Another War of Jenkins' Ear

Resist The Pointless

Posts Tagged ‘Alassane Ouattara

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.

Why Intervention Can’t Work in Cote D’Ivoire

with 2 comments

Both sides are attacking the UN. Laurent Gbagbo has built his rump support on stark nativism, attacking both Ouattara for being foreign and the UN and the world for trying to tell Cote D’Ivoire what to do (not exactly the truth, of course, but that’s his story and he’s sticking with it). Meanwhile, the government of Alassane Ouattara, the would be President of Cote D’Ivoire, is now attacking the UN too (very rough translation but clear enough):

Ally Coulibaly, Ambassador of Ivory Coast in France appointed by the president recognized by the international community Alassane Ouattara, said Monday that the United Nations Organization Mission in Cote d`Ivoire (UNOCI) was absent during the massacres reported in the west of the country.

ONUCI tells us that `there are massacres but where was UNOCI?  UNOCI was not in place when the Republican forces (pro-Ouattara, Ed) arrived, was the `ONUCI subscribers absent, we can not come after accusations (…), seek to tarnish the picture of the president Alassane Ouattara, “he denounced on France-Info radio.

“Let there had been massacres, nobody can deny,” he further said. But “in no way the Republican forces are involved in these killings,” assured Ally Coulibaly, adding that “the prosecutor Daloa region (center-west) was asked to clarify the facts.”

First, yes, the Ouattara forces were almost certainly involved in some horrible way. There’s enough reports from eyewitnesses saying as much. Second, UNOCI peacekeepers were in the area, but were  vastly outnumbers and probably unable to do more in the face of massive refugee problems that also exist. When tens of thousands of people are displaced (up to a million counting internally displaced) then UNOCI peacekeepers cannot be everywhere.

This is putting aside the logistical problem (arguably the bigger one): Gbagbo has decided that he’s going to fight to the last man in the streets of Abidjan. Neither the UN nor France nor anyone else wants to be involved in that. It’s also not something that air power would do a whole lot about – in order for air power to matter, it’d have to be helicopters flying low enough to risk getting shot down themselves.

The French have occupied the airport in Abidjan, and still can’t get people out because Gbagbo thugs are shooting anyone who tries to get there. I’m not sure there’s anything else intervention can accomplish. Gbagbo would rather use kids as human shields than leave, and Ouattara is attacking them because he sees more help isn’t coming.

So there’s no will for the UN to intervene in the way it’d be necessary to have an effect and now both sides don’t really seem to want it. We’re going to have another massacre on our hands shortly.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 4, 2011 at 8:56 am

James Inhofe Exploits Massacre, Doubles Down on Gbagbo Support

with 2 comments

Joining a position that is only supported by Jean-Marie Le Pen and a handful of extreme socialists, James Inhofe is politically exploiting a massacre and doubling down in support of Gbagbo today. Via Gateway Pundit (who, it must be said, spends exactly no time at all verifying any of these claims):

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFR), today pointed to news reports of mass killings by Ouattara forces as more evidence that the United States must change its position on Cote d’Ivoire.

“It is now clear, based on U.N. reports coming from Cote d’Ivoire, that mass killings have occurred at the hands of Alassane Ouattara,” Inhofe said. “This calls into question his legitimacy to lead that country. Ouattara is on a rampage, killing innocent civilians, and he must be stopped before this becomes another Rawanda.

“The United States must call for an immediate ceasefire to prevent Ouattara and his rebel army from committing a mass slaughter of the Ivorians, especially the many youth with sticks and baseball bats, who are protecting Gbagbo at the presidential palace.

“Based on the evidence I have seen, and having spoken with various dignitaries in Africa, I brought the issue of fraudulent elections in Cote d’Ivoire to the attention of Secretary of State Clinton on a couple of occasions spanning the past few months. I have called for the United States to support new elections there, but thus far, these efforts have received very little response or attention. Based on the news that Ouattara has murdered 1,000 people in Duekoue, I hope the U.S. will reconsider its position.

“Senator John Kerry’s plate is full now, but I have called this to his attention, and I know he’s sensitive to the situation. I will be asking him to convene a hearing into the flawed election as well as the atrocities being committed by Ouattara.”

