Another War of Jenkins' Ear

Resist The Pointless

Posts Tagged ‘Security Council

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 (4/5)

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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…

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 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.”


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.

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

You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me

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“You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me.”

This is to raise a serious question: what is the policy of the United States towards Burma?

A special envoy to Burma is about to be nominated by the Obama administration, and is widely praised across the political spectrum, from Bush’s nominee for the position to a director from Human Rights Watch. That just leaves the policy:

But Malinowski also said that the substance of the administration’s Burma policy is more important than the identity of the person implementing it. He feels Burma has fallen through the cracks in terms of the administration’s focus and attention.

[. . .]

The administration’s idea was to feel out Burmese leaders in order to make incremental progress leading up to the November 2010 elections. But those elections were marred by the sort of vote rigging, intimidation, and outright violence that the Burmese junta is known for. The elections were condemned by the international community, including the United States.

The failure of the junta to make any real effort to answer the United States’ call for cooperation and dialogue poses a problem for the Obama administration’s policy of engagement. “I would say the administration has been realistic about the nature of the so-called ‘election,'” said Green. “They recognize that the junta is actually consolidating power in many areas, privatizing state assets to fill their own pockets, and marginalizing the handful of ‘Third Wave’ candidates that were supposed to be independent voices in the parliament.”

An administration official told The Cable that the U.S. government is clear eyed on the junta’s behavior but will continue to try to find ways to move forward the policy.

“The U.S. government acknowledged that this was a fundamentally flawed election based on a corrupt constitution, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t ready to reengage in dialogue,” the official said. “But we will be very clear what our expectations are and we will be extremely tough on both non-proliferation and human rights.”

Are there any further levers for the US to pull? Obviously, military action is out of the question. The Security Council hasn’t done much on Myanmar/Burma, but I can’t imagine China is eager to let any such discussion go too far. Indeed, in 2007 Russia and China both vetoed a resolution, and China is seen as being generous in even allowing Security Council meetings on the matter they consider an internal issue only.

Events in 2010 posed major challenges regarding Burma and the region:

The election has been criticised by the Secretary-General as “insufficiently inclusive, participatory, and transparent”. The UN Special Rapporteur on  the situation of human rights in Myanmar,  Tomás Ojea Quintana, has dubbed the election as “deeply flawed”, as certain opposition parties were excluded from the process.

Council members have expressed differing views on the validity of the election. US President Barack Obama criticised the election in Myanmar, saying it had been neither free nor fair, and the UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, deemed the election as “the return to power of a brutal regime”. China’s ministry of foreign affairs characterised the election as “peaceful and successful” and a positive step in the transition to an elected government. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations welcomed the election “as a significant step forward “in the implementation of the seven-point Roadmap for Democracy”.

Following the election, on 8 November, violent clashes broke out between ethnic Karen rebels and Myanmar troops, reportedly causing some 15,000 people to flee into northern Thailand. On 12 November the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that most had returned to Myanmar.

On 13 November, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released, after spending most of the last two decades under house arrest. The Secretary-General urged Myanmar to release the remaining 2,200 or so political prisoners.

On 22 October, cyclone Giri struck Myanmar, claiming the lives of at least 45 people and causing the destruction of at least 20,380 homes and thousands of acres of crops and fish breeding ponds. Currently, 100,000 people remain homeless as relief efforts by government authorities, UN agencies and NGOs are under way.

I cite all this because it’s unclear that there is even a potential solution. There’s no leverage to pull left (sanctions are due to be renewed by the US and EU and most feel that will be done, from what I can gather), unless there are some unilateral sanctions possible I am not aware of (this indicates that is possible, but it does not seem like much). Beyond that, I don’t see what can possibly be done: the hope seems to be that a special envoy can simply talk the Burmese into reforms. As unlikely as that is, I don’t see any other way forward that wouldn’t make things immediately worse.

Evening / Overnight Cote D’Ivoire Roundup Thread

with 2 comments

Developments will be posted here as they happen. Prior thread is here. This time I’m going to put a timestamp on updates. New updates will continue to be at the bottom of the thread.

