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Ron Paul Is Not Leading a Foreign Policy Revolution

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Andrew Sullivan believes that Ron Paul is needed in the GOP race in order to lead a wave of foreign policy change:

But the point of [Paul’s] candidacy is not necessarily to win, but to open up the foreign policy debate. And when you look at the move of the GOP in the last few years away from big government conservatism to a more Paulite view of the role of the state, I think his importance is under-stated. Most of all, he has integrity, even if you think he’s way off the map ideologically. Very few of his rivals have that kind of character. Some of them seem to have had careers and lives that scream out against it. Palin, Gingrich, Trump, and Romney are all obvious liars, positioners and, to a greater or lesser extent, frauds. I’d put Huntsman, Daniels, Santorum, and Johnson in a group as exceptions to this rule. But Ron Paul heads the pack – in consistency, integrity and sincerity.

Steve Kornacki‘s post at Salon reveals what is obvious: that Paul is only a needed candidacy for political junkies:

The biggest winner may be political junkies, who will probably find the coming GOP presidential debates far more interesting with Paul in them, especially when the subject turns to foreign policy. Paul’s appearance on Sean Hannity’s show last night offered a preview of what we can expect. When the subject turned to America’s relationship with the Muslim world, Paul refused to engage in the kind of Muslim-baiting that has become de rigueur for Republican politicians.

Kornacki also is clear on the limits of Paul’s support:

[T]here’s a clear ceiling on Paul’s support. A passionate, not insignificant chunk of the Republican base is receptive to him and his message. But most of the conservative establishment is openly hostile to him, partly because of his adamantly non-interventionist foreign policy views and partly because he can be so easily painted as a fringe figure. Elite conservative opinion-shapers long ago succeeded in marginalizing Paul within the GOP. This point was driven home at CPAC the past two years. Each time, Paul won the annual presidential straw poll (with well under 50 percent of the vote), setting off jubilant cheers from his supporters — and angry boos from just about everyone else in the room. Recall also that Fox News actually blocked Paul from participating in the final GOP debate before the 2008 GOP primary — even though he had just finished ahead of Rudy Giuliani (and tied with Fred Thompson) in Iowa.

The problem that Sullivan doesn’t even attempt to grasp is that in his rush to embrace Paul’s foreign policy ideas, he’s inadvertantly unleashed Paul’s completely idiotic monetary policies on the world. E.D. Kain addressed this earlier today regarding FGary Johnson:

Probably the best argument against supporting Johnson is this: supporting a candidate based on a single-issue alliance is not as effective as supporting a cause.

It’s also more dangerous because if that cause becomes too embodied by that candidate, then the rest of his ideas – like abolishing the Fed, for instance – can then become conflated with the good cause as well. And so you weaken and undermine those ideas by associating them too closely with the bad ideas of the candidate you supported. You see this with Ron Paul, who has very good and decent positions on foreign intervention and the security state, but who is way off in crazy Austrian land when it comes to economics and goldbuggery.

It’s important to build up support for these ideas from the bottom up rather than from the top down. If you want a more anti-war, civil-liberties-based liberalism than you have to argue for it, work with activists to build up grass-roots support for those policies, and vote for local and state candidates who support those ideas. Making a deal with the devil may be a dramatic and appealing way to register one’s dissent, but it’s more than likely counter-productive. A show of support for Johnson’s anti-drug-war policies is just as easily taken as support for slashing public support for healthcare and education, or for busting public sector unions.

I understand Sullivan’s frustration even if I don’t completely share it. He wants a much, much more limited foreign policy has a large blog and still has had little progress in achieving that goal.

But left unsaid by Sullivan is that Ron Paul ran four years ago. In the years since, despite Paul having record money showered upon him, we’ve seen no indication whatsoever that the core of the GOP was changed by that engagement. If anything, they’re worse than ever given the antipathy towards Muslims that Obama’s Presidency has unwittingly revealed. By contrast, a giant part of the GOP is now out to burn the Federal Reserve to the ground metaphorically. Ron Paul is teaching Michele Bachmann about the Fed, not about the war in Iraq. Someone should notice that at some point.

Paul has no say on foreign policy in this Congress, but he does have a key subcommittee post on monetary policy. I watched Paul on the Colbert Report last night, and Paul spent more time taking on the Federal Reserve than talking about foreign policy.

At some point, it’s time to put away niche candidacies, even if you would like the niche, because there are bigger things at stake. I’d like Andrew Sullivan to admit that Ron Paul has doine more harm to America monetarily than good militarily. Find a more responsible candidate if you need drastic foreign policy change. It’s irresponsible to support Paul for that purpose anymore.

More bluntly, it’s time to stop wishing about what candidate Sullivan wishes Ron Paul was and to start looking at what candidate Ron Paul is.

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Written by John Whitehouse

April 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Guantanamo and the Executive Branch

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Propublica:

When Kennedy, who serves on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in February that Uthman was being improperly detained, his 27-page opinion was turned over to a court security officer for classification review.

The judges themselves have very little insight into the process and no sway over what is redacted. Government security officials review filings in the habeas litigation and other cases involving classified evidence and remove sensitive information.

In the Uthman case, that clearance process took three weeks. Kennedy’s decision was stamped “Redacted,” by the court’s security officer and returned to his chambers on March 16. The deletions were minimal. For the first 16 pages, the only word blacked out was “secret,” stamped at the top and bottom of each page.

Kennedy’s clerk added the document to the electronic court file late in the day. Twenty-five hours later, the security office sent out urgent notices to attorneys and the judge that the opinion had not been ready for release and needed additional deletions. The decision was promptly removed from the public docket.

In a closed hearing in his courtroom four days later, Kennedy lashed out at the government for releasing classified information. He and Justice Department attorneys then argued over what to do, according to three sources familiar with the discussion.

Kennedy insisted that the reasoning behind his first habeas ruling be made public. But the Justice Department resisted releasing it in redacted form, arguing that blacked out portions would call attention to the exact material the government wanted to conceal.

This is an excellent report by Pro Publica (not a surprise, they’re the best around at that). But beyond what Pro Publica reports, we as a society can often be in a rush to make everything a political decision, but sometimes it’s just as simple as a bureaucratic error. While the detention involved presidential decisions, the redaction decisions are of a much lower pay grade. One of them got screwed up, with no easy way to make it right. Regardless of whether detention at Guantanamo or elsewhere was done correctly, poorly, or somewhere in the middle, this situation could still exist.

It’s also hard to jump to conclusions about the impact on the judge when the judge will not say what it was:

Kennedy’s original opinion noted that Uthman was seized in Parachinar; that he reached the town after an eight-day trek from the Afghan town of Khost, nowhere near Tora Bora; and that his journey to Pakistan began around Dec. 8, 2001. Those facts make it difficult to portray Uthman as a fighter in a battle that took place between Dec. 12 and Dec. 17 at Tora Bora. Two footnotes in the original opinion note that the government does not contest that Uthman was taken into custody in Parachinar.

Both were removed in the second opinion and Kennedy substituted wording to write instead that Uthman admitted he was seized “in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora, Afghanistan.”

The intent of this editing may have been to conceal the role of the Pakistanis in capturing al-Qaida fighters although those details were long ago declassified. But the effect was to link Uthman more closely to the retreat of bin Laden and his inner circle through Tora Bora.

It is unclear precisely what restrictions or classification requests guided Kennedy’s alterations. Neither the judge nor the Justice Department would say.

Gillers said such editing has an effect on public opinion, even when it doesn’t change the outcome of the case.

There are two competing interests in government redacting: protecting national security and protecting the prosecution. Not surprisingly, both of these institutional interests are alleged:

Officials at other agencies said they had a fairly free hand in removing information supplied for the government’s case. “Whenever a court security officer identifies a document slated for posting on the court’s public docket as potentially containing classified information, the officer refers that document to appropriate agencies for classification review,” Maj. Tanya Bradsher, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said.

One government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity acknowledged that the classification process has been plagued with inconsistencies and that no one is coordinating the effort. In most declassified habeas filings, the names of all detainee-witnesses are removed; in others, a name or two slips past the redaction process.

Some government-ordered deletions clearly appear designed to conceal names of confidential informants, associations with foreign intelligence services and the identities of certain federal agents. But the Uthman case shows that many of the deletions go further.

“This censorship has nothing to do with protecting ‘national security’ and everything to do with covering up government mistakes and malfeasance,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law who has represented a number of detainees in habeas litigation. The practice, he said, allows the government to “mislead the American public on issues of profound importance to the country by skewing the perception of who really is at Guantánamo.”

The question is not if both of these interests exist; even if one or both did not, there would at least be a perception of both. The question is how to address them. And the only way to do that is from outside the executive: Congress, the Supreme Court, or ideally both somehow would act in a way to ensure fair procedural safeguards.

The problem is that both institutions have essentially abdicated any responsibilities related to war whatsoever. This has long been the case with the Supreme Court. The laissez-faire attitude peaked in the Korematsu decision that refused to condemn the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two. The series of detainment decisions culminating in Boumediene were meaningful but the impacts, as we have seen, have been basically to give far outside limits. And the Congressional action, from the AUMF on, has been absolutely shameful.

My main problem is that for some reason people expect the executive to change this unilaterally. That will never happen. There are four reasons why this won’t happen:

1) No executive is going to be able to completely rid bureaucrats of a desire to protect prosecutors.

2) No president will unilaterally get prosecutors to be more forthcoming on issues of national security, especially when pushing for trust of the national security apparatus is the first thing any new President must do (particularly those with a history of perceived antipathy).

3) Add to this the overwhelming pressure to protect America. No President wants to release the guy who ends up creating the next 9/11 or Cole bombing. Voters would punish that proportionally far more than they would reward a President for releasing someone who the president thinks may just be a mild risk.

4) Presidential leadership on Guantanamo is not the most important variable in change. I thought Jamelle Bouie’s post on this was on the mark:

Yes, Guantanamo closure was a core issue for President Obama, and yes, it was a core issue for his liberal supporters, but it wasn’t a core issue for the Democratic Party, and it needed to be for any chance at success. Given unanimous and vocal Republican opposition to the administration agenda writ large, Guantanamo closure was virtually certain to become a bitter partisan fight. For success, Obama needed a certain level of pro-closure consensus among congressional Democrats. Absent that consensus (and combined with public pressure to the contrary), it was no real surprise to see the White House avoid confrontation: Given limited resources, limited power, and the choice between a hard fight with a small chance of success, and a hard fight with a moderate one, the administration felt best served by investing its resources in the hard fight with moderate chance of success, i.e., health-care reform.

In other words, like Bill Clinton and gays in the military, Guantanamo closure was a high-profile fight that lacked strong support within and outside the party. Obama could have invested further resources in closing the base, but he would have lost ground with health-care reform, stimulus, and other competing priorities. This isn’t to minimize Obama’s failures or the extent to which he has simply embraced large elements of Bush national-security policy, but you can think of an issue like Guantanamo as the price of presidential ambition. When there are many things on the executive plate, some of them have to go by the wayside. This, unfortunately, was one of them.

You can add to this that every electable politician on Guantanamo had the same position as Obama or was much further right (see Romney offering to double Guantanamo). This is why it frustrates me that so many on the left expend all pressure on the matter at Obama, and not on Congress, who is actually 1) pliable and 2) can be changed without massive collateral damage elsewhere.

Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo. What happened? The Senate foreclosed any such action by a 90-6 vote. That’s right. Ninety to six.

Until and unless Congress is pushed to engage more on detainee action, the executive will be on an island alone; the Supreme Court will determine the boundaries of that island but little more.

**Edited this post to make clear that the Pro Publica report was -not- politicized.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Is the Bloc Québécois About To Fall?