Despite Jim Hoft saying that Inhofe is “following the situation closely” there is no widespread belief that the vote was fraudulent (there were irregularities in some locations, but hell that didn’t stop America in 2000 did it?) Everyone on the political spectrum (except the absolute fringe and Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters) thinks Ouattara won the election. Moreover, there have been months and months to convince anyone otherwise.

Secondly, Inhofe ignore the atrocities allegedly committed by Gbagbo in this massacre. If you followed my liveblogs this weekend on this site, you know one theory is that the massacre was a revenge killing for the massacres done in the area by pro-Gbagbo mercenaries. That absolves no one at all. But it completely destroys Inhofe’s theory that the scary Muslim Ouattara needs to go. I want a full investigation with no impunity. Doubtless everyone seems to agree that Ouattara’s force, the FRCI had a big part of this. But it may not be the whole story and even if it is is (which is certainly possible) then we should punish those responsible and only those responsible. Because…

Third, there are many, many tragedies being instigated by Abidjan now and over the past year or so. Everyone agrees Gbagbo is more responsible for casualties except the one at Duekoue. That includes the activities of this weekend, where Gagbo had kids/young adults (the Young Patriots) called out to surround his palace as human shields. Or when he armed them and sent them into Abidjan to loot and kill anyone they came across. Or when he had his thugs shoot any car en route to the French controlled airport.

This is not an easy situation. This is not a choice of America picking a side and getting it over with. This is about a long, long civil war festering over and both sides being responsible for massacres and humanitarian disasters. Ouattara won the election, that makes him the legitimate leader. Let’s make him take office in a responsible way, not try to take sides and just lpro-long the conflict because we’re scared of a Muslim.

Everything I said in this post was documented from a reliable source in my coverage over the weekend. See the links above.

As always, the best way to contact me is via twitter @existentialfish or leave a comment here. Email is spotty.

Jean-Marie Le Pen Agrees With James Inhofe on Cote D’Ivoire

with 3 comments

James Inhofe thought he was alone in backing Laurent Gbagbo over internationally recognized free election winner (and Muslim) Alassane Ouattara in Cote D’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast). Well, Jean Marie Le Pen agrees with him. Translated from the original French:

The honorary president of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen said that “victory will Ouattara tipping the entire Côte 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. “troops Ouattara, I still remember that troops are Muslims,” ​​he added.

The Anti-Defamation League said of Le Pen that his political party is “ultranationalist, xenophobic, [and] anti-Semitic.”

James Inhofe has famously declared that there should be a new election. The only other supporters of Gbagbo are his partisans (which is far more understandable). For Inhofe to align himself with Le Pen is disgusting.

If you want to read more, check my liveblog of the situation in Cote D’Ivoire.

 

Written by John Whitehouse

April 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Blood for Corporate Russian Oil in Cote D’Ivoire? UPDATE: GOP Ties

with 7 comments

As the crisis escalates seemingly daily in Cote D’Ivoire, I’ve been wondering why Russia and China abstained on a Security Council measure regarding Libya but have been slow to allow anything in Cote D’Ivoire. The answer, upon doing some research, appears to be oil. Conventionally, one thinks that Libya has oil and countries like Cote D’Ivoire do not. See, for instance, the comments here.

But there are many oil wells off the coast of west Africa, much like the Gulf of Mexico. The oil production in the country has dramatically risen (PDF link) the past decade by a factor of three and more wells are scheduled to be drilled. And even though MMS regulations in the Gulf of Mexico have been notoriously lax, regulations in west Africa are even weaker, if not nonexistent:

LUKoil produces almost 2 million barrels of oil per day, but faces a declining level of output from its Russian oilfields. For this reason it has been more active than other Russian oil producers in pursuing oil prospects outside Russia — in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and west Africa. The Gulf of Guinea. In the mid-Atlantic, is as rich in potential oil reserves as the Gulf of Mexico, the Russian oil company says — but with a significantly looser regulatory supervision and lower drilling and environmental safety costs.

Russia and China both have oil interest in the country, and the Russian firm (see directly above) LUKoil has an especially close relationship with the illegitimate President Laurent Gbagbo, which has made Russia unwilling to endorse any real action in the country. LUKoil has made big investments in the country and is scheduled to drill wells in Cote D’Ivoire waters with the state oil company Petroci in 2012, as part of a comprehensive LUKoil expansion. LUKoil highlights the Cote D’Ivoire projects on its website. Gbagbo still controls oil interests in the country through Petroci.