7:00 EDT: The ICRC has confirmed 800 deaths earlier this week in Duékoué. Statement, translated:

“This event is particularly shocking in its scale and brutality,” said Dominique Liengme, head of the ICRC delegation in Côte d’Ivoire. “The ICRC condemns direct attacks on civilians and reiterates the obligation of parties to conflict to ensure in all circumstances the protection of populations in the territory they control.”

ICRC delegates and volunteers from the Ivorian Red Cross have visited the site on March 31 and April 1 to ascertain the needs of local people and gather evidence on this event. They also evacuated 28 bodies to the local morgue. This transaction is expected to continue over the coming days.

In addition, tens of thousands of men, women and children have fled fighting and looting that took place in the city since last Monday. The various communities of the city and surrounding Duékoué had already been hit hard several times by violence.

The ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross, present throughout the country continue to assist the populations affected by conflict by providing essential goods and facilitating access to potable water and health care.

Horrific. And the death toll will probably go higher.

7:10 EDT: This NYT report shows how fluid the situation is.

Still, there were indications that Mr. Gbagbo was losing ground, and that his hours in power were slipping away. In the last week he has lost some 50,000 combatants in the army and police to defections, Mr. Choi said. Key officers, including generals, have quit, like the army chief of staff who abandoned his post to seek refuge from South African diplomats.

Despite encountering resistance around critical buildings, officials in Mr. Ouattara’s government insisted that Abidjan was under their control. But there was confusion about the extent of it, with one adviser saying that the presidential residence had been penetrated, and another denying it.

“There are not real battles in the neighborhoods,” one Ouattara adviser, Patrick Achi, said. “There are no longer neighborhoods under the control of Gbagbo.” Mr. Ouattara has also begun issuing pronouncements — closing the country’s borders, establishing a curfew — that until recently had been the strict purview of Mr. Gbagbo.

But while firing had died down by Friday evening, residents still spoke of a terrifying day spent hunkered down inside as gunfire and heavy-weapons exchanges boomed all around. One man, speaking from the Adjamé neighborhood, was repeatedly drowned out over the telephone by the sound of gunfire.

Moreover, the central mystery of the events are the mass defections of many of Gbagbo’s forces. A working theory is a combination of lack of pay and having to face armed opposition:

The mass defections and lack of resistance in much of the country is likely to remain the central mystery of the country’s swift turnaround this week, after months of bellicose language on state television by Mr. Gbagbo and his aides, promises to fight fiercely for what they called Ivory Coast’s sovereignty in the face of foreign interference and periodic killings of civilian protesters in Abidjan.

One expert on the country cited the tightening financial vise on Mr. Gbagbo because of international sanctions and his consequent inability to fully make the army payroll. But he also noted the historically unwarrior-like nature of the Ivorian army.

“They were very happy to draw their pay every month, but they were essentially like civil servants,” said Michael McGovern, a political anthropologist at Yale University. “So when faced with people actually committed to fighting” — the former rebels who make up the Republican Forces — “it’s not that surprising they stand down,” Dr. McGovern said.

“It’s easy to fire on unarmed civilians, but it’s a much different choice to decide whether you are going to engage with people who are as well-armed as you are,” he said.

More to come.

7:20 EDT: More on the horrible situation in Duékoué. From AFP, translated:

The Red Cross, “tens of thousands of men, women and children” fleeing the fighting and looting in the city since Monday evening.

The city and its suburbs have been hit hard several times by violence.

Important strategic crossroads of the West, is controlled from Duékoué Tuesday by forces of the Ivorian president recognized by the international community, Alassane Ouattara, the final two days of clashes with military and militia loyal to the president defeated in election, Laurent Gbagbo.

The UN humanitarian agencies said they were “particularly concerned on Friday, hurt about the fate of tens of thousands of displaced people found shelter at the Catholic mission in this city.

“As a priest of the mission, most have not eaten for two days and are therefore urgently needed food rations and 80,000 kitchen sets,” said a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Jemini Pandya.

According to the priest, there is also an urgent need to retrieve the bodies abandoned on city streets and near the mission.

This is an ongoing nightmare.