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Via Matt Yglesias, stunning news from North America’s frigid third:

Jack Layton is riding high after a pair of polls show the NDP overtaking the Bloc Québécois – a change that would mark a huge transformation of the political landscape if it carried through to election day and was transformed into seats in the House of Commons.

CROP survey published Thursday in the Montreal newspaper La Presse suggests the NDP is the preferred choice for 36 per cent of Quebeckers, compared to 31 per cent for the Bloc. The Tories were at 17 per cent in that poll and the Liberals were at 13 per cent.

And an EKOS Research surveyconducted for the internet news outlet iPolitics suggests that the New Democrats have jumped 10 percentage points since just before last weeks’ leaders debates to 31.1 per cent while the Bloc has dropped to 23.7 per cent.

Meanwhile, a Nanos Research pollconducted for The Globe and Mail suggests that Mr. Layton’s New Democrats are closing in on the Liberals for second place in popular support across the country.

It wasn’t inevitable that this was going to happen now, but this was inevitable sooner or later. The Bloc is in essence a vanity party: a vote for them and secession means that you as a voter literally do not care about any other issue, just secession. And given the past 5 years globally, as well as continuous effects of a conservative governing coalition, at some point it was bound to happen that  people would vote their economic and social interests over a pure protest vote.

As I noted in my previous, lengthy post, Quebec at one point was the heart of the left in Canada. These polls indicate it might be happening again. The NDP is really center left (the liberals are left) but this literally could change everything: if the Bloc loses, then the NDP could have a governing coalition like the left used to.

What makes this really interesting, of course, is that it was the Bloc siding against Harper’s government in a no confidence vote that made this election possible.

James Inhofe: The French Rigged The Cote D’Ivoire Election

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This is an amazing, perhaps unprecedented claim in modern times:

“I do know that the French have always had pretty much control of the government in the Ivory Coast and that’s just the way the French operate, until President Gbagbo got there and, of course, the French have been running against him ever since that time. And, the current opponent, Ouattara, is no exception; he is the chosen one by the French and, quite frankly, they rigged the election,” said Inhofe.

“I have shown on the Senate floor how they took the margin of victory that went to Ouattara…what precincts they stole that vote at and how they miscalculated it. How is it statistically possible for the primary election for Gbagbo to have received thousands and thousands of votes in that northern part of Cote d’Ivoire and then, in the run-off, he got zero? Statistically, that is impossible,” he added.

This is an outrageous claim for a sitting American senator to make.

James Inhofe Makes Up His Own Reality

For one, that’s not even the excuse given by the Ivorian Constitutional Court:

The Constitutional Council has rejected an announcement naming presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara as the winner of Côte d’Ivoire’s elections. Earlier, the electoral commission had declared Ouattara the winner of the election with 54 per cent of the vote.

“The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) missed its deadline for giving provisional results” by midnight Wednesday, said the head of the Constitutional Council, Paul Yao N’Dre, a close ally of President Laurent Gbagbo.

“From that moment, the CEI is not in a position to announce anything,” he said on state television, rejecting the commission’s announcement that Ouattara had won Sunday’s run-off vote.

Two, as noted directly above, the Constitutional Court was widely believed to be corrupt here.

Three, the Constitutional Court had to wipe out 500,000 votes, all of which were in the north, and which represented one tenth of all votes cast. That’s unlikely to have been legitimate.

Four, the UN is responsible for certifying election results under previous agreements:

The UN, which is responsible for certifying the election results as part of the peace deal that ended the last bout of fighting in the country, has said that it considers the initial election valid.

The top UN representative in the country said he had “absolute confidence that there is only one winner – Mr Alassane Ouattara”.

Speaking during the incumbent’s ceremony, Hamadoun Toure, the UN’s special envoy, told Al Jazeera that the 9,000 UN peacekeepers who are stationed in the country would be keeping to their existing mandate of “providing peace and security in the country” if violence over the standoff breaks out. Protecting civilians, he reaffirmed, is central to that mandate.

What agreements were they? Agreements such as the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement or the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, which made official the UN role, and subsequent Security Council resolutions (especially 1933), which made the UN responsible for certifying election results. So the Constitutional Court did not have the authority to wantonly throw out 600,000 votes on its own without scheduling a re-election.

Five and most importantly. even if there was fraud, the Constitution requires a revote within 45 days; the Constitutional Court simply ignored that facet. Why was that vote not held or scheduled? Because the Constitutional Court held that conditions were not safe for it. Why were conditions not safe? Because the Constitutional Court had wrongly overruled the decision! In short, a big win for tautologies and tyrants.

Which is why the UN and the international community rightly rejected it. But none of these details matter to James Inhofe, who sees Gbagbo only as his burdened Christian ally.

Cote D’Ivoire / Ivory Coast Running Thread (4/6)

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A family sharing one tent in Liberian refugee camp, along the Ivory Coast border

10:00 EDT: I ended yesterday’s thread speculating that eventually Ouattara’s forces may just try to kick the door in on the bunker where Gbagbo is hiding. Well:

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara launched a heavy attack on Wednesday on the bunker where Laurent Gbagbo was defying efforts to force him to cede power, residents said.

“The fighting is terrible here, the explosions are so heavy my building is shaking,” Alfred Kouassi, who lives near Gbagbo’s residence in the commercial capital Abidjan, told Reuters.

“We can hear automatic gunfire and also the thud of heavy weapons. There’s shooting all over the place. Cars are speeding in all directions and so are the fighters,” he said.

[. . .]

A spokeswoman for Ouattara’s forces said Ouattara’s fighters were storming Gbagbo’s residence, where Gbagbo has been holed up since Ouattara’s forces swept into Abidjan backed by helicopter strikes by the United Nations and France.

“They are in the process of entering the residence to seize Gbagbo,” Affousy Bamba told Reuters. “They have not taken him yet, but they are in the process.”

Residents however said militias close to Gbagbo and his presidential guard were putting up a stiff resistance, even as most soldiers from the regular army had heeded a call to lay down their arms.

What led to this? Gbagbo’s obstinance.

Negotiations led by the United Nations and France aimed at securing the departure of Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo have failed, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday.

“The negotiations which were carried out for hours yesterday between the entourage of Laurent Gbagbo and Ivorian authorities have failed because of Gbagbo’s intransigence,” Juppe told parliament.

Considering that yesterday Ouattara allies were comparing Gbagbo to one of the Nazis, This probably means he’s probably going to be put on trial in Cote D’Ivoire. But it also is another reason for his supporters to resist the legitimacy of Ouattara.

10:05 EDT: The EU are adding new sanctions to Gbagbo’s government. Seems a little late, but whatever.

10:10 EDT: Both FM Juppe and a military spokesman in Abidjan say that the French are not involved in the assault on the Presidential Palace. Two UN helicopters are flying low overhead the area where the palace is, though.

This is another reminder that Ouattara likely cannot solve the multitude of problems left in Gbagbo’s wake:

There are now real fears the violence in Ivory Coast could set off a fresh round of regional carnage. Mercenaries and militia who backed the regime of Laurent Gbabgo, the deposed president, have been fleeing across the largely unguarded border with Liberia -raising the prospect they will soon begin building bases there from which a fresh campaign can be mounted.

Former Liberian soldiers, thousands of whom were demobilized after the civil war ended there, are said to have received cash offers to bolster Gbabgo’s militias in southern Ivory Coast.  Burkina Faso, where ethnic groups are closely linked to those in northern Ivory Coast, could also find itself sucked into the fighting.

And there’s more bad news.

For one, Ouattara’s triumphant forces haven’t been able to stamp out inter-ethnic clashes. Killings have been reported in the towns of Bangolo, Man and Danane by Medicines Sans Frontieres, the French NGO.

Human rights groups have already documented atrocities by both sides. In March, Gbabgo’s forces butchered at least 37 immigrant workers then Ouattara’s forces murdered nine unarmed supporters of Gbabgo. Last week, Ouattara called on his supporters to refrain from committing atrocities, but it is unclear if the president-elect, a U.S.-educated economist and banker with no real military authority, has the influence to stop the loosely organized forces backing him from settling local feuds.

These are serious, systemic problems that will take monumental resolve to even begin to solve.

10:20 EDT: Al Jazeera has a fantastic interview with journalist Ayo Johnson, who looks at this problem and also broader problems in Africa.

But why does this keep happening in Africa? All the stereotypes and generalisations aside, similar events have occurred in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire and Gabon within a few years of each other.

It is embarrassing and sad – but the reality is that African politics and democracy is at a crossroad. For some countries who I would like to describe as fragile states, fragile because a few have come through war, others have had coups, others have had repeated cycles of poor leadership and bad governance. And the conditions that lead to their fragility is ever so apparent. Hence many of such countries are in recovery mode and if not nurtured and supported could easily slip into their bad ways. This is a fact with Ivory Coast. Currently there are only a handful of African countries that meet the grade of governance – South Africa, Africa super power, Ghana, bright and sparkling and Nigeria aspiring to reach its potential and well on track.

These are a few countries that have met international acceptable standards of governance. Africa as a whole has a long way to go in terms of being responsible and accountable. But with time the African continent can change and be seen to change and the rest of the world will see its better and progressive side.

Q. How do these ”fragile countries” break out of these cycles?

There is also a responsibility from the population to be far more educated to understand that during an election do not vote purely on tribal lines. As is ever so apparent across Africa where most vote for the man or woman that belongs to their tribe and cultural affiliation rather that the person who has the best policies. There is a need for the populace to become more educated and to choose wisely with their vote and understand the ramification of the choices they make and how best to use their vote.

Finally the electoral process of choosing a president or a leader for a country should be organised and controlled by ECOWAS. They should work closely with the electoral commission and the decision should be final. This way Disputes will be minimal and there will not be a risk that the process ha been compromised or sabotaged by tribalism or cultural affiliation

In any democracy, the cure for almost any problem is the voters becoming more informed. That’s easier said than done, though. See: the United States.

10:30 EDT: Andrew Harding on the siege:

A negotiated ending might have helped ease tensions in this bitterly divided country. After all, Mr Gbagbo won 46% of the vote in the recent election.

But he seems to have over played a weak hand, and so a more forceful denouement beacons, and with it the real risk of greater instability.

What will his militias do if Mr Gbagbo is killed, or dragged out and humiliated?

Civilians, still trapped in Abidjan, say there has been sporadic gunfire across the city, with pro-Gbagbo militias still on the streets, and Ouattara force’s still “mopping up” opposition at several military installations.

This is definitely not the way this should end.

10:40 EDT: I have not mentioned it before, but Ouattara forces have been ordered not to kill Gbagbo. And I’ve seen a lot of calls for him to be tried, but very few, if any, that he should be killed. In this situation a lot of things are possible (and it just takes one soldier and one bullet), but I don’t think that’s the intent of Ouattara forces, by any stretch. They want him tried.

10:50 EDT: A must read piece in the Times by novelist Fatou Keita:

Some days earlier, looters had invaded our parking lot. We watched them from our windows, hidden behind our curtains, powerless. They were intent on stealing our cars: all the windows were broken, the interiors pillaged. “Give us the keys!” one shouted up to us. “If we have to go in there, you’ll be sorry!” They tried several times to drive off with my car, but as stubborn as its owner, it refused to start and they had to give up. Three other cars were taken, but thank heavens, the bandits didn’t try to force open the door to our building.

By the end of our meeting, we had decided that in case of an attack on our building, we would give the alarm by beating on our pots and pans. We also set hours for taking out the trash and going out to look for food when it was possible.

The days are long because, obviously, we are confined to our homes by the gunfire. When the shooting is heavy, I yell at everyone to lie flat in the hallway. My little granddaughter is terrified. Some of my neighbors have bullets in their walls.

The end is a reminder that, for people in Abidjan, this crisis is not over yet.

