Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ivory Coast update

"Gbagbo: thief of power"
previously here and here

Uh boy. So basically there's a standoff going on between the new president, Ouattara, (recognized by the UN, other African leaders, France (which formerly colonized Cote d'Ivoire) and the US (and undoubtedly others)), and the old president, Gbagbo, who, helpfully for him, controls the military. Though Ouattara has rebel forces in the north and UN Peacekeepers guarding the hotel where he bases his operations.

Some "unscrupulous persons" have approached neighboring Liberian warlords for help--for which side it wasn't clear--but Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is stepping on that pretty hard.

Meanwhile, there are shortages and some serious inflation; the price of beef is up 25% and potatoes 60%, according to the BBC.

Though most African commentators are calling for Gbagbo to step down, there's some muttering about a power-sharing deal which sounds like a peaceful way out of the mess, but I think it sends a very bad message. And I'm sorry now that they went that way in Zimbabwe and Kenya. It suggests that bullies can keep their power if they complain loud enough.

"Power-sharing" reminds me of a time when I was a classroom interpreter. In a "Jeopardy"-style game which teamed boys against girls, the girls won by a couple of points. "That's not fair!" the boys cried. And the teacher gave in and said, OK, it's a tie. Not that there's a clear "teacher" in this case. But the model set by Zimbabwe and Kenya make it easier for the election losers of the next country, and the next, to say "not fair!" and claim some legitimized (if not legitimate) power. Legitimized by some outside force, rather than the voters of the country.

The thing is, though I agree that Gbagbo should relinquish power, it's hard to see how that will happen without violence. Please continue your prayers.

1 comment:

Art Deco said...

It is a great pity. There have been worse tragedies in Africa, but the fall of the Ivory Coast has been poignant because it was, thirty years ago, the odd success story in tropical Africa. It was the most affluent country therein and it had made itself so not by exploiting mineral wealth but by diversification and productivity improvement in agriculture.

Most of the rest of Africa has also made salutary amendments to their political systems in the intervening years, with electoral and deliberative institutions and multi-party politics replacing autocracies and monopolistic patronage networks (which often degenerated into regimes of hideous violence - Macias, Amin, &c.). The Ivory Coast has been lagging in this as well.