Petroci is one of the main assets Gbagbo has. EU sanctions have targeted the company:

The Gbagbo administration is being increasingly isolated. One after the other all its ambassadors in the EU and in the US were declared personae non gratae and replaced by pro-Ouattara diplomats. Since January 14, the EU sanctions apply to [. . .] the directors of the National Petroleum Operations Company of Cote d’Ivoire Petroci, Kassoum Fadika and Laurent Ottro Zirignon, [. . .] who are accused to have contributed to the “funding of Mr Gbagbo’s illegitimate administration”.

Last December, Fadika provided a significant help to Gbagbo by transferring CFA francs 20 billion (some € 30m) from Petroci’s accounts to Cote d’Ivoire’s National Treasury, which helped Gbagbo to pay the salaries of civil servants. EU sanctions also target 11 parastatals including the oil company Petroci. . . .

In other words, all transactions by European companies are banned, including loans or the payment of services either directly or through proxies. It means for instance that shipowners who come and load cocoa or other commodities in the Ivorian harbours are no longer allowed to pay the port authorities for these services. As far as Petroci is concerned, one of the immediate consequences may be the postponement of a project to build a 60,000 tons refinery with an American partner.

The Gbagbo administration is being increasingly isolated. One after the other all its ambassadors in the EU and in the US were declared personae non gratae and replaced by pro-Ouattara diplomats. Since January 14, the EU sanctions apply to high-ranking figures of the financial sector including Marcel Gossio, the director general of the Port Autonome d’Abidjan, the directors of the National Petroleum Operations Company of Cote d’Ivoire Petroci, Kassoum Fadika and Laurent Ottro Zirignon, the chairman of the Société ivoirienne de raffinage (SIR) who are accused to have contributed to the “funding of Mr Gbagbo’s illegitimate administration”.

There are American companies doing business in Cote D’Ivoire (Yam’s Petroleum is based in Wyoming and Total E&P appears to be based in France and the U.S., Vanco is out of Texas, and there are likely more.) But both France and the United States are willing to take action in the country. though that could be a result of that the legitimate President Ouattara is closer to France, as some have accused. Some say the French want control of the country to protect Total:

One of the most significant events in West Africa last year was the purchase of the Swiss oil trading company Addax by the Chinese firm Sinopec. Addax was a frequent deliverer of oil to the Ivory Coast and was a major player in the West African oil mafia. The loss of a key player to the Chinese was seen as a real threat. Since then the French oil companies have been buying up oil assets in the region using obscure shell companies. The Western oil companies seem to be using the Ivory Coast as the first battle against the Chinese moving into the oil and gas business in the region.

The Gulf of Guinea is rapidly becoming a major international oil play. Abidjan has a good refinery and will soon have another. Looking through the list of vessels delivering crude to the SIR refinery in Abidjan more than half were Addax vessels. Now they are Addax/Sinopec vessels. This has frightened the oil companies, especially Total. They do not have the money to compete with the Chinese and now Russian companies like Lukoil are entering the Gulf of Guinea market in a big way as well. The only way the French can compete is to try and maintain control of the strings of power in the Ivory Coast to find ways to delay or deter the Chinese and Russian invasion in what they thought of a their patch. The US and European countries share this ambition. Perhaps that is their reason for their blind and self-destructive policy in the country.

But on the other hand LUKoil is a key part of Gbagbo’s agenda. The relationship is such that Gbagbo scrubbed his website of evidence of meetings with the firm, but the evidence is still there on Google’s cache. Indeed, one of the main differences between Ouattara and Gbagbo is that Gbagbo rejected French (Cote D’Ivoire was a French colony) investment for nationalism and Russian investment:

Although Gbagbo’s supporters make much of his nationalist and anti-French stance, the regime signed a multimillion-dollar deepwater oil contract with Total two months before the elections. France still contributes 60% of foreign investment – including contracts for ports, oil production and telecommunications. Gbagbo’s failure to bring in alternative investors from the Middle East and Asia has weakened his negotiating position. However Russia’s Lukoil has been a lifeline to Camp Gbagbo. Along with Angola and Israel, the country has been its bedrock in terms of financial support.