8:00 EDT: 100 armed mercenaries were arrested in Liberia, after having crossed back from the Ivory Coast. Translated from the original French (very poorly):

A hundred armed Liberian mercenaries from Ivory Coast were arrested Friday to Liberia shortly after crossing the border back to their country, learned the security source told AFP.  These mercenaries were arrested by police and immigration services Liberians in the Province of Maryland (eastern Liberia) in vehicles all-terrain and were in possession of `weapons and ammunition, according this source.  The camp of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo out was charged with having used mercenaries from Liberia to strengthen the forces that remained loyal to him face to those of his rival Alassane Ouattara, recognized President of the international community.

Perhaps this means Gbagbo can’t pay his mercenaries any more?

8:15 EDT: Before it was taken over by Ouattara, state TV went out with … an episode of Desperate Housewives? Gbagbo and his wife are starting to remind me of the Bluths, just with mercenaries and mass murder instead of whimsical dialogue.

French officials said that Mr Gbagbo, and his influential wife, Simone, were believed to be in the presidential palace in one of the few parts of the city not yet captured by the pro-Ouattara units of a divided Ivorian army. Other reports suggested that he has escaped to a “secure location” elsewhere in Ivory Coast. Mr Alain said that Mr Gbagbo would soon make a televised address to the nation. However, the state television station, scene of some of the most violent fighting in Abidjan, ceased to broadcast yesterday morning.

According to reports in French media, the final broadcasts were a bizarre mélange of previews of episodes of Desperate Housewives and repeats of an apparently amateur video showing Mr Gbagbo chatting calmly with supporters and his wife. Artillery and light-arms fire were reported close to Mr Gbagbo’s residence and presidential palace. Two large military bases were also reported to be under attack, turning Ivory Coast’s main city and commercial capital into a war zone.


9:00 EDT: State TV is back in the hands of Gbagbo supporters and is broadcasting:

Ivory Coast’s RTI state television controlled by Laurent Gbagbo resumed broadcasting on Friday after it was closed for almost a day by heavy fighting, a Reuters witness said.

The broadcaster aired images of cheering Gbagbo supporters and file footage of Gbagbo’s swearing-in after a disputed November election that U.N.-certified results showed he lost to rival Alassane Ouattara.

This may signal a more protracted battle.

10:00 EDT: Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy’s UN blog on how Gbagbo harassed UN peacekeepers into being completely ineffective. Read the whole thing if you’re reading anything.

But in recent months Gbagbo has provided the U.N. with a painful lesson in how to prevent a U.N. peacekeeping force from doing its job. Forces loyal to Gbagbo have unleashed a systematic campaign of harassment that has severely diminished the U.N. mission’s capacity to protect civilians in this West African country, according to internal U.N. documents obtained by Turtle Bay.

[. . .]

In a series of nearly daily challenges, government forces and pro-Gabgbo militias have torched U.N. vehicles, disarmed and attacked U.N. peacekeepers and severely hindered them from conducting patrols and supplying their operations, according to U.N. officials in Ivory Coast and internal U.N. documents. In many cases, the U.N. responded to challenges to its freedom of movement by returning to base.

U.N. officials in New York challenge the account that emerges from the reports as incomplete. They said the incident reports don’t document the total number of U.N. patrols that provide Ivorians with a greater sense of security. Last month, for instance, the UN launched some 1766 patrols throughout Ivory Coast, including 500 in Abijdan, according to U.N. officials. And while the U.N.’s ability to investigate rights abuses have been severely restricted, the U.N. has established a 24-hour a day “green line” that allows locals to report on rights abuses in the country.

Seriously, read the whole thing. I feel bad excerpting as much as I have already. If you care about foreign policy and peacekeeping, it’s not just a must read, it’s a print and tape to your wall type article.

Lynch gives a complete playbook of nine different steps used to make UN peacekeepers irrelevant. If anything, it’s another reminder that when peacekeepers are put into a position, parties can quickly find their limits and exploit them. We’ve seen it again and again – and the only answer, as always is either a quick response by the international community (ha!) or patience. Here, it took a severe amount of patience for some sort of endgame to present itself, and as we’re seeing, that endgame is very, very bloody. The only consolation is that peacekeepers are never sent into a situation where everything is just going super well to begin with.