–A good map in French of the situation in Abidjan.

11:05 EDT: CAFOD, a Catholic aid agency in England, posted some pictures of the refugees. I’d recommend giving to Oxfam before any religious organization (less strings, better reputation) but this is definitely a “all hands on deck” sort of situation. And honestly, any visibility the refugees get along these lines is good visibility.

11:15 EDT: Max Fisher at the Atlantic writes the first comparison of Libya and Cote D’Ivoire that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out. Quite an accomplishment:

Today, the U.S. and France are leading two large-scale, primarily humanitarian interventions, both in Africa. While neither conflict — Côte d’Ivoire and Libya — has yet resolved, and while their immediate as well as long-term damage are not yet clear, in both cases the international intervention appears to have been of tremendous value for three reasons. The civilian death toll, though high in both countries, would likely have been far higher without the United Nations-approved action. Second, intervention looks like it may be able to drastically hasten what could have otherwise been far longer conflict. And perhaps most importantly, the interventions send an important message to the despots and would-be despots of the world that stealing an election or slaughtering one’s own people just became a great deal riskier.

It’s impossible to know what would have happened in Côte d’Ivoire without intervention. But the country looked set to at least return to the civil war of 2004, plunging the country that had become an African success story into yet another of the bloody, sectarian-tinged, insurgent-heavy wars that have plagued West Africa for decades. President Laurent Gbagbo, refusing to cede power after losing his election, would have faced little opposition as loyalist forces and mercenaries mowed down one peaceful protest after another. The corpses dumped along roadsides, in a grisly ritual meant to quietly purge the nation of 20 million of all political opposition, would have continued to mount. As Gbagbo nationalized natural resources and as fighting made the cities, once areas of manufacturing and a slowly growing middle class, inhospitable, this once-vibrant African economy would have headed for collapse.

Côte d’Ivoire’s economy will likely take years to recover. But the armed conflict, which looked ready to drag on for years and to create sectarian tension between the Muslim north and Christian south that could have lasted even longer, appears headed for an imminent and possibly decisive conclusion after only four months. Gbagbo, now holed up in a bunker for the third straight day, hasagreed to negotiate the terms of his surrender and departure. His generals are calling for a cease fire. A United Nations and French assault has crippled his forces and paved the way for fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the rightful winner of the presidential election. Months of U.S.- and French-imposed sanctions have devastated Gbagbo’s ability to pay his troops. U.S.-led diplomatic efforts have isolated him regionally and brought the African Union, normally deferential to dictators and loathe to intervene, to take one of its toughest and most unified stands in the body’s history. Now Gbagbo, rather than slowly burning his country down through years of war and dictatorship, appears, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “on the verge of being ousted.”

I would add this to the pile of things that are changing as the world becomes figuratively smaller. Africa used to be way over there, now it’s immediately accessible via real time media, social or otherwise. That’s not a cure all – there are still factors for intervention to take into account. But now we all (not just people on the ground cabling in) can more easily judge the risks of not intervening before it’s too late. And that’s meaningful.

11:20 EDT: What’s taking so long? Gbagbo supporters are firing heavy weapons:

Mamadou Toure, a Outtara supporter who has been on France 24 TV, says it’s taking so long to capture Gbagbo’s bunker because Gbagbo’s supporters have heavy weapons. Outtara’s forces reportedly have received orders to take the incumbent president alive.

More warnings about a humanitarian crisis in Liberia:

Stephen O’Brien, a UK international development minister who has been at the Bahn camp in Liberia, on the border with Ivory Coast, has warned of an “immediate crisis” and has called on all the international community to help people affected by the violence

–Also, more on what the ICC is doing:

The said the prosecutor has been conducting a preliminary examination and the next step will be for the prosecutor to request authorisation to initiate an investigation but the process would be expedited if a country signed up to the Rome statute refers Ivory Coast to the prosecutor of the international criminal court.

All in all, it seems everything is at a stalemate until Gbagbo is captured.

11:25 EDT: Reports from Abidjan are that UN helicopters flying overhead are not firing on the Gbagbo compound, though Gbagbo allies are trying to spread propaganda that they are. The BBC reports that Gbagbo allies have even called this an assassination attempt, but that Ouattara forces know that things will likely only get worse if Gbagbo is in fact killed.

11:30 EDT: The Assistant Secretary for African Affairs spoke in Washington yesterday about Cote D’Ivoire, and echoed the positions of France and the United Nations, as well as other people within the American government, all the way up to Obama. i didn’t catch anything new regarding Cote D’Ivoire (though the information on Nigeria’s election was interesting).

11:35 EDT: More on the French history in Cote D’Ivoire. (French)

11:40 EDT: Irin provides details on the military supporters of Ouattara:

While military support from the UN and France may have proved pivotal in destroying Gbagbo’s last arsenals, the former rebels known as Forces Nouvelles (FN) made up most of the newly formed Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), which pushed south into the main city Abidjan after winning remarkably easy victories in the centre, east and south of the country in the past week.

Who are the military forces behind Ouattara and how will they proceed once their side takes power?

At a recent celebratory rally in the political capital Yamoussoukro, Ouattara’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro introduced the crowd to several FN senior commanders: Soumaila Bakayoko, Cherif Ousmane, Tuo Fozié and Touré Hervé, saluted as being among the architects of the FRCI’s victories. Ouattara supporters also talk of the key role played by Col Miche Gueu. These men are associated with the September 2002 rebellion, which nearly dislodged Gbagbo. The FN – a collective of three rebel factions – made offensives against Korhogo, Bouaké and Abidjan. Their secretary-general and main public voice was a then 30-year-old Soro, known primarily as a former student leader.

Ivoirian critics of Ouattara and Soro have not welcomed the sense of déjà vu. “This man is meant to be a prime minister, but he is forever talking about the need for a military offensive and moving on Abidjan,” a man in the Yopougon District said. Many observers noted the difference between Ouattara’s rhetoric and that of Soro in the weeks after the disputed November 2010 presidential election, with the prime minister much quicker to push for a military solution.

The FN included soldiers, particularly northerners, defecting from the national armed forces, but also combatants from outside Côte d’Ivoire and the `dozo’, traditional warrior hunters – said to have mystical powers – who have long acted as informal community police.

In 2006 one of the FN leaders, Martin Kouakou Fofié, was hit with UN sanctions over allegations of child recruitment, abductions, sexual abuse of women, arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings by troops he commanded.

Whatever compromises were made in numerous peace accords signed in the years since the rebellion, the FN have effectively retained control of national territory in the west, north and centre. A longstanding concern of Gbagbo supporters and neutrals has been the existence of a state within a state, whose sovereignty has gone largely unchallenged.

More problems for Ouattara to deal with. With each passing hour, this feels more and more like a Pyrrhic victory.

I’ve also referred to the FRCI constantly here, because that’s what they are now; it’s worth highlighting, though, that this is essentially a re-organized group of what came before: the New Forces, that had, as the excerpt shows, many problems of their own.

–Irin also has a piece on refugees:

Ivoirians who have fled to eastern and southeastern Liberia are choosing to settle in villages rather than camps and transit centres, making them harder to help, say NGO workers.

Most of the 130,000 Ivoirians who have fled into in Liberia since December 2010 are scattered across 90 villages in Nimba and Grand Geddeh counties, according to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Suleiman Momodu.

Ivoirians feel safest staying with host communities just across the border from their homes, as they may have relatives in these villages or share the same ethnic background, said Anika Krstic, spokesperson with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Liberia’s capital Monrovia.

As a result, a refugee camp in Bahn in Nimba County, 50km from the border, is sheltering some 2,500 refugees, despite being built to house up to 15,000.

Many Ivoirians return to their villages by day to keep up their livelihoods, re-crossing into Liberia at night, said Krstic. “With population movements continually shifting, it’s hard to figure out who has already been registered and who is being registered for the first time,” she added.

Poor roads impede access to many host villages said DRC, which is helping provide water and sanitation in transit centres, where refugees are temporarily housed before finding longer-term shelter.

Not only are there a significant amount of refugees, they’re not even going to be easy to get help to. This sounds like it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

11:55 EDT: Elizabeth Dickson of Foreign Policy tweets that UN investigators found a third possible massacre site in Cote D’Ivoire.

More details from Channel 4:

The man overseeing the UN team investigating mass killings in the Ivory Coast has confirmed to Channel 4 News that in addition to two mass graves which were found in Duekoue in March, reports based on “reliable information” have led the team to investigate a third site in Bloleuquin.  The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic spoke to Channel 4 News from Abidjan. He had just returned from Duekoue whilst on a week long mission to oversee the investigation into reports of mass killings.

He said “in the second half of March 100 people were killed in Duekoue, and on the 28th March 230 people were killed.”

Whilst Ivan Simonovic did not specifically use the phrase “ethnic cleansing” he told Channel 4 News “here are the hard facts: in the first incident the 100 victims were of a single ethnicity, from the Dioula ethnicity who traditionally support Ouattara, they were found after pro-Gbagbo forces were in control”

“And in the second incident 230 people from the Guerra ethnicity, traditionally supporters of Gbagbo, were killed at the time when Ouattara’s forces were in control.”

Horrifying.

12:15 EDT: Oxfam has a Flickr page with photos from Cote D’Ivoire. The photo at the top of the page is from this set.

–France24 is reporting that Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the ICC, is officially opening an investigation into “systematic or widespread massacres committed in Côte d’Ivoire.”

12:25 EDT: Kofi Annan, still alive and giving public statements, says that Gbagbo should leave.

12:45 EDT: According to the liveblog of Jeune Afrique, via France24, Gbagbo refused an offer of “legal immunity, a collection of his assets, freedom of movement, and 2 million per year” from African heads of state. Does he think a better offer is coming?

–Ah, the catch, What France 24 didn’t highlight is that this offer was made on March 10, nearly a month ago. That makes the offer much more reasonable. Making that offer now would be idiotic.

12:55 EDT: A military source told Jeune Afrique that the bunker where Gbagbo is has 4-5 layers with men to defend him and enough food to last a year. Wonderful. Exactly what the country needs right now.

–Via AFP, Jeune Afrique reports that Angola still considers Gbagbo the president-elect. Amazing.

1:00 EDT: South Africa, Togo, Angola, and possibly Ethiopia are possible locations for exile for Gbagbo:

South Africa, Togo and Angola are possible safe havens for Ivory Coast’s besieged Laurent Gbagbo should he negotiate an exit from his West African country, African Union (AU) sources said on Wednesday.  “South Africa has offered several times before and Togo is now indicating to us that it could be willing to take him in,” a senior AU official told Reuters.  “Togo is not a great option, though, as there will obviously be fears that he could cause problems and spoil peace from there — it’s so close to Ivory Coast. I’m betting strongly on South Africa,” said the official, who declined to be named.

[. . .]

Another diplomat at the AU in Addis Ababa said Angola was a strong possibility.  “Angola has always been pro-Gbagbo,” one Western diplomat told Reuters. “I think there’s a good likelihood of Angola taking him in if there’s a settlement. You only have to look at their history.”  The United Nations said in March it was investigating suspected arms transfers to Ivory Coast in breach of an embargo, including a cargo delivery from Angola.  There were also regular reports in 2002 that Angola supplied arms including armoured vehicles to Ivory Coast when rebels tried to oust Gbagbo from the presidency.  Angola has denied that mercenaries from the country have fought for Gbagbo.

Diplomats at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia said Uganda was an outside bet to shelter the Ivorian strongman. Long-serving President Yoweri Museveni earlier this year attacked the United Nations for recognising Ouattara as the election winner.

That’s assuming he cuts a deal to give himself exile.

1:15 EDT: The BBC reports that today’s assault on Gbagbo’s residence may have repelled because Ouattara forces could not break through thr heavy weapons on the residence.