That still leaves one question: Why is Russia catering to LUKoil so much? Aside from being the biggest Russian non-state oil and gas producer, LUKoil threatened to leave Russia and drill more overseas, particularly in west Africa over a dispute related to Russian tax rates:

An announcement last week by LUKoil’s number-2 executive and shareholder, Leonid Fedun . . . that the Russian oil producer expects to find more crude oil in Africa than in Russia was intended to set off alarms bells at the Ministry of Finance in Moscow. That is where Fedun is negotiating for tax concessions for his company’s newly developed oilfields in the Russian sector of the Caspian Sea and in western Siberia. Company sources admit there was nothing new about the African projects in what Fedun had to say. Whether the Finance Ministry intends to offer tax benefits to temper LUKoil’s African enthusiasm remains to be seen. And for the time being, West African spending represents a small fraction – maybe less than a tenth – of LUKoil’s global exploration budget.

. . .

LUKoil spokesman did not respond to a request for a breakdown of LUKoil’s recent and planned expenditures at prospects off the coasts of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.  . . .

In the Cote d’Ivoire project three “promising geological targets” have been mapped, according to the annual report, and prepared for drilling.

. . .

So what was Fedun’s reason for the promoting the notion that LUKoil has found more oil in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire than in western Siberia? In mid-July, the Moscow industry press reported that LUKoil had applied to the Finance Ministry for a tax holiday to cover its brand-new Korchagin oilfield in the Caspian, and for other fields being developed to production nearby. The company application was for zero export duty on the oil it plans to lift and ship from Korchagin. This would be worth at least $400 million, if granted.

And that’s the rub. LUKoil is competing against Rosneft and other Russian crude oil exporters for relief of the export duty on new fields. The others who have already benefited from zero export duty since January are producing at new fields in eastern Siberia; they are shipping eastwards to the Asian market, through a pipe and rail link to China; and through the new Pacific Ocean tanker terminal at Kozmino Bay.

LUKoil wants the benefit to apply with equality over the entire oil geography of Russia. The Finance Ministry wants to eliminate or reduce the tax benefit to the oil companies so as to cover rising budget outlays demanded by the approaching national election campaigns. LUKoil’s response is Fedun’s – make our new Russian wells more profitable, or else we’ll drill elsewhere.

This was serious enough that Putin himself was involved in the negotiations, promising partial relief. It dragged on into this year as Russia needed some of the revenue to close a budget gap. And it still has not been resolved, with the founder of LUKoil himself now talking up African locations instead of Russia.

So essentially, Russia probably wants to protect the company it gets tax revenue from (imagine that, tax revenue from an oil company), in order to prevent it from leaving altogether – very much a quid pro quo: You stay here with slightly lower profits, and we’ll protect you overseas.

Western diplomats have also connected numerous times LUKoil to Russia’s objections and also stated that Russian objections to previous resolutions were not substantive objections. One diplomat even said Russian’s objections were “90 percent about oil, ten percent about sovereignty.” When Ban Ki Moon raised concerns that Belarus may have delivered attack helicopters, Russia lept to its defense, calling it an errant report; a Brazilian diplomat in charge of the matter said later there was likely no such delivery.

For it’s part, China has previously stated that it will allow the African Union to lead:

China has said that it will respect the sovereignty of the Ivoirian government but will back efforts of the African Union to mediate. The African Union, for its part, quickly dispatched former South African president Thabo Mbeki to Abidjan to try to break the standoff. Mbeki left two days later, unsuccessful, urging that “every effort should be made to ensure that the transition to democracy succeeds.” Subsequently, the African Union went further, issuing a statement that calls for “respect for the outcome of the presidential election as proclaimed by the Independent Electoral Commission.” West African leaders, joined by Mbeki, have convened an emergency meeting of the regional grouping ECOWAS to determine a way forward. ECOWAS too has endorsed the findings of the electoral commission and called for Gbagbo to resign.

Chinese oil interests in the country seem to be more dependent on stability (PDF link) rather than a connection with Gbagbo; they are partnered with an American company (Vanco, which also partners with LUKoil) and an Indian company).

Just yesterday, France introduced a new draft resolution to the Security Council that the United States has announced its support for (State Department briefing yesterday). But it’s hard to see Russia agreeing to a resolution that allows for “all necessary means” to disarm Gbagbo’s forces, even if they are protecting civilians.