10:45 EDT: The BBC confirms a massive number of dead and indicates a stalemate in Abidjan:

However, [Ouattara’s supporters] have been unable to defeat those still loyal to the former president in parts of Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan.

There have been fierce clashes outside the presidential palace and the headquarters of state television in the upmarket district of Cocody. Fighting has also been reported in Plateau and Agban areas.

While figures for dead and wounded are unavailable, Doctors Without Borders said it had treated at least 80 people over the past two days, most of them young men suffering from gunshot wounds.

Residents of Abidjan say they are afraid to leave their homes.

The BBC’s John James in Bouake says Mr Gbagbo is holed up inside the fortress-like presidential mansion, with his last remaining allies and the Republican Guard.

“Laurent Gbagbo is going nowhere. He is the elected president of Ivory Coast and he is going to be president for five years to come,” a spokesman for Mr Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) said.

Short of a genocide like in Sudan or Rwanda, I can’t imagine a tragedy of a bigger scale. This map gives a sense of the geography of Abidjan and where both leaders (likely) are, though there have been reports both Ouattara and Gbagbo are not where the map says they are. The situation, as should be evident by now, is completely fluid.

11:00 EDT: Human Rights Watch has called on Ouattara to control his troops:

Alassane Ouattara should take concrete measures to ensure that troops under his command fighting in Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, Abidjan, do not commit reprisals or other abuses against civilians or supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, Human Rights Watch said today. Ouattara should publicly pledge to hold accountable all members of his forces implicated in serious violations of international law, Human Rights Watch said.

Ouattara’s troops, now called the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire, FRCI) comprise a loose coalition of combatants who previously fought for the Forces Nouvelles (“New Forces”) rebellion, neighborhood-based defense forces, and former Ivorian army soldiers, policemen, and gendarmes who have recently defected from Gbagbo’s side.

“Ouattara should send an unequivocal public message to all his commanders and forces fighting on his behalf that reprisals of any kind will be punished,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

[. . .]

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has repeatedly indicated that it will prosecute crimes committed in Côte d’Ivoire if the court’s requirements for investigation – which relate to the gravity of the crimes and the inadequacy of national proceedings – are met. An investigation could be triggered by a referral of the situation by the UN Security Council or any state that is party to the court, or if the prosecutor decides to act on his own authority. While Côte d’Ivoire is not a party to the court’s Rome Statute, it accepted the court’s jurisdiction through a declaration in 2003. The Security Council resolution references this declaration and states that the report of the commission of inquiry should be provided to the Security Council and “other relevant international bodies.”

I’ve included the ICC recommendation because that actually puts real teeth behind the calls by HRW. If jurisdiction isn’t a question (and this implies it’s not) those committing these atrocities will be tried by someone and that should encourage Ouattara to act. An additional threat may be the UN/French additional forces he was reportedly seeking (see the earlier liveblog regarding the call to Sarkozy).

Additionally, this report from the Duékoué region is harrowing:

But Channel 4 News has learned that there are also unconfirmed – but credible – reports of mass killings by Ouattara forces near the western cocoa belt of Duekoue – where at least 10,000 refugees have been trapped in a church compound with little or no access to food, water or health facilities, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The refugees are surrounded by thousands of rebel soldiers from Ouattara’s Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (RFCI) and are protected by 1,000 UN peacekeepers, with another 2,000 on the way.  A UN military official on the ground, who asked not be named, told Channel 4 News the situation is still “very, very, very tense, nobody is safe there”.  The official added:  “Of course we are hearing reports of atrocities committed by both sides but it is far too early and logistically difficult to verify such claims.”

But, speaking from Dakar, Human Rights Watch’s senior Africa researcher, Corinne Dufka, toldChannel 4 News that “there are very credible reports of mass killings recently in the Duekoeu region”.

“That area is known as the ‘wild west’ and we are trying to verify these reports as quickly as possible,” she said. “In the west of the country sexual violence peaked in 2004 to an absolutely unacceptable level. After that there has been a political vacuum filled by complete lawlessness.”

