been cases where a country has faced down the international community, such as the Honduran crisis last year. Another common solution is to arrange power sharing agreements, where the person who should actually be the loser, somehow stays in power (such as what happened with Mugabe in the most recent elections in Zimbabwe).
This practice of arranging power sharing agreements actually rewards the people who refuse to step down, even when the evidence seems to show they lost. What I think I’m observing in Africa is that there is a real demand for democracy, but there are often these powerful politicians who end up standing in the way. Many African countries are still really run by the big man, and are centered on one person or politician. This is inherently undemocratic. Elections in which a transfer of power occurs is positive in that it separates the government from control by one person. A normal and regular process of transferring power from one leader and one parliament to another is healthy for a country in the long run. So, if the election really was won by Ouattara, I would definitely support him taking power, and feel that Gbagbo should back down.
The interesting thing about this story, when I read more about it in detail, is how much the international community now often gets involved with the internal affairs of states, especially when it is seen that there is a major human rights problem or democracy is not followed. In this case, they have put an extraordinary amount of pressure on Gbagbo to step down, and much of the pressure has come from African countries, including ECOWAS and the African Union.
Just yesterday, ECOWAS told Gbagbo to step down or expect military force. Its not clear if ECOWAS would be willing to put forward enough soldiers to actually defeat Gbagbo militarily. But in addition, the Bank of West African States, which controls the CFA, has said that only Ouattara’s representative can get money from the bank, which may start making it difficult for Gbagbo to pay the army and civil servants.
Right now its like a siege situation, which Gbagbo under siege, but still holding out with support from the military. He’s being extremely stubborn, but the pressure against him is serious. Can he withstand it or will he be forced to back down? Will it break out into a more military conflict or will it be resolved peacefully? Stay tuned to see what happens…
Update: 31 December 2010
Gbagbo’s people in Abidjan are now saying that they are going to storm the hotel in Abidjan where the supposed winner of the election, Alassane Ouattara, is being protected by 800 UN troops.
Presumably, if they did this, the UN would open fire on the crowd, which would probably ignite a large scale killing. I suspect the U.N. already has a plan to evacuate Ouattara in this case, so I doubt he would be killed.
But it would significantly increase the chances of Ivory Coast returning to civil war. Ouattara’s military support, which is based in the North of the country, must have been coming alive during this time. I haven’t been following Ivory Coast for years, so I don’t know if the Northern Forces have been disarmed, but I’d guess not, since the main Army seems to be totally Gbagbo supporters. Why would the Northern Forces disarm if they would be left with no military power?
Readers may wonder- If this guy Ouattara who everyone says won the election is so popular, and has so much support, why does he have to stay holed up in a hotel in Abidjan with UN protection? Well I’m guessing it’s because Abidjan is in the South, which is Gbagbo’s support base, and Gbagbo’s national military controls that area, so it would not be safe for him to be outside normally. Ouattara’s supporters are mainly in the North, so he would be safe if he were in that region, but much less so in Abidjan.