Post Primer: The men vying to lead the Ivory Coast
Elspeth Lodge March 8, 2011 – 2:10 pm
Laurent Gbagbo is hanging on to power in the Ivory Coast, despite losing to Alassane Ouattara in a November presidential election. The result has been violent, region-destabilizing clashes between the two men’s supporters.
On Saturday, it was reported by U.N. officials that peacekeepers in the Ivory Coast will be reinforced with 2,000 soldiers, and that they have received two combat helicopters. Choi Young-Jin, a U.N. representative in Abidjan, told the Liberation newspaper that staying in control of the skies through airpower is crucial to ensuring that the situation doesn’t degenerate further. “Since February 19, incidents have gotten more serious,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to stop someone who wants to massacre civilians from making it happen.”
When asked if a political outcome to the crisis was possible Young-Jin was pessimistic and said: “Since the beginning we’ve noted deep differences between the two parties. It will be very difficult to find common ground between the two rivals.”
After the jump, a primer on the two men at the heart of the conflict.
Laurent Gbagbo is a member and founder of the Ivoirian Popular Front. He did not have a peaceful first term in office: in 2002 there was a failed coup against him and rebels seized the north of a country. A civil war broke out in 2004 and nine french soldiers were killed in an air strike against rebels; France destroyed the country’s air force and Gbagbo’s forces attacked French expatriates in the area. Mr. Gbagbo has built his image around his opposition to colonialism and France’s “paternalistic” relations with former colonies, reports France 24.
In power since the year 2000, Mr. Gbagbo hangs onto his presidential position by a string, through “perpetual maneuvering” and “election postponements” reports the New York Times.
In November of 2010, Mr. Gbagbo lost a presidential election and has since refused to relinquish power.
Officials have shut off his access to the country’s accounts at the regional central bank in mid-January.
According to compiled current sources from the Encyclopedia Britannica, Mr. Gbagbo has managed to “circumvent” financial pressure for a while: “despite the BCEAO decision, he was able to withdraw funds for a short period of time,” the sources say. “Before the decision was enforced, he then seized the bank’s branches. When commercial banks in the country began announcing in February 2011 that they would need to suspend operations, Gbagbo responded by declaring his intent to nationalize the banks and keep them operational.”
Alassane Ouattara is a member of the Rally of the Republicans, who function on an ideology of democratic liberalism; politically, the group rests at the centre.
According to governments around Africa and the world, The United Nations and the African Union, Mr. Ouattara is the rightful President-elect of the Ivory Coast since November of 2010.
According to the New York Times, Mr. Ouattara “… remains blockaded in a hotel by Mr. Gbagbo’s security forces, even as new sanctions and financial pressures are enforced by officials,” even though a panel of African presidents recently called for the forces to back off.
The 68 year-old is a former prime minister, banker and top International Monetary Fund official. Mr. Ouattara received more than 54% of the vote in the November presidential election compared to Mr. Gbabo’s 45%.
He is noted by the people as the most capable of relating to the West, though some in the nation view him as their pawn.
Mr. Ouattara was born in Dimbokro, Côte d’Ivoire, on January 1, 1942, and holds a Ph. D. in economics (1972) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Issouf Sanogo / AFP / Getty Images
Residents gather on the street where security forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least six women, on March 3, 2011 in Abobo, a working class neighborhood of Abidjan.
Elspeth Lodge March 4, 2011 – 1:52 pm
Conflict in the Ivory Coast has put the nation on the cusp of a civil war. Below, what it’s all about, and the actions being taken to remedy the situation.
What’s the country’s current situation?
The Ivory Coast is on the brink of civil war due to conflict between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo and the man internationally held to have defeated him in November’s second round presidential election, Alassane Outtara.
What’s being planned to dissolve the conflict?
The African Union tasked a panel of five African presidents in January to come up with a solution, accepted by both camps, by the end of February. The panel met in February to consider solutions, but near the end of the month the deadline was pushed to the end of March. Now, the panel find themselves returning to mediate the raging political crisis on Friday. “The five (presidents) will meet for two hours in Nouakchott before taking their flight to Abidjan,” said a Mauritanian diplomatic source.
OK. So who’s on the panel?
It’s headed by Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and includes Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, South African President Jacob Zuma, Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso.
What’s behind the recent escalation in the conflict?
Animosity erupted Thursday when UN peacekeeping chief, Alain Le Roy, told the UN security council that pro-Gbagbo forces opened fire with machine guns on a group of women demonstrators, killing at least six, in the northern Abobo neighborhood of Abidjan, a staunchly pro-Ouattara area. The Security Council urged the UN mission on the coast, ONUCI, including 11,000 troops. “to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, in particular to protect civilians.”
What effect is the violence having on aid agencies?
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced on Friday that due to erupting violence they have halted their mission to build a camp for displaced people on the western Ivory Coast and suspended activities there. UNHCR spokeswoman, Melissa Flemming, said approximately 70,000 people have been displaced in the west due to heavy clashes around the towns of Duekoue and Blolequin. She told journalists in Geneva “We’re not operating there anymore, unfortunately, due to the fighting and insecurity.”