Speaking to Channel 4 News from an undisclosed location in Ivory Coast, a spokesman for Ouattara – Konate Siratugui – denied that any war crimes were being committed by the RFCI in Duekoue or in any part of the country.

“What you are seeing is the work of radical forces, Liberian mercenaries working for Gbagbo, they are looting and burning,” he claimed. “They are going house to house terrorising innocent people.”

Two points. One, the Ouattara spokesman is almost certainly lying, given the circumstances. Two, the point about sexual violence underscores how much violence the women of Cote D’Ivoire have had to take in this conflict and previously. Between this point and the issues raised here, it’s truly a tragic situation. I don’t think I have more words to describe it. But the women there are very, very strong. That’s for sure – I admire their courage in still organizing and fighting for a free and open Cote D’Ivoire.

Also, earlier in the day the UN urged Ouattara to reign in his forces.

12:25 EDT: Anne-Marie Slaughter pointed out this article from Gil Loescher who explains the problems of refugees such as those that now exist surrounding Cote D’Ivoire (up to and possibly over a million). An excerpt:

Long-term displacement is not only a humanitarian crisis. It is also likely to affect political stability and to have important consequences for security, particularly for host states in the developing world, but also regionally and internationally. Protracted refugee situations are at the heart of many of the major contemporary developments in international security and world politics, as prolonged exile often originates from the very states whose own instability lies at the heart of broader regional instability. The bulk of refugees in these regions — Afghans, Somalis, Iraqis, Sudanese, Congolese and Burmese — come from countries where conflict and persecution have persisted for years. For groups engaged in conflict, the environment of a protracted refugee situation, in which there are few economic and social opportunities for young men, may represent a potential source of recruitment. Refugee camps often serve as sanctuaries and bases for combatants. Refugees sometimes become actively involved in military matters and form armed groups to defend themselves, or join military forces that offer the prospect of overthrowing the regime that had forced them to flee. In particular, both host and Western states have identified refugees emanating from countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia as a potential source of radicalization and instability in the global war against terrorism because of their possible recruitment by Islamic terrorist organizations.

Refugees in protracted refugee situations also have been identified as potential “spoilers” of peace negotiations in countries emerging from prolonged conflict. The existence of refugee camps that serve as rebel bases; the small-arms traffic across borders facilitated by refugee camps; and the premature repatriation of groups in exile can all undermine the prospects for peace and post-conflict rehabilitation. In other words, refugees who are not provided with adequate protection and solutions to their plight and who are not provided with the opportunity to contribute to peace-building in their home countries may disrupt post-conflict reconstruction by remaining in militarized groups outside of peace negotiations and refusing to renounce violence.

This is becoming a major problem in Cote D’Ivoire, especially if it takes time to stabilize the country or if there are threats of reprisal.

12:30 EDT: Three UN peacekeepers were wounded yesterday by gunfire, two seriously. Translated from the original French:

Three peacekeepers were wounded in the attack in Abidjan on Thursday to patrol Nations Operation in Côted’Ivoire (UNOCI) by the army loyal to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.

“Three peacekeepers were injured, two seriously during the attack which took place in the vicinity of the Plateau,” said a statement from UNOCI sent Friday to Xinhua.

The patrol came under fire when she was on a humanitarian mission, it added.

Also on Thursday, the head of UNOCI has been subjected to heavy fire from the forces of Mr. Gbagbo near the presidential palace in the Plateau.

The statement said “the UNOCI troops returned fire in a firefight close to three hours.”

UN peacekeepers in a three hour firefight? And this is the example of a country there’s no interference in?

12:35 EDT: A Reuters Flash: “Ouattara [government] spokesman says Gbagbo remains in his house, has shown no signs of giving up.”

12:45 EDT: What appears to be a Spanish-language Chinese state newspaper published an article about Cote D’Ivoire (where the official language is French, by the way). The gist, as far as I can tell is that they are calling on both sides to follow the UN resolution so that the country may stabilize quickly. It also supports ECOWAS and the African Union, with no mention of France or the United States. But the translation is rather rough here.