1:20 EDT: This Al Jazeera video captures the perspective of Ivorians caught in the crossfire:

1:30 EDT: Gbagbo is rejecting advice of allies to give up and apparently hopes to remain as President.

–A report to France24 indicates that Gbagbo is still broadcasting defiantly on state television. A very rough translation:

“URGENT: President Gbagbo IS NOT IN A BUNKER PALACE AND ITS NOT SENT OR ITS GENERAL ALCIDE DJEDJE ASK ANY PRESENTING AS STATED IN PARIS by François Fillon • URGENT: THE GENERAL AND MANGOU Ksarat NEVER negotiated the surrender of President Gbagbo FROM THE EMBASSY OF France ABIDJAN AS ANNOUNCED ON BFM TV and ITEL by François Fillon • URGENT: THE PRO-OUATTARA were defeated by the pro-Gbagbo NEAR THE PRESIDENTIAL RESIDENCE. • URGENT: President Gbagbo STATED IN PERSON, TUESDAY NIGHT ON LCI, IT REMAINS WELL TO HIS POST AS PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC BECAUSE HE WON THE ELECTION “

–Meanwhile, SOSs are being broadcast here, including one about a two year old child who has not eaten for three days.

–Reuters has also reported that the Ouattara attack on Gbagbo’s residence has been repelled today.

1:45 EDT: The Telegraph has chilling pictures of the assault on Gbagbo’s bunker.

–AFP is also reporting that Ouattara forces have retreated from Gbagbo’s bunker.

–A representative from UNICEF told the BBC that they had to turn back because people were being killed right in front of them.

2:15 EDT: The EU is committed to helping Cote D’Ivoire rebuild. (French link)

The European Union today expressed its readiness to help rebuild the economy and institutions when the Ivorian conflict between the president recognized by the international community and its rival has been set.

“We are ready to consider a range of measures to provide institutional and financial package” for the country, once the political situation stabilizes, “said Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Hungarian, Zsolt Nemeth, whose country holds the six-month presidency of the EU. He was speaking before the European Parliament on behalf of the Head of European diplomacy Catherine Ashton, who could not make the trip.

The minister did not elaborate on the proposed European aid. But the needs in Côte d’Ivoire are very important. The country’s economy, which relies heavily on exports of cocoa, has been in crisis since the beginning of the crisis created after the presidential election in November between the outgoing Head of State Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, recognized President of the international community.

Once Congress tops playing around with budget issues, they should make the same commitment.

–An interesting interview with an African expert from the Institute for International and Strategic Relations:

euronews: Can Alassane Ouattara legitimately be a reconciliation president, considering that his troops are already accused of mass killings during their advance on Abidjan?

Hugon: That’s certain, but to earn that stature it’s imperative that there be an effort of remembrance, the equivalent of a truth and reconciliation commission, and that crimes that may have been committed by one side or another be spoken of.

euronews: Paris is involved in three wars, in Afghanistan, Libya and Ivory Coast. Why this commitment at the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s term as president? For electoral reasons?

Hugon: It is true that a warrior stance, military commander in chief can have a positive effect on public opinion. I don’t believe that is the main motivation. I believe that Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to partly disengage from Africa, to normalise France-Africa relations — France-Afrique some people have called it — and finds himself facing the classical dilemma: must there be indifference or interference? History will decide whether he was right or wrong.

Jeune Afrique reports 92 Angolan soldiers are assigned to protect Gbagbo’s residence. Stunning news that France 24 seconds. Stunning news.

3:00 EDT: I’m not sure this has been widely reported yet, but in yesterday’s State Department briefing, it was announced that the US Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, Phillip Carter, has been in touch with both Ouattara and Gbagbo, even now.

The State Department has posted the full remarks of Asst. Sec. Carson, mentioned earlier:

3:05 EDT: Stunning photos of the conflict in Cote D’Ivoire over the past month. The pciture of the women protesting soldiers stands out to me.

3:15 EDT: France24 reports that Gbagbo’s soldiers returned fire, injuring one Ouattara soldier today.After a break, Ouattara foreces anticipate launching another offensive on the stronghold.

4:15 EDT: AFP reports that the Japanese embassy was attacked by mercenaries. As if things weren’t bad enough.

–American diplomats are also requesting to leave Abidjan.

–The attack on the Japanese embassy was worse than that initial report let on:

The residence of the Ambassador of Japan to Abidjan was attacked Wednesday by “mercenaries”, who then fired rockets and cannon fire from the building, said the diplomat told AFP, indicating that four members of its local staff had “disappeared “. “There are four people, security officials and the gardener, who disappeared. There are a lot of blood in the house, cartridges everywhere. I do not know if the four are alive, ” said Yoshifumi Okamura. “They were probably mercenaries, they entered my home in the morning by pulling (with rocket launchers) RPG. With a dozen people we’ve locked in my room, whose door is reinforced, ” said he said. His residence is located in the Cocody district (north), in a wide perimeter around that of outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, defended by his last against fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, head of state recognized by the international community. “From 9:00 to 2:00 p.m. (GMT), they fired machine guns, guns, RPGs from my residence. I do not know where they’re fired because we were locked up. It’s terrible, ” the diplomat continued. “They looted, stole everything of value in the house. Around 14:00, they are gone, ” said Yoshifumi. But “they are in front of me. I’m afraid they will come back, ” he said. (AFP)

My god.

–There’s now a report of a sniper on top of that residence.

4:30 EDT: The French language site Jeune Afrique lists Gbagbo’s remaining allies.

6:30 EDT: There is speculation that the presence of heavy weapons outside of Gbagbo’s residence may lead to the UN intervening again. But the bigger question, as posed by Senam Beheton, is who exactly is in charge of Abidjan and the country now? Can anyone guarantee security? As long as ambassador residences are attacked, it’s unclear if anyone is in charge.

Every other liveblog is closed. So I’ll follow suit, but be monitoring anything. If anything looks breaking, I’ll throw up a new thread. Thanks for following today.

Suicide Squad Six: The Few People Still Supporting Laurent Gbagbo

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A More Impressive Suicide Squad

Am I appropriating a classic comic story for a gimmick piece? You bet.

But there’s something about these 5 people supporting a thug who’s personally crippling a country. Laurent Gbagbo’s time has come and gone. By holding on to power despite universal criticism in the international community, he’s only set the stage for massacres both by forces allied to him and by those against him. Sure, they should each be punished, but Gbagbo had to know people would die for his stubbornness, even if he couldn’t predict how many would be civilians killed by the other side or by unallied militia forces. He did have to know what the result would be of handing out weapons to street gangs, essentially, and letting them loose in Abidjan. This is not a surprise.

Here’s what Think Progress wrote about Gbagbo:

The international community and the U.S. government have been united against Gbagbo, who has been fighting tooth and nail to retain power, and is accused ofcommitting numerous war crimes. Gbagbo has even attacked U.N. personnel and facilities, prompting the international body to launch a rare offensive against his beleaguered forces last night. Now, Gbagbo is reportedly negotiating a surrender and the conflict, which analysts just days ago feared could spin out of control, could now come to an end within “hours.”

And yet some people still defend him, outrageously, much like a team of evil supervillains working together against superheroes (shoehorning the analogy in briefly). They deserve to be named and shamed. Here they are:

Leading off, we have James Inhofe, Senator from the state of Oklahoma. Salon (also see oil connections here):

Chief among Gbagbo’s American supporters is Inhofe, who is the most influential Republican in the Senate when it comes to African affairs. Inhofe has been traveling to Africa regularly since the late 1990s and, while the trips are paid for by the taxpayer and typically involve some official business, the senator also engages in missionary work. He has been to Ivory Coast nine times and knows Gbagbo personally. That’s why, early on in the post-election crisis, when the State Department was frantically looking for intermediaries to reach out to Gbagbo to try to convince him to leave the country peacefully, the Obama administration asked Inhofe to talk to Gbagbo. But, according to a source familiar with the situation, Inhofe declined to do so.

It’s still not entirely clear why Inhofe wouldn’t help at a moment when it might have made a real difference; I’ve asked his spokesman for comment. But a letter to Hillary Clinton released by his office today offers some clues. In it, Inhofe explicitly takes Gbagbo’s side in the election dispute — even though all international observers and election monitors say that Gbagbo lost.

Inhofe writes: “From all the evidence I now have gathered, I am convinced that it is mathematically impossible for President Gbagbo to have lost the election by several hundred thousand votes.” The senator goes on to call for new elections.

The other wrinkle in all this is that Inhofe and Gbagbo share a connection to the Fellowship. Inhofe has said that he began taking his missionary trips to Africa at the request of Doug Coe, the so-called stealthy Billy Graham who leads the Fellowship. Ivory Coast has long been one of a handful of African countries that is “of special interest” to the Fellowship, according to Jeff Sharlet’s book about the group.

Next up, and closely related: Pat Robertson. Salon again:

Despite the fact that Gbagbo looks as if he will be removed from office by forces loyal to his opponent as early as today, Christian right figures in the U.S. are still standing by the isolated strongman.

On “The 700 Club” today, Pat Robertson declared that Gbagbo is “a very fine man” and insisted that the election was “crooked,” even though the U.S., the U.N. and the African Union all said that Gbagbo’s opponent, Alassane Ouattara, was the winner.

Part of the dynamic that is clearly on Robertson’s mind is that Gbagbo and his wife are evangelical Christians — who have both attended the Fellowship’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington — while Ouattara is Muslim.

Robertson was blunt today:

“This is a crooked election. But nevertheless the UN has said the other guy [Ouattara] won. Well, that may be. But the problem is that this is a country now that has been run by a Christian that’s going to be into the hands of Muslims. So it’s one more Muslim nation that’s going to be built into that ring of Sharia law around the Middle East. It’s one more country, one more danger spot, but we don’t seem to see that right now, do we?”

Next up, the Sultan of Silliness himself, Glenn Beck, who at least decided not to defend Gbagbo as much as smear Ouattara. via MMFA,in his own words:

BECK: What does democracy look like? Well, with Ouattara it’s sweet. We know our president says President Ouattara is the man. He’s a Muslim, but not officially the president yet because the current Christian president who has his own share of issues is refusing to allow a power change. Mostly because he fears that this guy [Ouattara] is going to round up all of this guy’s [Gbagbo] supporters and kill them all. Crazy talk we just heard from the president. Ouattara is the man.

Well, not quite. Even forces loyal to the Muslim president, like these guys, have slaughtered people, grabbed them out of their cars and set them on fire and now they’re beheading them too. And our president is supporting them which is great. So by the way, the death toll, about a thousand in three days over the weekend. So we got this guy [Obama] standing with this guy [Ouattara] who’s responsible for the scenes where people are [Beck makes a chopping motion].

Next, the guy who once said “Olympic games show clearly inequalities between the black and white races concerning, for example, athletes, and runners in particular. It’s a fact.” The one and only Jean-Marie Le Pen. From here:(and yea, the original is French. Sue me). Or see here.

The honorary president of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen said that “victory of Ouattara will tip the entire of Cote D’Ivoire under Muslim influence” on Friday in his “Diary”aired on the website of far-right party. “The victory of Ouattara, it will be the tipping of the entire Cote d’Ivoire under Muslim influence, while far this influence was limited to the tribes of northern Côte d’Ivoire,” said Jean-Marie Le Pen. “The troops Ouattara, I still remember that these are Muslim troops, ” he has said.

