Another War of Jenkins' Ear

Resist The Pointless

Why Our Pundits Are Broken

leave a comment »

Andrew Sullivan on the Ryan Budget:

There are two possible responses to the news that the House has put its votes on the line and endorsed the Ryan plan for the budget. It behooves me to note that I doubted they would ever get this specific, given their refusal to raise any of these specifics in the election campaign. You can gloat that the GOP has committed political suicide by essentially ending Medicare and Medicaid as we know them, but that is not a substantive response. They deserve political props for nailing this proposal to the door of the White House.

But the substantive criticism is still salient. It is that simply shifting Medicare to private insurance plans with subsidies that will mean progressively less and less healthcare for seniors does not really bring down healthcare costs – just shifts their responsibility away from the federal government. The likelihood that the insurance companies will actually want this new more vulnerable population without at some point, begging the government to provide more resources is … well, slim. But since the GOP proposal is simply indifferent to whether people have healthcare or not (they effectively withdraw coverage for all those covered by the ACA), this is a feature, not a bug.

Only a conservative plan would be lauded for it’s boldness politically. No one was saying how much political respect the anti-war Democrats deserved a decade ago; indeed, the likes of Sullivan called them fifth columnists.

But the same is true even more recently: no pundit praised the public option the House passed (or the even more progressive robust public option) as brave politically. No, they called them just plain stupid and political non-starters. And that’s what the House passed! Exactly what we have here!

But now that someone proposes a plan to make – as Sullivan himself describes it – “progressively less and less healthcare for seniors,” pundits such as Sullivan himself are falling over themselves to praise it for being bold and brave even when they disagree. None of these pundits gave the same deference to Nancy Pelosi. None. The closest was Sullivan saying the public option was wildly popular and then meekly saying the death of it made the bill move more right and be suddenly palatable. Not at all comparable.

There is no boldness, no bravery in failed policy, left or right. Dennis Kucinich proposed a Department of Peace: that’s not brave.

Ask yourself this question: why is not political criticism the same thing as substantive criticism? Ought they be the same?

Written by John Whitehouse

April 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm

The Supreme Court Cannot Solve Everything

with one comment

President Obama made a signing statement refusing to let Congress dictate who he can and cannot hire. In the words of Kevin Drum, Obama “thinks that Congress has no right to tell him who he can and can’t consult in the Office of the President. So he signed the bill but added a signing statement telling Congress to piss off.”

Drum adds that:

Actually, I’m curious about something here. When Congress and the President disagree about something like this, it’s up to the Supreme Court to adjudicate. But how does that usually work? Does the president abide by the law but sue in federal court to have it overturned? Or does he break the law and wait for someone to sue him? What’s the usual historical precedent?

Well, there’s not a lot of historical precedent, because first, the Supreme Court from the very beginning of the country refused to offer advisory opinions. Here’s what the Jay Court said:

The lines of Separation drawn by the Constitution between the three Departments of Government, their being in certain Respects checks on each other, and our being judges of a court in the last Resort, are Considerations which afford strong arguments against the Propriety of our extrajudicially deciding the questions alluded to; especially as the Power given by the Constitution to the President of calling on the Heads of Departments for opinions, seems to have been purposely as well as expressly limited to executive Departments.

This is especially relevant to this particular issue: the Courts only get involved when there is an actual issue, but moreover, the Constitution really does give the President all the executive power, including consulting who he may.

But this also means the Courts can’t just solve this generally: there needs to be an actual court case of someone suing for something. It’s unclear who would or could do that here.

The one example of when the Court did step in is in Marbury v. Madison, which is probably the most important case in the history of our country, so I can’t sum it all up succinctly. But here goes: Marbury did involve is a specific person – the eponymous Marbury, who was given a judicial appointment by Adams; that appointment was rescinded by Jefferson before the actual appointment was delivered. And even in that case, John Marshall found that while Marbury had a right to the appointment, the judiciary had no right to enforce it, because the mandamus statute was unconstitutional. But a part of that decision was also the birth of the political doctrine which is very relevant here:

By the constitution of the United States, the President is invested with certain important political powers, in the exercise of which he is to use his own discretion, and is accountable only to his country in his political character, and to his own conscience. To aid him in the performance of these duties, he is authorized to appoint certain officers, who act by his authority and in conformity with his orders.