1:00 EDT: This background piece from Al Jazeera is great journalism. I haven’t touched on the African Union yet:

While the African Union (AU) has sent delegations to the country, its role has largely been limited to polite attempts at negotiating the stalemate. The inability or unwillingness of the body to act decisively or intervene has raised the usual critiques of its effectiveness.

The AU – through its regional hand, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – set an ultimatum in December, warning of a military intervention if Gbagbo did not cede power. But, Johnson argues: “The AU … don’t say what they mean and don’t mean what they say; they threaten force but don’t act, they have the mandate but don’t enforce.”

Collier, however, maintains that, contrary to popular belief, the AU has managed to set the agenda in Cote d’Ivoire. “It has acted with caution, and probably been too slow, but it has actually set very important precedents. It has recognised President Ouattara and it has refused to go down the road of ‘powersharing’ which has not worked well in either Zimbabwe or Kenya and which the AU has now recognised is a bad model.

“I think that the AU position augurs rather well for the forthcoming 19 African elections. It has been strongly reinforced by the events in North Africa which have hopefully ended the incipient trend [of] sons inheriting the presidential throne from their fathers,” Collier adds.

Kouakou agrees, arguing that the UN and the AU have – for the first time in the history of peaceful conflict resolution in an African crisis – performed quite well. “Many of us are very impatient about resolving the crisis. [But] patiently convincing Gbagbo to step down added with progressive financial pressure are the best ways to solve the crisis.”

It’s worth remember that the African Union, like all international organizations, is only as strong as its members. That makes states like Nigeria and South Africa lynch pins; compared to states in NATO (even excepting the US) their reach is limited – so of course the organization will have less effect.

1:30 EDT: Ouattara forces have promised a new offensive today, amidst gangs of youth looting in Abidjan and elsewhere, as well as the spectre of massacres.

1:35 EDT: France now has 1,100 troops or thereabouts on the ground to protect foreign citizens. Also, Gbagbo forces are saying the quick offensive by Ouattara forces indicates that foreign help from Burkina Faso or Mali was behind it. In short, Gbagbo will be nationalist to the end.

Hiatus – I need some rest. Back in a couple hours with a new thread.

What is War? Part I

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Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet posits a theory of what “war” legally is, regarding the UN Security Council:

What we need to know is what constitutes a “War” within the meaning of the “declare War” clause. In the framing era what distinguished “wars” from other forms of international interactions was the jus ad bellum. And, under that law, the distinguishing characteristic of a “war” was that it opened up the nation to lawful retaliation, giving the target nation a lawful privilege to kill U.S. soldiers. The Security Council’s resolution means that Libya cannot lawfully – that is, within the bounds of the jus ad bellum – retaliate against those who use force against it. It follows that the U.S. action is not a “War” within the meaning of the “declare War” clause. (Note that there might be a functional justification for this international-law oriented definition of “War” for domestic constitutional purposes: Lawful retaliation, including the privilege to kill U.S. soldiers, is probably the most serious kind of interaction that a U.S. action can open the nation to, so requiring congressional involvement makes functional sense. But my argument doesn’t rely heavily on the functional argument.)

The key point in this argument is that a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force deprives the target nation of the right to retaliate. I can’t cite sources saying that, but it seems to me a sensible construction of the relation between the UN’s regulation of the use of force in international relations and the jus ad bellum. A couple of implications of this line of argument should be noted. Libya might not be privileged in killing U.S. soldiers, but (or “and”) it would still be bound by jus in bellum principles. More important for domestic constitutional purposes, the argument implies that a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force relieves a U.S. President of any obligation to obtain congressional authorization for actions taken pursuant to such a resolution. So, for example, the first President Bush would not have needed, as a constitutional matter, congressional authorization to use U.S. forces in the operation aimed at expelling Iraq from Kuwait.

This is consistent with a number of sources.

Conrad Harper, Legal Advisor to the Clinton Administration’s Department of State, said in 1994 that there are not only peacekeeping operations carried out with the consent of the state, but also “peace enforcement” to enforce Article VII. Unsaid but clearly implied is that this is not war:

It is, of course, useful in general policy discussions to have a common understanding of the meaning of various terms used. In this area, we use the term “peacekeeping” to refer to operations carried out with the consent of the states or other significant parties involved.