Aid agencies have been forced by violence in he area of Abidjan to cut-back in delivering their services to approximately 200,000 displaced people.
“We do still have our staff in Abidjan, but we see roadblock outside our office. It is now very difficult for us to move around and reach the people in need, we’re having to rely more and more on local NGOs,” said Ms. Flemming.
Elspeth Lodge February 14, 2011 – 5:30 pm
South African tradition dictates a groom give his fiance’s family symbolic payment for her hand in marriage. This payment is called the bride’s labola, and traditionally, the payment comes in cows.
A South African discount airline, Kulula, is offering to pay Kate Middleton a labola. If the Middleton family accepts, the corporation will deliver cows to Buckingham Palace, reports Times Live. There is one catch— fans will decide via Facebook how many cows the royal bride is worth.
Reuters / Michael Dunlea / Pool
Britain’s Prince William smiles as he walks with his girlfriend Kate Middleton at RAF Cranwell, central England on April 11, 2008
“The tradition is designed to bring the families of the couple together, encourage mutual respect, and ensure that the man is capable of supporting his wife financially and emotionally,” said a Kulula spokesperson on their Facebook page.
“Wills might have forgotten to do the right thing. So, in the spirit of über-ubuntu, we’re paying Kate’s labola. You are going to have to play the canny negotiator and help us to work out how many cows he should present to Kate’s family. Be calm and fair, think carefully and weigh up all the various attributes of the bride in your head. Then cast your vote and do your country (and Wills) proud.”
The average February vote is that Ms. Middleton is worth 30 fine cows and voting will continue till the day before the wedding.
The airline serves various destinations in sub-Saharan Africa and every flight booked from February 14 until the day before the wedding will go towards paying for the labola.
According to Times Live, the airline will source the cows in the U.K. so the animals won’t have to suffer through sea transport.
Elspeth Lodge March 9, 2011 – 3:28 pm
Wednesday Cabinet meets for the first time
Conflict raged on in Egypt’s Tahrir Square Wednesday as the newly appointed cabinet met.
During the meeting, authorities decided to redeploy the police force on Thursday. The state news agency reported that among topics discussed were “sectarian strife” and its impact on the nation and economy.
In the wake of recent conflict between Coptic Christians and Muslim groups, the military has sent out a message of unity to the Egyptian people. They warn against chaos “which threatens national security, especially with the existence of foreign forces targeting the country’s stability and security.”
The revolutionary groups which rose up against Mubarak have demanded a major shakeup of the security forces, including the dissolution of an internal security agency with a reputation for human rights abuses and spying on citizens.The military council has scheduled a referendum on constitutional reform for March 19. The amendments will open the way to elections for the presidency and parliament, after which the military says it will hand power to a civilian government.
The Wednesday scene in Tahrir Square
Tahrir Square is homebase to hundreds of pro-democracy activists, but the area is still extremely insecure, as evidenced by violence that erupted Wednesday between pro- and- anti- Mubarak forces.
“Hundreds of men carrying knives and swords entered Tahrir,” state television reported, as footage showed rocks being thrown and hundreds of activists scattering and diving for cover.
“A couple of hours ago the pro-Mubarak thugs attacked us and tried to come into Tahrir, but we were able to push them back, with sticks and stones. We fear they will return,” a young militant, Mouez Mohammed, told AFP.
The only signs of security in the area Wednesday, according to reports from AFP, were two army tanks protecting the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities at the north end of the square; police disappeared from the streets during last months protests.
Activists continue to camp in the square, the heart of last months protests and strive to maintain pressure on the military regime that replaced Mubarak.
Violence ignited Tuesday between Coptic Christians and Muslims.
The Health Ministry said 13 people were killed and 140 wounded in a conflict that erupted between Christians and Muslims in Cairo on Tuesday. It is still unclear how many Christians versus Muslims died in the uprising, but over one hundred people were injured.
“The clashes erupted after Christian protesters blocked a major highway to protest the burning of a church on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital last week,” reports Radio Free Europe. “That burning was sparked by a row over a love affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.”
Angry Muslims came together to battle the Christians blocking the road and both sides attacked each other with weapons: guns, clubs and knives to name a few. Hundreds of people took part in the violence that ensued, throwing petrol bombs and rocks, witnesses told Reuters.
“The system now does not have the strength or the authority or even the military power to separate Muslims and Christians, if, God forbid, there are further implications,” political analyst Diaa Rashwan said. “The system does not even have the power to ease traffic,” he added.
To try and release tensions between the two groups, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council, has said the military would rebuild the church before Easter, reports Reuters.
The Coptic Church, which represents the minority Christian population (around 10%), issued no comment on the violence and a church official declined to speak about it. In the past, the church has urged calm after such violence.
With files from Reuters and AFP