Additionally, the UN Human Rights Council announced yesterday that it is sending a commission to the country. This resolution was adopted without a vote and is essentially a fact-finding mission.

Is there a local solution? Probably not:

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and the UN have taken a strong stand, unambiguously telling Gbagbo to go. Unheeded, ECOWAS and the AU then threatened using “legitimate force” – a revolutionary proposition for usually cautious organisations. So far, their actions have not matched their bold declarations.

Nigeria is not enthusiastic about intervention. It would have to pay for most of the operation and provide the logistics too. The country will hold its own elections in April. President Goodluck Jonathan is preoccupied at home with militias from the Niger Delta to the far north. Those realities might explain the mission of former president Olusegun Obasanjo to talk to Gbagbo in mid-January: few ex-leaders in the region are as blunt and forceful.

Côte d’Ivoire’s neighbours watch on closely. Ghana’s President John Atta Mills has ruled out sending troops, saying the matter should be settled through negotiations. Other states are wobbling. An intervention against an incumbent president would set an uncomfortable precedent in a year when some 18 African countries are holding elections.

Gbagbo’s camp says it is ready. One supporter showed Anansi a stash of arms in a darkened room, saying: “Eighty per cent of young Ivorians are unemployed. For us, a gun is a passport to making money.” Yet the truckloads of newly armed Gbagbo supporters patrolling Abidjan point to distrust: the cheerleaders cost money, and show a lack of confidence in the national army. “If you have to arm youths and recruit foreign mercenaries, you doubt either the capacity or loyalty of your own army of 18,000 men,” a general pointed out.

ECOWAS could still revise its position if sanctions against Gbagbo start to work. Civil servants and then, more dangerously, the army and assorted mercenaries could be left without salaries. Gbagbo’s grip on the army relies on the generals, not the ranks, many of whom voted for Ouattara. As the pressure mounts, junior officers could cut a deal with Ouattara and mount a putsch.

It’s hard to see how this doesn’t get worse before it gets better.

UPDATE: Upon recollection, I wondered if I pursued the Vanco story enough. Vanco is a partner with LUKoil and Petroci, in Cote D’Ivoirein Africa and, recently, in the Black Sea. And Vanco is based out of Texas.

Vanco, Petroci, and LUKoil have extensive plans in 2011 and 2012 to drill off the Ivory Coast – and there are indications as mentioned above that  the Russians feel this project may be at stake with the Gbagbo and Ouattara dispute.

Not surprisingly, leadership of Vanco energy have donated extensively to prominent Republicans. Founder Gene Van Dyke has donated to Republican Senators John Cornyn, Rand Paul, Roy Blunt, Kelly Ayotte, and James Inhofe. He’s donated to House members Ted Poe, Bill Flores, Michael McCaul, Pete Olson, and John Culberson. He also donated a substantial amount to the Republican National Committee.

Poe and McCaul are on the House Foreign Relations Committee. Neither are on the Subcommittee dealing with Africa and Human Rights.

James Inhofe is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is also on the Subcommittee on African Affairs.

I can find no evidence of any of these supporting Gbagbo over Ouattara in the current dispute. But the question should be posed to them.

FURTHER UPDATE: It took another week, but news broke that Inhofe, does, in fact, support Gbagbo, as predicted here. See Salon’s Justin Elliot here. This was tragically predicted.

When Elections Fail: Ivory Coast

leave a comment »

I’ve rewritten this post about 5 times, using completely different themes. The Ivory Coast is complicated.

If one looks at the last 20-25 years of history in the Ivory Coast, one sees slowly decaying economic conditions (once the former powerhouse of west Africa, they have been eclipsed by Ghana) and unstable politics to the point where there has been military action in domestic affairs at least four times in major ways. There are reports that both sides of the emerging civil war have committed atrocities, though more by the side with power currently. 410 people have currently died.

Indeed, different forces even have controlled different parts of the country for a better part of a decade. Orton Kiishweko asked an important question earlier this week at the end of his column on the degenerating crisis:

And as the meeting ended on Thursday night, it was clear that the solution they wanted for the country is to allow Ouattara and Gbagbo to contest in the real court of effective state formation – the military.

Short of that, the question of how elections have sometimes failed to produce leaders peacefully will start shaping analysts’ thoughts that not every political problem in a country can only be solved through competitive elections.