In such cases, their acts are his acts; and whatever opinion may be entertained of the manner in which executive discretion may be used, still there exists, and can exist, no power to control that discretion. The subjects are political. They respect the nation, not individual rights, and being entrusted to the executive, the decision of the executive is conclusive. The application of this remark will be perceived by adverting to the act of congress for establishing the department of foreign affairs. This office, as his duties were prescribed by that act, is to conform precisely to the will of the President. He is the mere organ by whom that will is communicated. The acts of such an officer, as an officer, can never be examinable by the courts.

But when the legislature proceeds to impose on that officer other duties; when he is directed peremptorily to perform certain acts; when the rights of individuals are dependent on the performance of those acts; he is so far the officer of the law; is amenable to the laws for his conduct; and cannot at his discretion sport away the vested rights of others.

Here, the czars have not had any other duties imposed on them by Congress. Not one. They solely provide advice and guidance to the President and his/her staff on areas of expertise. The Republican fetish of eliminating the czars is directly and clearly against the most fundamental court decision in the history of our country. This is exactly the sort of gross Congressional overstepping that calls for a signing statement. Neither party in Congress has the Constitutional ability to limit the advice the President receives.

The entirety of history of Congressional right to confirm people refers to officers who have official duty. What we have here is a hypothetical that not even Marshall thought Congress would resort to: limiting who the President can merely look to for policy advice without any additional responsibility. It’s not the Constitution’s fault that the czars annoy Republicans.

What’s important to realize (and I think Drum does) about the czars is that they do not give the President any additional power. Van Jones or whoever is just an outside advisor, that the President feels better to keep in house rather than call regularly. But the Constitution gives the executive carte blanche authority on whom he can consult with.

But it’s important to realize is that under no realistic scenario is this going to go to the courts, short of someone actually depriving the czars from receiving a paycheck which they then sue for. This is not a problem for the court system. This is for Congress and the executive to work out alone.

UPDATE: Via a Balloon Juice commenter, Barack Obama also said, “No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president’s constitutional prerogatives; unfortunately, the Bush Administration has gone much further than that.” It’s patently obvious to me this falls in the former category of valid signing statements. This signing statement does not expand executive power, it just protects the ability to hire advice as he sees fit. That’s been a protected Presidential ability as long as the office has existed.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Not the Post I Wanted to Write…

with 10 comments

But sadly, this will be my last post. Time to commit blogicide, as it were. I’ve been jobless for too long and this eats up all my time to post anything I’m remotely proud of. I’ve been having a near nervous breakdown today dealing with the pressure, and I just need to make changes. Big changes. I have giant loans to repay and even if I was providing a service no one else was on the internet, there was not instantly enough demand to make this worth my while, unless every visitor here wants to pay me $100 or something. And that model doesn’t work for anyone.

Thanks to everyone for reading. And remember, no matter what happens to look at things from different perspectives. That’s all I’ve tried to do. Maybe some of this stuff will hold up. Maybe not. But for what it’s worth, I put effort into this.

Hopefully this explains why I’ve been so ornery on Twitter today.

😦

Written by John Whitehouse

April 7, 2011 at 9:42 pm

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

with 3 comments

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.

That’s Mr. Idiot to You, Roger Ailes

with 2 comments

Roger Ailes finds out that Pimpin Ain’t Always Easy:

More than 400 Fox advertisers told the company they did not want their commercials on Beck’s show. Beck’s advertisers were dominated by financial services firms, many touting gold as an investment.

Ailes dismissed the financial impact of the boycott but expressed some frustration with it.

Advertisers who get weak-kneed because some idiot on a blog site writes to them and says we need to stifle speech, I get a little frustrated by that,” he said.

One of Beck’s most prominent critics – David Brock, founder of the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America – said that “the only surprise is that it took Fox News months to reach this decision.”

“Fox News Channel clearly understands that Beck’s increasingly erratic behavior is a liability to their ratings and their bottom line, and we are glad to see them take this action,” said James Rucker, executive director of ColorofChange.org, which organized the advertiser boycott.

Unmentioned is Angelo Carusone, the “idiot on a blog” who moonlights here now works for Media Matters. But it’s worth pointing out that for a while he did this completely unpaid, basically pro bono. And if no one else can salute him for that today, the day Glenn Beck’s show’s death is announced, then at least I can.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm

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

leave a comment »

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.

I Am Required To Link To This

leave a comment »

I really enjoyed this take on the War of Jenkins Ear, but as you may be able to guess, I am prone to such a reaction.

 

Written by John Whitehouse

April 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Posted in Random

Tagged with