This weekend, rockets rained down on two African countries. There’s Libya, of course; front page headlines all round, especially since everyone realised that nuclear disaster in Japan would be averted. It helped that the mission had a noble name – operation “Dawn Odyssey” – and that there were some spectacular pictures coming out of Libya.
At the same time, receiving barely a mention in the international press, Laurent Gbagbo – the authoritarian president of Cote D’Ivoire who’s refused to leave power after accidentally losing the elections (accidentally because he’d rigged them to win; he just didn’t rig them well enough. Which gives me little faith in his competence, even as a dictator) – rained down mortar on a market place in the major city of Abidjan, killing anywhere between 25 and 30 people. It’s starting to get really ugly in Cote D’Ivoire; Gbagbo also called on his supporters to “neutralise” his enemies, which is a fairly unmistakeable call to arms.
In a related story, the South African diplomatic service found itself red-faced this weekend after City Press revealed that a hoax letter, purporting to be from French president Nicholas Sarkozy, was “sold to African leaders” by the Gbagbo regime. The fake letter was used as evidence that Sarkozy put pressure on the electoral commission to declare for opposition candidate Ouattara. Despite its shady provenance, and the fact that it was written in poor French, the SA foreign ministry has been using it to support its pro-Gbagbo posturing, showing it to the EU and to Hilary Clinton.
A few questions arise. How was this letter “sold to African leaders”; and for how much? If the French really was poor – I haven’t come across a copy of the letter – this is strange because Cote D’Ivoire is a largely francophone country, as its name suggests. And why is the South African government supporting Gbagbo?
VERDICT: Gbagbo goes 4th, for murdering his own people; South Africa goes 4th, for being a bit stupid and for supporting an illegitimate ruler who murders his own people; and the international media goes 4th, for having completely blinkered priorities.