These are traditionally noncombat operations — except for the purpose of self-defense — and are normally undertaken to monitor and facilitate implementation of an existing truce arrangement and in support of diplomatic efforts to achieve a political settlement of the dispute.

We use the term “peace enforcement” to refer to operations involving the use or threat of force to preserve, maintain, or restore international peace and security or to deal with breaches of the peace or acts of aggression. These operations are authorized by the Security Council under section 7 of the Charter and do not require the consent of the states or other parties involved. We use the term “peace operations” to refer to the entire scope of peacekeeping and peace enforcement activities.

Harper continued, giving a broad framework of what law would be relevant to US participation in UN actions:

Fourth, you asked whether tnere is an adequate legal framework [sic] to determine what the role of United States military forces will be in future United Nations peace operations. Our answer is that there is an adequate legal framework in the United Nations Charter, the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, the United States Constitution, the Foreign Assistance Act, and the United Nations Participation Act.

Harper also indicated that peace operations should be conducted consistent with the reporting requirements of the War Powers Act.

Additionally, the 1945 Congress, as I have previously noted, defined UN Security Council actions not as legal war but as “action for the preservation of the peace and for preventing war.”:

Preventive or enforcement action by these forces upon the order of the Security Council would not be an act of war but would be international action for the preservation of the peace and for the purpose of preventing war. Consequently, the provisions of the Charter do not affect the exclusive power of the Congress to declare war.

“The committee feels that a reservation or other congressional action such as that referred to above would also violate the spirit of the United States constitution under which the President has well-established power and obligations to use our armed forces without specific approval of Congress.”

Robert Turner found a historically specific meaning of the phrase declare war. His testimony here, also from 1994, hews closely to my own thinking:

In my testimony, I note that there has been a great deal of debate on what the “declare war” clause means by focusing on the meaning of the word “war.” I think a more useiul approach is to look at the words “declare war” which were, in fact, a term of art in international law when the phrase was embraced for our Constitution.

I provided quotes from people like Gentili, Grotius, Vattel, Burlamaqui, and other prominent international lawyers who were widely read by the Founding Fathers to show that, in fact, historically, even from Greek and Roman times, declarations of war have been associated with aggressive or offensive hostilities and not with defense.

It is sometimes said that the power of Congress [sic] to declare war has been weakened because of “imperial” Presidents. I would argue that a better explanation is that we have given up our right to engage in aggressive war, first through the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 and, more recently, through article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter.

When Congress approved the United Nations Participation Act in 1945, both houses included identical language in their reports which said that:

Preventive or enforcement action by these forces upon the order of the Security Council would not be an act of war. . . . Consequently, the provisions of the Charter do not aflect the exclusive power of the Congress to declare war.

It went on to say:

… a reservation or other congressional action . . . would violate the spirit of the . . . Constitution under which the President has well-established powers to use our armed forces without specific approval of Congress.

They were talking, of course, about article 43 agreements; but the fundamental question of, “Is the use of force under the author-
ity of the Security Council an act of war” would seem to be the same.

Although I conclude that the President is not legally required to obtain the approval of Congress for operations sucn as those in So-
malia and Haiti; as a matter of wise policy and prudence, I strongly believe it is a good idea for the President both to consult care-
fully with Congress and to get Congress formally on board, if Congress will behave responsibly.

I would add that Turner is not exactly a John Yoo clone.

Lastly, it’s worth looking at the history of the war powers clause in the constitution; the original phrase was that Congress had the power to “make war.” This was then replaced with the power to “declare war.” At the very, very least, this means that either the definition of war or the definition of “declare war” is relevant in determining the line between Congress and the executive.


Up next: I compare this Constitutional “crisis” [roll eyes] with the last Constitutional crisis regarding Tripoli under Thomas Jefferson.

