Tag Archives: Laurent Gbagbo

Ivory Coast clear as Gbagbo is captured

Counter-revolutionary chic: Gbagbo loses power, and his shirt (AFP/Getty)

And another one bites the dust. Laurent Gbagbo, who held out longer than Hosni Mubarak, longer than Ben Ali (but perhaps not longer than Gaddafi or Ali Abdullah Saleh – we shall see) was seized in his underground bunker under the presidential palace in Abidjan. Seized by who, exactly? Initial reports suggested that the French had finally lost patience and done the job themselves; subsequently all sides have been saying that only ‘Ivorian’ forces were involved, whatever that term means these days. After all, it was Gbagbo’s interpretation of the concept of  ‘Ivoirite’ that kept Ouattara out of presidential elections for a decade, on the basis that he was not fully Ivorian. And both sides in this conflict have relied on forces that would fail even the most liberal definition of Ivorian – Liberian mercenaries, Angolan mercenaries, Nigerian mercenaries…and French mercenaries?

France seized the initiative in Cote D’Ivoire, as they did in Libya; one wonders how much this has to do with Nicolas Sarkozy’s record low popularity figures. One suspects everything. Nonetheless, even if it was only ‘Ivorian’ troops that broke down the door, the column of 30 French armoured vehicles in support certainly helped.

And now the world breathes a sigh of relief; Cote D’Ivoire, it appears, is sorted, and will disappear from the headlines. But the tensions and undercurrents which caused this civil war are not resolved, and Ouattara has a tough time on his hands to reconcile what was even before this a deeply divided country. Gbagbo is being kept in the Golf hotel, which is where Ouattara established his interim government, and where he has been holed up ever since the election. Apparently the room service is not bad.

In the meantime, there’s still Gaddafi to worry about. What Gbagbo’s capture does throw into relief is the international policy of not targeting the person of Gaddafi. Perhaps a targeted assassination of one man with blood on his hands is more just than the bombing of all his footsoldiers? Maybe it’s like lancing a boil?

VERDICT: Cote D’Ivoire goes forth, 134 days too late.

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A tale of two rocket attacks

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.

 

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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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