SA gives Cote D’Ivoire’s opposition the navy blues


And in more other news…

While Egypt has been receiving rolling 24-hour news coverage of its political crisis, Cote D’Ivoire’s impasse is starting to look suspiciously permanent. Alassane Outtara, by most accounts the winner of the run-off elections, is still holed up in Abidjan’s Golf Hotel, protected (or penned in?) by 800 UN peacekeepers, and presiding only over the swimming pool bar. Laurent Gbagbo, the country’s president since 2000, is defying a chorus of international calls to step down. Sources at the United Nations have assured me that this policy is based on the reports of qualified election observers and not because no one can pronounce Gbagbo’s name.

But that chorus is looking a little disharmonious of late. First, there were the rumours swirling round the African Union summit in Addis Ababa that some big countries had outright refused to contemplate tougher measures to force Gbagbo out (so far, all the AU has done is send Thabo Mbeki – who returned swiftly, tail between legs – and then Raila Odinga, the Kenyan PM appointed after the violence on Kenya’s 2008 elections, to mediate the situation. This is like asking Eugene Terreblanche to resolve a racial discrimination case.).

So, who were these big countries behind Gbagbo? Well it wasn’t Nigeria, who’ve been calling for military action to depose Gbagbo, perhaps remembering all the fun they had in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It wasn’t Egypt – they’ve got a bit too much on their plate.

Ghana is a likely candidate – despite immense public pressure, John Atta Mills’ government has remained behind Gbagbo, for motivations that are puzzling; some say that it’s in recognition of the two governments’ shared socialist history.

And now, it emerges that a South African warship is stationed off the coast of Cote D’Ivoire, lending quiet but essential support to Gbagbo; acting as protection against any Nigerian-led invasion. While it is good to see the South African navy is finally being used for something other than photo-ops in Simonstown, I haven’t quite worked out what South Africa’s motivations are. It seems a good bet that SA were also playing heavy at the AU summit. For some reason, the country has decided that now is the time to start flexing their military and diplomatic muscles, and this could have ramifications beyond Cote D’Ivoire. Watch this space.

VERDICT: South Africa’s warships (well, one of them) sail forth; but African unity takes a nosedive and goes 4th.

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