Gbagbo and the Ivorian test: Moving beyond anti-imperialist rhetoric

Published on Pambazuka News, by Published on Pambazuka News, January 13, 2011.

As Côte d’Ivoire remains in a troubling state of political deadlock, Horace Campbell discusses the increasing militarisation of politics, the history of external interests in the country and broader conditions behind the contested 2010 election.

On October 31, 2010 the peoples of Cote d’Ivoire voted in the Presidential elections that had been postponed for five years. The results of this electoral contest showed that Laurent Gbagbo, the intellectual turned trade unionist and politician won the first round with about 35 percent of votes cast. Two other opposition leaders were runners up. Alassane Ouattara, the leader of the Rally of Republicans (RDR) and former Prime Minister, captured 32 percent of the votes cast. Ex-president Henri Konan Bedie, leader of the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), was in third place with about 25 percent. Because no candidate received an absolute majority of votes in the first round, a second round was held on November 28. When this second round of voting took place, Henri Bedie threw his electoral support behind Outtara and so the Presidential candidate of the RDR emerged the winner and was declared as such by the Independent Electoral Commission of Cote d’Ivoire … //


At the start of the second decade of the 21st century the form and content of the struggles for democracy will have tremendous implications for Africa. All over Africa the impact of the capitalist depression is leading to the intensification of exploitation. Unemployment among the youths provides a ready pool of social elements that can be recruited for warfare. It is this reality with the remobilization of former Liberian fighters by the Ivorian political leaders of the Ivorian Popular Front that should be borne in mind when the AU threatens military intervention. I would like to agree that there are dangers of external military intervention but this discussion should not gloss over the reality that military force is already being deployed against innocent persons by the regime. Despite this reality this author supports intensified political, financial and diplomatic pressures on the Gbagbo regime. It is this prospect of regional war and the unforeseen consequences of warfare that guides this intervention that one must conceptualize democratization in a process of building new peaceful relations. In this context, I want to differ with the position of Paul Collier who is calling for a military coup in Cote d’Ivoire. Collier made his argument in this way, Gbagbo’s attempt to remain in power, recognised as illegitimate by the regional authorities, is such an instance. Of course, Gbagbo has taken care to get the army onside: currently it is keeping him in power. But his control of the army is inevitably fragile. Were army officers requested by regional authorities – supported by the international community and Ouattara – to remove Gbagbo in an orderly fashion, his position might start to look precarious. After all, a coup can come from many different levels in the military hierarchy. It is the senior officers, who are closest to Gbagbo, but they would know that a coup from lower-ranking officers would spell their own doom – and that lower-ranking officers would find this an attractive strategy for accelerating their careers. If junior officers ousted Gbagbo, their reward would not be an unstable and high-risk presidency, but secure senior military positions. I disagree with the position of Collier who had earlier articulated these views in a book on wars, guns and voters. These challenges of citizenship, the rights of migrant workers and environmental justice cannot be solved by military power, just as removing Gbagbo by military force could result in a recursive process of militarism.

Only a new paradigm of people’s rights, citizenship, politics of inclusion, and a situation where the wishes of the people supersedes those of leaders would help Africa withstand the 21st century challenges and bring about transformation. Every country in Africa carries the differences that can inspire chauvinism if there are no leaders who will rise above the politicization or region, religion and ethnicity. Let the people’s voice prevail. Ouattara is neither a saint nor a messiah, but a precedent must be set so that the same power of the people that has now voted Gbagbo out of office would prevail over Ouattara should he act contrary to the aspirations of the people. This is the paradigm that Africa needs. Cote d’Ivorie offers another veritable opportunity to set the precedent for this paradigm. Cote d’Ivorie is a litmus test for ECOWAS and the African Union in this regard. (full long text).

More Articles with the same Item:

Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire: History, interests and parallels, by Explo Nani-Kofi (2011-01-13);

Has the UN failed Côte d’Ivoire? by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo (2011-01-13).

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