On the fourth day of a lightning offensive, the forces of Alassane Ouattara, Presidentrecognized by the international community after the November election, was poised Friday to control the entire country. The fate of the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo remained unknown. Criticizing also led intervention in Libya under UN mandate, Jean-Marie Le Pen has assured that “Mr. Sarkozy, General Pinocchio, is only the loincloth this operation globalist oil to taste” . “I consider (this) is akin to an act of international piracy because I think one day be proven premeditation in this case, which explains why it has exchanged immediately quasi-ambassadors with rebels’ he said. Brought to qualify the Libyan rebels, the honorary president of the National Front said they are “often people of modest extraction and untrained” and that “it seems that Ivory Coast it is a little same thing. “

Next, a change of course, the International Committee of the Fourth International. Or, to be short: Communists. In their own words:

After the second round of the November elections, the Western powers claimed that Ouattara had won the vote with 54 percent versus 46 percent for Gbagbo, but Gbagbo contested the results. He retained command of the bulk of the official armed forces. French and UN forces sided with Ouattara inside the country—guaranteeing his safety in the Golf Hotel in downtown Abidjan.

Ouattara’s power grab centres on a battle for influence inside the Ivory Coast’s officer corps, to convince them to desert the Gbagbo camp, together with the backing of the major imperialist powers that are citing the Libyan war as a pretext for intervention in Ivory Coast. As in Libya, the pretence of a fight to defend democracy is a thin disguise for an attempt to manipulate a bloody civil war to the advantage of the major imperialist powers.

[. . .]

Despite the Western media campaign, Ouattara does not represent a “democratic” alternative to Laurent Gbagbo. A former high-ranking official at the International Monetary Fund, he will implement pro-market policies and depend critically on the threat of Western military intervention to retain power, amid the longstanding north-south tensions in Ivory Coast.

The war will deepen the major imperialist powers’ leverage to economically loot the Ivory Coast. A country of 21 million people and a major exporter of cocoa, gold and natural gas, it is widely regarded as the single richest country among France’s former African colonies. French troops have been deployed there since independence in 1960, by virtue of military accords signed between France and Ivory Coast in 1961.

And last, an old fashioned anti-colonialist perspective from Robert Mugabe‘s government of Zimbabwe. Government media:

In other words, there is a direct link between the hard-nosed material pursuits and interests of the empire on one hand and the fight by the same empire to “open up” media space in Africa, to those media houses, publishers and journalists who will faithfully project and preserve the prestige and credibility of the white racist imperialist, especially in times of crisis.

Therefore the search for African leaders who are thoroughly impressed with illusions of white power and with faint associations with such prestige and “credibility” always accompanies the scramble for material interests.

To take the back-side of that linkage and reality: the need to attack, demonise and isolate African leaders who are not impressed with illusions of the white man’s “prestige” and “credibility” is part and parcel of the deadly scramble for strategic material gains and interests.

That is why Africa and its traditional allies are shocked by the failure of the leaders of Nigeria and South Africa to see Libya and Côte d’Ivoire beyond the Western media caricatures of Colonel Gaddafi and President Laurent Gbagbo. Africa and its usual allies are shocked by the failure of the leaders of Nigeria and South Africa to resist the white racists’ demand to use Africa for the purpose of restoring illusions of the white man’s power, prestige and moral superiority, which the white man lost (if he ever had them), in the days of slavery.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 5, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Cote D’Ivoire / Ivory Coast Running Thread (4/5)

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So apparently I chose a bad day having to deal with the dog for two hours in the morning. Let’s catch up. When I left it last night, the UN/France had hit Gbagbo’s positions in Abidjan with rockets and there were unconfirmed reports that Ouattara’s forces (namely the FRCI) were closing in.

10:45 EDT: A few hours ago, Gen. Mangou gave up (again – he had previously taken asylum in the South African embassy). Also, reports are that the closest advisor to Gbagbo, the foreign minister, gave up, leaving the bunker. All reports now are that Gbagbo is negotiating his departure. But with this kind of leverage over Gbagbo, I, for one, would insist that any such terms include the Hague. Via Penelope Chester, it seems a lawyer for Gbagbo is also claiming that the foreign minister for Gbagbo is being held against his will by the French.

–As for Abidjan itself, it’s effectively under siege. Doctors without Borders said they cannot move around the city.

–Aside from Gbagbo’s residences, UN/French helicopters also attacked military camps north of the city:

UN helicopters attacked a military camp (Agban) in the north of the city, while four french helicopters from Operation Licorne took aim at another military camp in the north-eastern part of the city (Akouedo). Gbagbo’s residence, as well as the presidential palace, were also targeted by international attacks.

As Chester says, the sudden use of force from the air by UN helicopters caught everyone off guard.

10:50 EDT: Gbagbo’s Prime Minister Francois Fillon is negotiating the terms of his surrender:

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said two Ivory Coast generals were involved in negotiating the surrender of Gbagbo, who had clung to power since refusing to concede he lost last November’s presidential election to Alassane Ouattara.

“As we speak we are speaking to two generals to negotiate President Gbagbo’s surrender,” Fillon told members of parliament in Paris.

[. . .]

“It looks like Gbagbo is trying to negotiate his way out. What he can offer is another matter. He is in the process of being militarily defeated so his negotiating position is much weaker than a couple of weeks ago,” said Hannah Koep, Ivory Coast analyst at London-based consultancy Control Risks

[. . .]

In the north of Abidjan, bullet-riddled bodies lay by the side of the main motorway near the largely pro-Gbagbo neighbourhood of Yopougon, evidence of recent fighting between Ouattara and Gbagbo forces, a Reuters witness said.

An armoured personnel carrier was pushed across the roadway, still in flames, and residents who had emerged from their houses to find water said they had heard machinegun and heavy weapons fire through the night.

The number of dead is going to skyrocket as Doctors without Borders and other aide groups can get around. It’s little consolation that Gbagbo has less to negotiate with – the only reason that’s true is that hundreds more had to die for his vanity.

11:00 EDT: OK, the number of live blogs in English has absolutely skyrocketed now that the crisis is effectively at a lull. (Not over – it’ll be years before the crisis is over). Just yesterday I was the only one!

–On a much more serious note, the Guardian’s liveblog has this harrowing tale of a woman fleeing Cote D’Ivoire to Liberia (direct link):

Félicité arrived in Liberia completely naked, carrying three young children under six. She’d walked nearly 150 miles for two weeks through the forest to escape the fighting in Ivory Coast. On the way, she was attacked by bandits. They took everything – even her clothes.

She fled the violence in Abidjan on a truck. From the western town of Daloa, she and her sister set off through the forest on foot, taking their three children with them. Her sister didn’t make it to Liberia. She was too weak. She’s buried in an unmarked grave, somewhere in the bush.

Now Félicité, in her early thirties, has her sister’s five-year-old daughter to care for, as well as her one-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. She has no idea where their fathers are. In the past month, she has seen several friends and relatives killed in front of
her. Every night in Abobo in Abidjan, she faced militiamen who came to kill and loot houses.

While we focus on Ouattara versus Gbagbo, it’s worth noting that a state of total anarchy exists in many parts of the country.

–Russia is questioning whether the UN and French intervention in Cote D’Ivoire was legal.

“We are studying the legal side of the situation, because the peacekeepers had a mandate which obliges them to be neutral and impartial,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference with his Gabonese counterpart Paul Toungui.

Lavrov said Russia had requested an urgent briefing at the U.N. Security Council on the issue.

“So far we have not heard very clear answers to our questions,” he said.

[. . .]

France, which has repeatedly called on Gbagbo to step down, said on Tuesday that it was not at war in Ivory Coast, its former colony. A French government spokesman said “we are applying the democratic will of the people”.

The French Foreign Ministry said French forces intervened only in support of a U.N. resolution.

Russia, sensitive about foreign involvement in election disputes because of criticism of its own democracy record, earlier used the threat of a U.N. Security Council veto to quash a plan for potential military intervention in Ivory Coast by the West African regional group ECOWAS, according to diplomats.

I’m going to have more on this topic this afternoon.

11:15 EDT: Now that this actual conflict appears over, the time for investigations is going to start. And it’s going to start with how much control Ouattara has over the ‘New Forces” that were accused of violence in the west.

How far he controls and influences the rebels is unclear, experts say.

There is no direct link between Ouattara or his RDR party and the New Forces rebels, who were profiled last month by David Smith.

But Ouattara and his supporters have a “coincidence of interests” with the rebels, as one analyst said. Following his apparent election victory over Gbagbo, Ouattara formed a pact with the New Forces. He named one of the founders of the rebel group, Guillaume Soro, as his prime minister.

The Guardian additionally quotes Paul Kelly, who notes that when Ouattara called the forces Republican last week he took a certain amount of responsibility.

11:20 EDT: President Obama issued a statement supporting the role of peacekeepers in Cote D’Ivoire:

I remain deeply concerned by the security situation in Cote d’Ivoire. I strongly support the role that United Nations peacekeepers are playing as they enforce their mandate to protect civilians, and I welcome the efforts of French forces who are supporting that mission. Tragically, the violence that we are seeing could have been averted had Laurent Gbagbo respected the results of last year’s presidential election. To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former President Gbagbo must stand down immediately, and direct those who are fighting on his behalf to lay down their arms. Every day that the fighting persists will bring more suffering, and further delay the future of peace and prosperity that the people of Cote D’Ivoire deserve.

The people of Cote D’Ivoire have suffered too much throughout this period of unrest. The United States joins with the international community in our deep concern about reports of massacres in the western region of the country, and the dangers faced by innocent civilians – particularly the most vulnerable. All parties must show restraint and respect the rights of the Ivorian people, and I welcome President Ouattara’s pledge to ensure accountability for those who have carried out attacks against civilians. Meanwhile, the United States will continue to support a future in which Laurent Gbagbo stands down, and President Outarra and the government of Cote D’Ivoire can move beyond this current crisis and serve all of the Ivorian people.

This was aimed at nipping the legal talk in the bud, it seems. But with Russia and enough Gbagbo supporters or anti-colonialists still around, I think the legal discussion is far from over, though I don’t think it can ever go anywhere.

11:25 EDT: This describes the key parts of the UN resolution regarding Cote D’Ivoire:

Nigerian Ambassador Joy Ogwu told journalists, “In my view, the die is cast by this resolution.”

The resolution reaffirmed that the 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI, is responsible for protecting civilians, but was cautious on how aggressive it should be.

It called on UNOCI “to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, including to prevent the use of heavy weapons used against the civilian population.”

But Ogwu noted that the final text had toned down a sentence in an early draft that instructed UNOCI to seize heavy weapons. “That suggests that UNOCI should not go beyond its mandate — to protect civilians and defend itself,” she said.

Everyone’s talking about protecting civilians, but UNOCI was also allowed to defend itself – and 8 UN members had been shot by Gbagbo thugs.

11:30 EDT: EU Sanctions could be lifted relatively quickly:

“The EU stands ready to repidly remove sanctions once effective power is transferred to President Ouattara,” said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

An EU diplomat said, however, that the move would not be instantaneous, saying the transfer of power could take time.

“Even if Ouattara takes full control of the country, there will be no move on cocoa or coffee until there is full clarity there are no more Gbagbo people involved in these activities,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They’re going to need that to get their economy going again.

11:35 EDT: Voice of America reports that west African bloc ECOWAS is guaranteeing Gbagbo “safe and dignified” passage out of Cote D’Ivoire.

–NGOs like Oxfam are having difficulty even reaching refugees:

[Oxfam Humanitarian Program Manager Tariq] Riebl said, “Right now, we’re working with UNHCR as well as NGO partners in trying to set up transit centers that would serve as shelter places for them. These would be anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 persons per site. But in the meantime, while these are being prepared, they have to remain in host communities, usually quite close to the border.”

Poor roads make it difficult to reach these families. “And once it starts raining they get almost inaccessible,” he says, “So the priority for us is to try and set up these sites and that has only started this week. So until then we have a lot of problems reaching people.”