Written by John Whitehouse

March 29, 2011 at 9:34 am

When Your House is On Fire, Call a Family Meeting: The Unbearable Frivolity of Andrew Sullivan

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I agree with DougJ about the the least convincing pro-intervention argument is from Richard Cohen regarding Libya. But this gem is the dumbest Libya argument against intervention yet. Andrew Sullivan:

The Libya case is an interesting one because of the need for dispatch, as events on the ground made a Congressional debate moot. But to my mind, that kind of emergency decision is precisely the moment when deliberation is necessary. Deciding war in a rush and in secret is normally not a good idea. And Obama did not have to act urgently to save American lives or vital interests. He had to act urgently for purely humanitarian reasons.

And so we now have an executive branch claiming powers far, far beyond what the Founders or any prudent constitution would allow. The presidency becomes Angelina Jolie with an air force.

So let me get this straight: the circumstances under which Obama had to make a decision made any further consultation with Congress moot – in Sullivan’s own words. But he would still argue that one is necessary. And not just necessary, but necessary in fancy italics.

Moreover, it takes special writing abilities to contradict your entire argument that thoroughly. The first sentence shows that there’s absolutely no time for discussion, the decision needs to be made immediately. The rest of the paragraph completely ignores that reality.

Needless to say, intervening after Benghazi had fallen would be the worst of both worlds: people would say the US does not caer about human suffering, only taking out dictators who interrupt oil flow. It’d be a pointless exercise. Sullivan has to know that – he admitted it to start the excerpt!

Additionally, Sullivan refuses to grapple with refugees anywhere on his blog. Reading him (and mind you this is someone who obsessively chronicles events) you would have virtually no idea about refugee crises on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders, or the EU commissioner warning of a refugee nightmare. Why? I can only guess that he still is obsessed with a Napoleonic conception of war as aggression and responding to it; and human suffering never involves people fleeing from nightmare scenarios, but people taking suffering with a stiff upper lip, because hey, it’s the British way. It’s a fundamental lack of empathy that clouds Sullivan’s reasoning. And all of that might be false. But Sullivan sure as hell isn’t answering it, that’s for sure (in the one in a million shot he responds to this post, it’s one and a million he takes this question seriously).

But it’s not just a lack of empathy, it’s an emotional commitment to reacting immediately that he does not even look at all the facts and grapple with them. And I’m not exaggerating. His blog has mentioned refugees a grand total of once since the resolution was passed, and that was just in reprinting the Security Council Resolution. So as far as I can tell, Sullivan himself has no idea what regional destabilization actually means. His lone reference to the crisis this month was – literally – on March 9 when he saidlet Egypt and Tunisia deal with it.” Really, Andrew? They have the resources and wherewithal to deal with that right now? Nothing else is going on there? There’s not going to be any regional effects from them having to deal with it? What a crock of shit. That’s not grappling with a problem, that’s Sullivan sticking his head in the sand. No responsible administration would or should think this way. Not even George W. Bush would think that way. Not even Neville Chamberlain would think this way – at least Chamberlain was willing to take the time to hitch a flight to Munich.

And then he has the gall to talk about prudence. Prudent men and women before him have realized that the boundary between the war powers and the commander in chief powers are at least somewhat a grey area. Truman was prone to overreacting (Steel Seizure case) but also did send troops to Korea without authorization. I’ve blogged about the notes from the 1945 Congress which are not authoritative by any means, but certainly fall within any reasonable definition of prudent.

This is not even to mention the shock value he’s going for with the Angelina Jolie comparison. I expect that sort of thing from an Andrew Breitbart intern, not Sullivan. (Not to mention that he has use Jolie, because “a massacre in Benghazi sounds completely awful if you use any non-celebrity framing. Seriously, try to find a better way to frame what Gaddafi pledging “no mercy” on a city of 700,000 would mean.)

This post is NOT to say this was the right intervention or that the mission is being executed in the correct way. Not at all. It’s just to say that Sullivan, in his apparent haste to make up for his grave Iraq war mistakes, is turning into the the far left caricature he once loathed. There is no subtlety. There is no hard cases. There’s only actions that apparently no one can consider prudent, despite extensive evidence that some people might actually think that. It’s insulting to what’s left of his legacy. I’m surprised he hasn’t demanded that Obama instead change the color of the White House website.

Congratulations, Andrew, you’re tarnishing your worthy legacy with shitty punditry just like David Broder before you. Good luck dealing with this shit, Tina Brown.