Dec 22


CAMERON DUODU WRITES: The clock is moving inexorably towards military intervention. ECOWAS President Victor Gbeho said after the organisation’s summit in Abuja that it was sending a delegation to make one final plea to Gbagbo to step down with dignity. Or else — military chiefs of the organisation will be summoned to meet to plan to use “legitimate force” to get Gbagbo out


I was interviewed on Aljazeera News (English) at 1500 GMT on 24 December before the ECOWAS communique. I pointed out that the organisation’s credibility was at stake. It claimed to be in favour of representative government and yet in Togo, for instance, it settled for the usual “power-sharing” between the the election-rigger
and his challengers. When is Africa going to be mature enough to accept that in elections, people win and people lose? Elections cost a lot of lives in Kenya, and also in Zimbabwe — where will it end? An effort must be made to stop the post-election carnages.

There is talk already of about 200 killed in the Ivory Coast. A mass grave is said to have been discovered. And all because a learned history lecturer, a member of the Socialist International, Laurent Gbagbo, cannot accept the elementary principle that when you lose an election, you vacate your office! It is barbaric rather than pathetic. How would this man be able to run even a mere university faculty in a fair manner?


What can the international forces in Côte d’Ivoire do?

LEMONDE.FR | 20.12.10 | • Updated 21.12.10 |

iThe Security Council of the United Nations decided Monday, December 20, to extend for six months the mandate of the force keeping the peace in Côte d’Ivoire, which expires Dec. 31. About 10,000 peacekeepers, police and civilian UN operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) are present on Ivorian soil and have had to respond in recent days to defend their mandate, which includes protecting civilians . By adding the 900 soldiers of the French Licorne force, the international community is, on paper, largely able to enforce its decisions in the area


Yet so far, those it is the loyalist forces who control the streets of Abidjan, and the outgoing president, Laurent Gbagbo , has demanded the departure of foreign troops.
But what the head of the UN operation will do is not hide. On Monday, December 20, he compiled a long list of harassment suffered by his forces at riadblocks “on the road giving access to the Hotel Golf” , HQ camp Alassane Ouattara. The UN force was , attacked by a patrol on the night of Friday to Saturday, while “armed youths were sent to the homes of UN personnel to knock on their door and ask when they would leave, or entered to to conduct searches under the pretext of searching for weapons.

Since the proclamation of the disputed victory of Laurent Gbagbo by the Constitutional Council, it is the Defence Forces and security, the armed wing of Gbagbo’s camp, and the militia controlled by supporters of the outgoing president who control the capital. The UN forces have simply ensured the protection of Alassane Ouattara, the winner of the election recognized by the entire international community.

Worse, more than 50 people were killed over the weekend without the peacekeepers being able to stop it. Death squads, paramilitary groups in the service of Laurent Gbagbo, abduct and kill civilians with impunity in the bastions of Alassane Ouattara. All this while under its mandate, UNOCI, present since 2004, is supposed to protect civilians and guarantee the cease-fire.

The chief of UN forces in Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-jin , December 3. AFP / SEYLLOU

“The problem is that UNOCI peacekeepers are not very experienced” , says Christian Bouquet , geographer and former adviser in charge of cooperation with the Embassy of France in Cote d’Ivoire. “Anyway It is difficult to control a city of several million such as Abidjan, with 10,000 men ” , says Rinaldo Depagne Specialist Côte d’Ivoire to the International Crisis Group.

If French forces are better equipped and more experienced, an intervention could strengthen their hand in Gbagbo’s anti-French rhetoric. The Licorne is also subject to the mandate of the UN and Paris so far excludes any military intervention. “It is the international force to act” if necessary, said Sunday the Foreign Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie . “It is not the French soldiers to intervene and they will not do so” , she insisted, confining the use of force only to self-defence.

In these circumstances, an operation of UNOCI to force the hand of Laurent Gbagbo and install Alassane Ouattara seems unlikely. “Unless the situation there evolves according to a scenario in Rwanda , however,” is the opinion advanced by Christian Bouquet. Could you imagine the International community watching again as killings took place, without reacting?


To circumvent the anti-UN and anti-French rhetoric of Laurent Gbagbo, the hypothesis of an involvement of neighboring countries is more likely. “To avoid any outbreak and remove a nationalist argument to Laurent Gbagbo, only an intervention under the auspices Economic Community of African States Western [ECOWAS] is possible , believes Antoine Glaser , a former editor of the journal La Lettre du Continent . But Nigeria, which currently chairs ECOWAS, has just enough of an army strong to intervene. ”

Facing them, foreign soldiers have, anyway, to cope with an army that remains united despite intense international pressure in recent days. Laurent Gbagbo can count on the loyalty of his generals – “from the same ethno-regional levels” , said Christian Bouquet – and can draw on the funds raised through trade in cocoa and oil during his decade in power, to continue paying the salaries of soldiers.

It is something that will take several weeks , believes Antoine Glaser, and even though Nigeria has a strong army, it should not be overestimated: Abuja can not even pacify the Niger Delta. ”

Furthermore, previous operations of the ECOWAS in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been criticized, with the Nigerians being accused of using its military to assert its own interests. “But the fact remains that the international community seems to rest its hopes on Goodluck Jonathan , the president pf Nigeria ” , says Christian Bouquet.

In a letter sent Friday to Laurent Gbagbo, the Nigerian President asked him to move “immediately” to hand power to Alassane Ouattara.

Jean-Baptiste Chastand


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