The aim is to start moving people to the transit centers by the end of the week.

It’s been difficult getting an accurate number of Ivoirian refugees in Grand Gedeh County.

“This is because there are some refugees that cross back and forth. Others have been registered at least twice. However, we think, right now, we’re talking a number of about 30,000 people across the whole county of Grand Gedeh,” Riebl said.

11:40 EDT: Phil Clark from Soas describes what is next for Ouattara in Cote D’Ivoire: The forces are not his forces, the rest of the population does not find him a legitimate president, and his history with the IMF and UN action here may make him look like a tool of the west. Aside from that…

http://boos.audioboo.fm/swf/fullsize_player.swf

11:45 EDT: France is requiring Gbagbo to sign a document waiving claims to power. I don’t understand the rationale here, it pretty clearly is a) under duress and b) superfluous since everyone who would be convinced by the document already thinks Ouattara won. Are they going to try to get Gbagbo supporters to back down with this, perhaps? Seems like a long shot. I guess there’s no harm in trying, though.

11:55 EDT: French FM Alain Juppe wants UNOCI to hold on to Gbagbo and his family until they decide what to do with him (read: try them inside or outside of the country).

12:00 EDT: Journalist Jean-Marc Tanguy reports on what the UN/French helicopters struck last night:

We knew at the same time that members of the Defence Committee and Foreign Affairs: 27 vehicles were destroyed last night by the five helicopters being flown by Unicorn. In detail, it gives three BM-21, four armored vehicles, 20 pickups, which must be added four anti-aircraft guns. The tower of the Ivorian Radio and Television was also struck. It is never too late.

France24 is also reporting that; also, The French Defense Minister said nothing else was targeted.

12:15 EDT: New reports of gunfire from Abidjan are emerging. Nothing is confirmed yet.

12:20 EDT: The heart of the problem is that while Gbagbo and his generals seem more or less ready to give in, it’s not clear whether his soldiers or militias supporting him (such as the Young Patriots) are willing to do the same:

It remained unclear whether all armed groups loyal to Gbagbo, including pro-Gbagbo militias, would put down their arms. It also was not clear that rank-and-file soldiers will follow their commanders’ orders and put down their weapons.

Making matters worse, Gbagbo and his family seem ready to die:

Zakaria Fellah, a foreign policy adviser to Gbagbo, said that the Ivorian strongman “is not negotiating anything. This is a fight to the end for him, his wife and what you guys call his hard line-supporters.”

Fellah said he spoke Tuesday morning to Gbagbo’s wife, Simone, who is sheltered with her husband in a bunker at the family residence, where there is no electricity or access to the outside world. “They are living in a bunker. She said, and I’m quoting, ‘It would be a beautiful end.’ I don’t know what it means but I think they are ready to die.”

12:25 EDT: Now there are reports that Gbagbo is negotiating with the African Union through the Mauritanian president on how to leave office.

Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo has been discussing a possible exit from power with Mauritania’s president, the Commissioner of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) said on Tuesday.  Gbagbo, who has refused to step aside since an election last November, is under fierce attack in Adidjan from the forces of Alassane Ouattara, widely recognised internationally as the winner.

Asked whether Gbagbo would be willing to step aside, Ramtane Lamamra said: “That’s the understanding of the President of Mauritania who has been personally in touch with him.”  “What you said corresponds to the state of mind that we can detect now in the discussions between the President of Mauritania and Mr Gbagbo,” Lamamra told reporters after briefing the PSC on Ivory Coast.  Mauritania is the current chair of the PSC.

Obviously, this situation is fluid.

12:30 EDT: More information on what caused the UN to go on the offfensive:

U.N. officials have described Gbagbo as anything but heroic, saying his forces have blindly fired mortar rounds into Abidjan neighborhoods and at U.N. personnel. Eleven U.N. peacekeepers have been injured over the past 72 hours, including four U.N. “blue helmets” who were wounded when Gbagbo’s forces fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a U.N. armored personnel vehicle. On Sunday, the United Nations ordered the temporary relocation of about 200 civilian staff members to the northern town of Dueke.

Colum Lynch adds that UN forces had gone on offensive operations previously in Haiti, Congo, and Sierra Leone.

12:35 EDT: The BBC received this press release from the UN regarding the surrender of Gbagbo’s generals:

[T]his morning, UNOCI received three telephone calls from Ivorian personalities to say that an order to stop fighting was being given to the elements of the Defence and Security Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FDSCI), including the Special Forces. The elements were also ordered to hand in their weapons to UNOCI forces and to ask for their protection. The three personalities are General Philippe Mangou, Chief of Staff of the Defence and Security Forces, General Thiape Kassarate Edouard, Commander of the National Gendarmerie and General Bruno Dogbo Blé, Commander of the Republican Guard. UNOCI has given orders to its troops to receive arms wherever they are handed in and to offer protection to disarmed FDSCI elements, including the Special Forces.”

–The BBC also reports that there are 2,000 people including foreign nationals in the French refugee Port Bouet camp south of Abidjan. Someone there is reporting that they still hear gunfire.

–Andrew Harding of the BBC is reporting that around Abidjan there are corpses on the streets, and some people surrendering. He is also on Twitter.

12:40 EDT: James Inhofe will not let Gbagbo go down without giving endless speeches defending him on the Senate floor. Disgusting. Gbagbo’s supporters at this point are still him, Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck (sort of), Jean-Marie Le Pen, and the International Committee of the Fourth International. That’s it.

12:45 EDT: More on the situation that Ouattara finds himself in:

Sanctions imposed after Gbagbo refused to yield to the U.N.-certified winner barred him from deposits at the regional central bank, pushed his government into default on its debt and left cocoa rotting in warehouses. Commercial activity all but ceased and the economy is on the brink of collapse.

[. . .]

“In the short term, I think it will be very messy,” said Hannah Koep, Ivory Coast analyst for consultancy Control Risks.

“Even if Gbagbo goes, his supporters are still very heavily armed and they will be very frustrated. The security situation in Abidjan is likely to be very unpredictable for some time to come. Beyond that, the challenges are monumental.”

[. . .]

Ivory Coast defaulted on interest payments on a $2.3 billion bond XS0496488395=R earlier this year. The bond rose to its highest level since December on Tuesday on investor hopes that a Ouattara victory could pave the way for repayment.

“That’s a bit optimistic,” said Graham Stock, chief strategist at Insparo Asset Management. “The cost of the conflict is going to undermine the fiscal position for the new government. It’s not obvious that debt servicing is going to be a priority.”

Ouattara’s first objective will be securing the main city using his relatively new forces, analysts say — a task that requires him to keep divisions among his fighters to a minimum.

[. . .]

Abidjan — both the commercial and political centre — has become a divided city with Gbagbo’s forces effectively kept out of Ouattara areas by sniping and occasional hit-and-run attacks. In the short term, the danger is that that situation is simply reversed, rendering reconstruction almost impossible.

[. . .]

“In terms of how much international support Ouattara enjoys, a lot will depend on what the end game itself actually looks like and what happens with the investigation into the massacre,” said Control Risks’ Koep.

“Ouattara has always been careful to try to keep his distance from the northern rebels but if his new Republican Forces are implicated in atrocities it will make things much more difficult.”

In the short term, most investors not already exposed to Ivory Coast are seen holding back to see how events develop. But those already based in the country — including mining and telecom firms — may return quicker, anxious to build bridges with Ouattara and those around him.

“It’s going to be a very uncertain situation for quite some time,” said Mandy Kirby, regional analyst at political risk consultancy Maplecroft. “In the next three months or so, I think there will need to be a real focus on building the foundations of the rule of law…. But Ivory Coast is a very attractive investment destination because of its natural resources and it will still be appealing for the right kind of investor.

Things are going to get worse before they get better.

12:50 EDT: Apparently Ban Ki-Moon is the one who made Gbagbo sign a document renouncing power? I don’t get the motivation, they didn’t recognize his legitimacy yesterday, what does a document like this do?

12:55 EDT: Not only have the UNHCR been trapped in their office for 5 days, but 300 refugees are trapped in their car park.

CNN is reporting terms of Gbagbo’s surrender are being finalized and combat is over. Again, it’s not clear what exactly that means – have all militias given up? Gbagbo’s remaining troops? Is Gbagbo going to exile or being arrested? Hard to tell.

–British Foreign Officer Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham on what Ouattara has to do:

“What President Ouattara has said is he’s going to have a government of national unity – he’ll draw in some of Gbagbo’s politicians into his new government. And we’re going to have to look at a number of strands economic, security, national reconciliation. And what we’re calling for, on the part of President Ouattara and his troops, is restraint. If there’s restraint, then it’s going to be much easier to build reconciliation. Up to a million people have fled their homes, over 100,000 have fled across into Liberia so we’re looking at a real humanitarian need for food, for water, for shelter.

Calling this a precarious situation drastically is understating it.

1:00 EDT: Oxfam is launching a new appeal for aid to Cote D’Ivoire. Please do what you can.

1:05 EDT: When I keep reading that Gbagbo is negotiating his exit, I wonder what he’s bargaining with. The terms have to be harsh, because we can’t provide an incentiv to dictators to fight to the last man / human shield. The terms have to be worse now than they would have been 3 days ago. I would be insistent on some sort of investigation and trial.

–At the same time, none of the statements today of French FM Juppe have even mentioned trial, just this signed piece of paper that wouldn’t likely be admissible anywhere. Sigh. What’s the point again?

1:15 EDT: The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC is gathering information.

This is a very positive step. Any impunity will in the long run be a giant roadblock towards rebuilding the country.

1:20 EDT: France24 is looking to confirm reports that French and UN tanks are advancing near Abidjan.

1:25 EDT: Another account of refugees in Liberia from the director of Plan International, via the BBC:

All along the Liberia border in Nimba County, I met refugee children who couldn’t smile and couldn’t play. They were too shocked by all the violence they had seen. Most came from villages in the area near Duekoue in Ivory Coast, the town where hundreds of people are said to have been killed. Some told me that armed men came to their villages and attacked them. They saw neighbours killed by gunfire, just metres away from them. Those hiding in the bush were hunted down and killed. Escaping to Liberia was a long and horrific journey for many. They had to run from gunfire, they saw dead bodies along the route and they were forced to wade through rivers. Children also had to experience this. Some arrived in Liberia, having not eaten anything for days. Others survived only on wild bananas.

1:30 EDT: Reports of looting are still rolling in; as a reminder, most of the southern part of the country is probably under little, if any control.

–A must-read article about the French role in Africa  (make sure you have Google Translate):

Relations have gradually warmed after the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy to power, that focused on elections in late 2010 to initiate normalization.

For the first time since 2004, the French army is in the forefront: the Licorne force went into action on Monday night along with the UN to attack the last bastions of power by Laurent Gbagbo and to destroy heavy weapons “used against the civilian population. ”  For many analysts, this military involvement raises the question of the line French policy in Africa, where President Nicolas Sarkozy advocated a “relationship relaxed”, ensuring that Paris would no longer be the policeman of the continent.  “The message is totally garbled. Until recently, Nicolas Sarkozy said that the former colonial power was the least well placed to intervene in its former backyard,” said Antoine Glaser, author of “Sarko in Africa.”  At the Africa-France summit in Nice in June 2010 and more recently during his greeting to the armed forces on January 4, French President assured that “the soldiers of France” had “not intended to interfere in the Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire. ”  Defending this line of no interference, the president to hide behind the African Union or under the umbrella of the UN.  But Antoine Glaser, “so there will be a military presence in an African country, there will be an ambiguity.”