The BBC has made similar points. There are a number of important points here. First, that elections themselves are only as meaningful as they reflect the people and can actually be implemented. In the Ivory Coast, it’s clear the arbiter of power is the military.

Moreover, this is an important lesson for Egypt: When the military becomes politicized it is very, very difficult to end that process. Elections alone do not suffice, sufficient willpower is needed.

This brings up Spencer Ackerman’s classic article on the Obama Doctrine of dignity promotion: I’ve cited it  before but the central conceit of the article is the most persuasive and enduring critique of the Bush Administration: elections should not the first priority in building a country, but rather providing basic services, or dignity to the people. Elections follow that. One might respond here that the Ivory Coast is a relatively rich country in the region – and it is!. I would argue both sides feel those basic dignities are at stake here.

That’s one key difference between the Ivory Coast and America – I feel Republicans are actively bad (and I’m sure they feel the same) but only a small minority feels they actively threaten to destroy the infrastructure and way of life we have to the point where force against one side or the other would be justified. Indeed, the constant attention to which side incites more violence is proof that most people do not feel violence is justified. Let me be clear: that does not mean both sides in America are innocent or equal ( the Republicans are far worse and the rise of right wing terrorism under Democratic Presidents is a serious concern in a way it isn’t under Republican administrations). But it’s safe to say most mainstream Republicans don’t support an armed insurrection later this afternoon.

But when parties have essentially a long border and have self organized and armed themselves, there’s less incentives to stay away from fighting. That does not mean things will escalate of of control either.

One last, but very important point is that it’s becoming clear that party and ethnic relationships may have decreasing meaning than country identification in the Ivory Coast right now in terms of politics:

But there would not be an election unless President Gbagbo was confident that he will win it — and he was not confident of the outcome. This had been the assessment of some analysts since 2005 and the political landscape in Cote d’Ivoire helps to explain why. Gbagbo’s political party, the FPI (Front Populaire Ivoirien), consistently came in at third place, and was still associated with a minority ethnic group (the Bete). To win a presidential election, the FPI needed an alliance with one of the larger parties – either the PDCI (Parti Democratique de Cote d’Ivoire) or the RDR (Rassemblement des Republicains), but the latter have remained remarkably united in an alliance against the FPI, known as the RHDP (Rassemblement des Houphouetistes).

Gbagbo haf tried since at least 2007 to cut a deal with Alassane Ouattara, president of the RDR, but had not succeeded. Having failed to co-opt Ouattara, Gbagbo focused on promoting a rift within the PDCI by helping to finance and support former-Prime Minister Charles Banny’s efforts to replace aging former-President Henri Konan Bedie as the PDCI’s candidate for president. Whether or not Banny succeeded is irrelevant from the FPI’s perspective, as long as the internal struggle induced a certain percentage of PDCI voters to go elsewhere. Gbagbo wanted to face Alassane Ouattara in the second round (no one expected a winner to emerge from the first round) because he (Gbagbo) believes that the ethnic groups who traditionally support the PDCI will vote FPI, rather that support an RDR leader who has links to the rebellion.

As it turned out, Laurent Gbagbo lost and Alassane Outtara won in the runoff, but in the worst possible way: he had enough power to retain control, but not enough power to actually win the election. It’s instances like this that can sorely impede the political development of the country, and the United States was lucky to avoid that sort of situation aside from a close call with Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr that most people do not remember.

There’s also very little chance anyone will be sent to help. In the past, regional stability force Ecomog has only been sent in when asked, and probably does not have the means to intervene forcefully in a country this big. It would require France to be involved, which might just escalate things.

What we have in the Ivory Coast, essentially, is a situation where the best case scenario after elections is a return to the status quo ante. Keep this in mind the next time that western political leaders push for elections as a means to resolve a conflict between two sides. It might be best to make sure they’re willing to live with each other first, as long as that might take.

I’ll end my rambing with this revealing quote:

The top U.N. official in Ivory Coast told reporters Friday that getting Ouattara back into the country is no simple matter.

“I have no comment because it regards the security of a head of state,” said U.N. Special Representative Choi Young-jin. “But it is more complicated than you can imagine.”

In the end, I’m starting to think that there’s a good chance the Ivory Coast has gone from the jewel of western Africa to the Lebanon of the western Africa: fractious politics ruins great potential.

 

Written by John Whitehouse

March 17, 2011 at 11:33 am