Illustration of this ambiguity for the experts: France closes its permanent base in 2009 in Abidjan, but maintains troops in the country through force Licorne. Now this force is under UN mandate, but remains under French COMMAND.  Richard Banegas, professor of political science at the University of Paris I, “the African policy of France, particularly in terms of military interference, is a succession of non-choice, adjustments based on immediate issues, no clear line, without public debate. ”  “After 2004, France was in a retracted position. By participating in these strikes while UNOCI could have done, it will complicate its relationship with other African countries,” he said.  He stressed that the argument of “protection of civilians,” advanced by France and the United Nations to justify their intervention has been widely criticized when it is used only against the Gbagbo camp and failed to prevent massacres attributed to the troops in the western pro-Alassane Ouattara.

Political scientist Michel Galy for its part considers that “the French army is in danger of being legally described as an accomplice in war crimes.”  “But the immediate concern, he says, is the risk of retaliation against the French who live in Abidjan.”

The one thing going for it is the seeming support (or at least lack of a condemnation) from Nigeria or ECOWAS. As long as that’s the case, France’s position won’t be risked too much. As far as war crimes, I’d be surprised if anything they did in the past day rose to that level, especially given the brutality we already know existed.

1:45 EDT: This Le Monde article (in French) demonstrates the two risks to UN action: Ouattara is seen as the West’s puppet, and secondly there is a risk of retaliation on the French in Cote D’Ivoire. Both are serious risks, but the relatively quick end to hostilities probably outweighed it for Ban Ki=Moon, Sarkozy, and Ouattara. Thirty hours ago this looked like it would never end.

2:00 EDT: The Guardian digs down into the motivations of African countries in the crisis:

But individual countries had their own motivations. Rinaldo Depagne, west Africa senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said Burkina Faso was the country most concerned by Gbagbo’s stance. More than 2 million of its citizens live and work in Ivory Coast. If they all suddenly were forced to return home – anti-foreigner sentiment is high among Gbagbo’s hardline supporters – it would present huge challenges for President Blaise Compaoré, who had previously served as a mediator in Ivory Coast.

“He does not have the resources to feed all those mouths,” said Depagne.

The second country exerting strong influence, he said, was Nigeria, under President Goodluck Jonathan, who is eager to boost his country’s image and reputation on the world stage.

As per protocol, the Africa Union followed the lead of the regional bloc, and suspended Ivory Coast on 9 December, until Gbagbo ceded power. There were dissenters, however, most notably Angola, which sent representatives to observe Gbabgo’s swearing-in. While not openly supportive of Gbagbo, South Africa trod carefully, urging the need for reconciliation – and attracting much criticism in the process.

As an expert is later quoted, hopefully this will head off any similar crisis elsewhere in the continent where elections are scheduled this year.

— Gbagbo has officially surrendered and asked for UN protection.

2:05 EDT: French tanks advanced across bridges south of where Gbagbo is:

Four French tanks and several armoured personnel vehicles crossed bridges formerly held by forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan on Tuesday, a Reuters correspondent said.

The bridges link the northern administrative and financial district of the city to the south where the airport and French army base is located.

The tanks and armoured personnel carriers were flying the French flag with a Red Cross vehicle behind them flying a white flag

–Sarkozy advised Ouattara to form a unity government:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara in a telephone call on Tuesday to form a national unity government as soon as possible, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.

“I can testify…to a conversation between the president of the republic and Mr. Ouattara this morning in which Nicolas Sarkozy asked Alassane Ouattara to quickly take the initiative by calling for reconciliation, pardon and the constitution of a national union.”

Juppe said he believed Ouattara was a democrat and keen to achieve the peaceful reconciliation of the West African country, the world’s largest cocoa producer, which was split by a 2002-2003 civil war.

Ouattara, recognised by the international community as the winner of November’s presidential election, was likely to announce amnesties for members of Gbagbo’s administration and include some of them in his unity government, Juppe said.

The biggest obstacle there may be Ouattara’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who is the former rebel leader and founded many of the resistance forces who may be implicated in mass killings in the west of the country. Soro was also Prime Minister under Gbagbo, but is widely believed to have Presidential ambitions himself. Getting Soro and Gbagbo supporters to buy in to the government is a Herculean task for Ouattara.

2:15 EDT: France 24 quotes French officials on the future of Laurent Gbagbo:

The French Defence Minister, Gerard Longuet, said: “There are very many African countries that are willing to accommodate other African brothers, whatever their mistakes. (…) Anyone who knows us says ‘What can you do for me? “This has been seen everywhere. I welcome this. This means that the system is disintegrating and thatthe closest feel that their future is more about Laurent Gbagbo,” he added.

Asked whether Gbagbo would remain in Côte d’Ivoire, the Foreign Minister, AlainJuppe, has responded to the press: “It is the Ivorian authorities to decide. We askedUNOCI ensure their physical safety and that of his family. “

I would feel better if he had to face trial.

2:20 EDT: Sarkozy’s office does not confirm the surrender of Gbagbo, says negotiations are still ongoing.

2:30 EDT: Apparently using the pony express to deliver statements, the African Union has just made a statement condemning human rights violations. What took so long?

–Reuters is now also reporting that Gbagbo has asked for UN protection in exchange for surrendering, but he has not yet surrendered.

2:35 EDT: Holy cow:

French rolling news channel La Chaine Info says it has held an exclusive interview with Mr Gbagbo in his presidential bunker – which, judging by recent photographs, is pretty lavish as far as bunkers go. Throughout the interview, Mr Gbagbo maintained that he was the legitimately-elected president of Ivory Coast, saying that he would ultimately like to talk to Alassane Ouattara as one equal to another.

How can I add to that?

2:40 EDT: The Guardian on the role of the UN in Africa:

Last year there were claims that peacekeepers ignored appeals for protection just days before more than 240 villagers were raped by rebels. There have been similar charges in the past, blamed on lack of equipment, manpower and intelligence capacity. UN peacekeepers in Darfur have been accused of failing to stop violence that resulted in civilian deaths.

Major General Patrick Cammaert, a Dutch marine and UN peacekeeping veteran, told the New York Times in 2009: “They can’t start a war against a host government like a well-organised Sudanese campaign. That goes beyond protecting civilians; it is on a magnitude that a UN mission cannot deal with.”

The reaction to this in future UN Security Resolutions should be interesting.

2:45 EDT: The Guardian also picked up on Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s statements that are in the video above. There will likely be an investigation.

3:00 EDT: Gbagbo apparently has rejected a request to recognizes Ouattaro’s victory.

–Also, apparently there is still sporadic firing in Abidjan by young people. I wonder if they’re the Young Patriots, and if so, are they going to keep fighting.

3:15 EDT: The Associated Press reports on the phone interview Gbagbo conducted:

Ivory Coast’s strongman leader Laurent Gbagbo holed up in a bunker inside the presidential residence Tuesday, defiantly maintaining he won the election four months ago even as troops backing the internationally recognized winner encircled the home.

[. . .]

. . . Gbagbo showed no intention of leaving, declaring in his interview with French television, that Ouattara “did not win the elections” even though he was declared the victor by the U.N., African Union, United States, former colonial power France and other world leaders.

“I won the election and I am not negotiating my departure,” Gbagbo said by telephone. The French channel said the interview was conducted by phone from his residence at 1730 GMT, and lasted about 20 minutes.

This comes amidst widespread reports that he is, in fact, negotiating his departure.

4:00 EDT: The BBC reports on the UN decision to use airstrikes against Gbagbo:

“UN Peacekeeping Chief Alain Le Roy acknowledges that launching UN air strikes on the arsenal of Ivory Coast’s entrenched ruler Laurent Gbagbo was an ‘extraordinary move’,” she says. “But he insists it was based on a unanimously adopted Security Council resolution authorising all necessary means to protect civilians from Mr Gbagbo’s heavy weapons. The Security Council was united in demands that Mr Gbagbo cede power after losing recent presidential elections to Alassane Ouattara. And there was a sense that something should be done to limit the damage from the months-long standoff.”

–The official process of getting the Cote D’Ivoire situation referred to International Criminal Court is under way:

The International Criminal Court prosecutor said on Tuesday he is in talks with West African states about referring alleged atrocities in the Ivory Coast to the court to accelerate an investigation into the violence.

[. . .]

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office was concerned about reports of atrocities, particularly in the west of the country, and was looking into the violence, but declined to say who might be held accountable for the killings.  “We are discussing with some (ICC) state parties, particularly within the region, if they wish to refer the case. That would help to expedite the activities of the court,” Moreno-Ocampo told journalists at his offices in The Hague.  Under the 1998 Rome Statute that set up the court, any state that is a member of the ICC can refer a case to the court, requesting the prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes.

While Ivory Coast is an ICC member state, giving the court jurisdiction over crimes committed there, Moreno-Ocampo also said a referral from an ICC member state over the current crisis would prove “very useful” in accelerating a formal probe.  Moreno-Ocampo said his office was discussing a referral with members of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and downplayed talk that ICC member state France, which has deployed its miltary alongside a U.N. peacekeeping force in the country, would refer the case.  “What we are doing now is collecting information in order to open an investigation there. We are concerned about the recent information of massive atrocities in the west of Ivory Coast and we are trying to define exactly what happened there,” he said.

It’s not worth delving down into this beyond what’s written. The important thing is that the ICC is invested in the situation and is going to pursue it, which will put severe pressure on Ouattara to launch an independent investigation of his own, or alternately, for other countries to pressure Ouattara to allow the ICC to investigate.

This is one of the times I wish the United States had more credibility with the ICC instead of rejecting it outright.

4:10 EDT: The UN is reporting that the hundreds killed in western Cote D’Ivoire were killed in two separate major incidents while others may have been killed by local militia. Once again, let’s not rush to lay blame – we need to blame people but until there’s a full investigation we don’t know who that is. When the investigation comes back, then throw down the hammer.

4:15 EDT: The France24 Washington correspondent says Gbagbo wants discussion, not negotiations. He clearly has no idea what sort of situation he is in.

The BBC says the discontent within the UN may be normal:

There are now rumblings of discontent about foreign military intervention from senior officials in Russia and parts of Africa, our correspondent adds. ‘”I don’t remember giving any mandate to anyone for an aerial bombardment in Cote D’Ivoire,’ complained South Africa’s foreign minister,” she says. But such grumblings are par-for-the-course. “In fact, UN resolutions only ever pass because of a degree of constructive ambiguity, which can give license to those who want to be more proactive. So some discontent is not unusual, the thing to watch is whether it leads to practical steps, like attempts to brand the UN action as illegal.”

–The BBC is also still reporting sporadic fighting around Abidjan.

–The United Nations has just issued their own statement regarding the situation in Cote D’Ivoire:

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire reported today that it has received telephone calls from the heads of forces loyal to former leader Laurent Gbagbo stating that their soldiers have been instructed to stop fighting and hand in their weapons to the UN.

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) said the calls came from General Philippe Mangou, the chief-of-staff of the Defence and Security Forces, General Thiape Kassarate Edouard, the commander of the National Gendarmerie and General Bruno Dogbo Blé, the commander of the Republican Guard.

Troops loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, the former president who refused to step down after losing the election in November to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, have been engaged in fierce fighting with forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara, who have in recent weeks stepped up their offensive to force the ex-leader out of power. Mr. Ouattara is the internationally recognised President of Côte d’Ivoire.

“UNOCI has given orders to its troops to receive arms wherever they are handed in and to offer protection to disarmed FDSCI [Defence and Security Forces of Côte d’Ivoire] elements, including the Special Forces,” the UN mission said in a press release.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the situation in Abidjan, the West African country’s commercial capital and the scene of the some fiercest fighting over the past week, is alarming.

Most of the hospitals are not functioning and ambulances have been fired on when they tried to enter the city, according to OCHA.

Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, who is visiting Côte d’Ivoire, reported that internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the western town of Duékoué, the scene of an alleged massacre of civilians last week, were “fearful and traumatized.”

Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of OCHA, stressed the need for physical protection for those affected and the distribution of sufficient humanitarian aid. Access to many civilians in need has, however, been severely restricted or completely cut off since mid-February when the fighting intensified, according to OCHA.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator was accompanied on the visit to Duékoué yesterday by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, who went to the town to look into the mass killings that allegedly took place last Wednesday.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) voiced alarm over the impact of the violence in Côte d’Ivoire on children.

“We are especially troubled by reports that children are among the victims of a mass killing there,” said Anthony Lake, the UNICEF Executive Director. “And children continue to be recruited by armed forces on all sides of the conflict – a grave violation of their rights which jeopardizes not only their future but also the chances for achieving sustainable peace in Cote d’Ivoire.”

“We fear outbreaks of disease if we and other agencies cannot reach the thousands of internally displaced families,” added Mr. Lake.

4:20 EDT: Cocoa futures are down based on investor confidence that the country is going to stabilize. So that’s something positive (even if I think systemic problems are bigger than investors do).

4:40 EDT: According to the French Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, Gbagbo has not respected a single condition of the agreement this morning. We’ve reached the phase where Gbagbo is going to talk for a while and nothing substantial is going to happen.

5:00 EDT: According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, “more than 125,000 Ivorians have fled to Liberia, while 7,000 have crossed into Ghana, 1,700 into Togo, and about 1,000 into Guinea.”

–The most important person in Cote D’Ivoire now might be Ouattaro’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro. Here’s a brief profile.

5:10 EDT: The sticking point may be whether Gbagbo is tried. The BBC:

The Ouattara camp has been pressing for him to face trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity during his time in charge, but any negotiated settlement is likely to see Mr Gbagbo given safe passage from Ivory Coast, says the BBC’s John James in Abidjan.

5:20 EDT: France24 on the Cote D’Ivoire Economy:

However, Côte d’Ivoire and does not export as cocoa, far away. Chocolate and other products derived from the beans were not alone, the country’s leading economic power of the European Economic and Monetary West African ( UMEAO ) and 16th African economy by the OECD .

If Côte d’Ivoire is so marked with the seal of cocoa, is that it focuses on its own 40% of world production. The sector was also in 2009, one third of its exports . Yet until 2008 the main source of export revenue was oil, not cocoa. The trend was reversed primarily because of the escalating price of cocoa. But the fight for first place between these two resources are tight. . .

If the rest of the commodities exported seems negligible, it still represents $ 3.5 billion for the Ivorian economy on $ 10.3 billion exports achieved in 2009. Leading this pack of exports forgotten rubber.Côte d’Ivoire is the main reservoir of African rubber with 205,000 tonnes produced in 2009. Before the outbreak of post-election crisis in Ivory Coast, the government had implemented a program to triple its production in fifteen years.

With Abidjan, Hope and San Pedro, Cote d’Ivoire is a major power port of the SSA. The country has capitalized on this geographical advantage to develop the activities of shipbuilding: the boats are the fourth export of Côte d’Ivoire. The timber industry, the main resource of the country in the 1980s, suffered the development of planting cocoa and coffee and, more recently, oil palm.

If I hear someone else say that Cote D’Ivoire only produces cocoa, I’m gonna go ballistic. Or perhaps just calmly reference this. One or the other.

–The humanitarian situation in the country is an absolute disaster:

Even admission of impotence – medical this time – from Doctors Without Borders (MSF). For six days, teams of NGOs, posted in Abobo, a district north of Abidjan, are unable to get potential patients – no ambulance can circulate. “The injured are out of reach,” said Lawrence Sury, Deputy Head of Emergency Operations at MSF, who reported to France24.com what his team unreachable since Monday. “The Abidjan phoning our teams to come and look for injured patients, but it’s impossible,” he says. “The team still treats 30 to 40 casualties per day, but these are mainly people in the vicinity or brought in carts by residents.”

For civilians, holed up at home and frightened by continued firing, the situation became unbearable.Jean-Paul, a resident of the neighborhood of Abobo, told the daily hell . “We survive,” he says. “All the shops are closed, there are more markets, I can not buy food. I did not reserve a few days and I have nothing to eat.” For security reasons, he separated from his wife and daughter, have fled to Ghana. As for himself, he decided to stay in Abidjan to “protect his house against looters . ”

West hit by mass exodus

Like John Paul, “many Ivorians fleeing the fighting and send their families in Liberia and Ghana,” said Francois Danel. The latter is also concerned about the movements (mass) population that also affect Western countries – especially Duékoué strategic city and gateway to the main cocoa-producing area. Today the town is deserted by its inhabitants. Some 20,000 of them took refuge in the precincts of the Catholic Mission after the massacre of 800 people last March 29 . An exodus “among many others,” blows the Director of ACF. “Between Man and Duékoué, whole villages were emptied of their population,” he laments. Since the conflict began, more than a million civilians have been displaced by fighting between forces loyal to both candidates in the presidential election of November 2010, reports the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR).

“These outflows are always synonymous with extreme insecurity,” worries the director of ACF.Because if they do not leave the country, these people – consisting mainly of women and children – crowded into refugee camps where the seats are missing. Some were accommodated in shelters. “At Duekoue, living conditions are extremely difficult and by far the most disturbing, access to water is increasingly problematic and food becomes scarce,” said Francois Danel after spending a few days.

Moreover, MSF is concerned about the number of newly arriving wounded to medical facilities in the region. “Between March 28 and April 3, 146 wounded arrived at Bangolo and Duékoué 285” lists Lawrence Sury. And continuing: “New wounded continue to arrive, despite the end of the offensive zone. This indicates that the violence continues. If this is indeed the case, the humanitarian disaster will quickly turn into disaster.”

Horrifying.

6:10 EDT: The spokesman for Alassane Ouattara, Sogoni Bamba, said in an interview that Gbagbo must be put on trial and if necessary they will “hunt him down like the Nazis”:

What can you say about the current situation in Abidjan?

Laurent Gbagbo’s troops have surrendered and now he negotiates the terms of his departure with foreign embassies. But I think it is already “gone”, there can never be president again Ivorian. It’s a horrible page of our history that has been turned.

What will become of Laurent Gbagbo?

Let him go where he wants, he can go, but it will be hunted down like the Nazis. He must answer for his actions. There were too many things, the Ivorians have suffered too much, he should comply with democratic rules.

Alassane Ouattara, does he participate in negotiations for the departure of Laurent Gbagbo?

Yes, he discusses his surrender. But he will quickly get to work with everyone forming a national unity government. Côte d’Ivoire also belongs to supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, are our brothers.We must go quickly to reconciliation and make the effort to forgive them is the challenge to Alassane Ouattara and all Ivorians. In contrast, those who have hurt answer for their actions.

What will be the first actions when Alassane Ouattara is in power?
It will handle the security problem and all those who gave Gbagbo weapons. We must secure Abidjan, the irreducible back to reason by making them lay down their arms. Then it will open the banks, that life returns to normal, we get back to work quickly.

What do you think of the French military intervention in Côte d’Ivoire?
Since it is a legitimate force acted in the framework of resolution 1975 of the UNto protect civilians and French nationals. We have no complex compared to the intervention, it is neither a coup or a coup as the colonial camp said Gbagbo. For now, must remain UNOCI in Côte d’Ivoire to help us secure.

7:20 EDT: Beth Dickinson about the many lessons and failures of this crisis:

But let’s name the things that have gone wrong: Negotiations failed; economic sanctions failed; the U.N. peacekeeping mission was thwarted, though it later regained initaitive. A military siege has not yet succeeded and regardless comes at a high cost. The French have gotten involved militarily, which was surely the last thing they wanted to do in a former colony where resentment toward their influence runs incredibly high. The humanitarian situation is as precarious as it has been in the last decade.

Now is no time to celebrate. If and when this political stand-off ends, the Ivory Coast is going to be broken.

It’s incredible to reflect on what that means: that one man, Laurent Gbagbo, could push a country to the brink of  self destruction, costing thousands of lives, billions of lost economic dollars, and an uncountable toll of human suffering. The world didn’t fail to end this crisis for want of trying; it failed because there were no good answers. It’s particularly striking given how many things were working in favor of this being resolved. The country already had a 11,000-strong peacekeeping mission. There was from the beginning been international consensus about the outcome of the elections.

There are still pro-Gbagbo militias running around with guns in Abidjan:

However a Western diplomat said sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the well-to-do Abidjan suburb of Cocody.

“I spent quite a lot of the day in the cellar again because of fighting at the bottom of the street,” the diplomat said.

“It is clear the situation is not under control. There are lots of pro-Gbagbo militia running around with guns,” he added.

James North at The Nation looks at the role American agribusiness plays:

Cargill and ADM are gigantic enterprises; millions of Ivorians know them, but probably not one American in 500 would recognize their names. Large companies like Microsoft and Apple appear regularly in the Western press, but the big agribusinesses are arguably more influential worldwide. The Cargill and ADM websites boast about how big and diversified they are. Cargill last year operated in sixty-six countries, with $107.9 billion in revenues and $2.6 billion in profits. Do the agribusinesses really have to wrest every single West African franc they can out of the small growers?

The chronic crisis in the cocoa industry has contributed to the present slide into civil war in two ways. First, and most significant, the persistent poverty and stagnation causes war. Second, the ethnic tensions, which arose in the cocoa industry itself, gave unscrupulous politicians the chance to make a bad situation even worse, for their personal gain.

Côte d’Ivoire over the past decades has done just about everything mainstream Western economists suggested—and it remains trapped in poverty. The country concentrated on growing and exporting products it was “good” at, cocoa and also coffee, instead of trying to industrialize. But the chronically low world prices for these products kept the country poor. With better prices—a little more like what protected and subsidized farmers in the United States and Western Europe earn—my friends and the millions of others in the cocoa-growing regions here could have started to consume more themselves, which in turn would have promoted local industries, p reduced unemployment and gradually raised the country’s standard of living.

Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire’s education system has continued to produce graduates who cannot find work in the stagnant economy. Richard Achi, my closest Ivorian friend, is a thoughtful 35-year-old social worker. He explains, “Every year, 40,000 young people sit the nationwide exams for government jobs. But there are only, say, 300 posts available. The rest of them have to find something else. Many of them survive by going out into the streets to do ‘marketing’—selling gadgets. Some of them get tremendously frustrated.”

It’s worth reading the entire piece. I’d like to see a piece like it on the Ivorian oil industry as well.

7:35 EDT: The government of Robert Mugabe now stands with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the International Fourth Committee of the International, Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck, and Sen, James Inhofe in supporting Laurent Gbagbo. Way to go, fellas.

9:00 EDT: I added a post about the die-hard suicide squad-supporters of Laurent Gbagbo here.

–What’s Gbagbo’s game in delaying? Mind games, essentially:

Veteran observers of this nation on Africa’s western edge say the turn of events could have been taken from a biography of Gbagbo.

In Abidjan, he has long been called “Le Boulanger,” French for “the baker,” because he rolls people in flour — a reference to a popular expression meaning to manipulate and deceive others.

“I think he’s playing for time,” said a senior diplomat who has closely followed events and spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been cleared to speak to the media. “His aim is always to buy himself just one more day.”

“We are still negotiating, and it’s ongoing,” said the spokesman for Ouattara’s government, Patrick Achi. “We are waiting. There are ups and downs. (But) we won’t be waiting until his food runs out.”

He’s basically screwing with everyone because he can. The more he waits, though, the less patience everyone on the outside will have with him. Hell, they could find a way to break the door down for all I know. After yesterday, we can’t take that off the table.

10:00 EDT: OK, there’s no new news on this. I’m going to wrap this now and actually start tomorrow’s thread early.