Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Focus on: Cote d'Ivoire

Note: I'm going to try a new format, which may hopefully encourage me to post more often. Since press reviews take a long time to compile. Instead, I will try focusing on one country per entry.


PEACE ACCORD REAFFIRMED... WE PROMISE!
Under heavy pressure from a dozen African leaders and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the leaders of the rival factions in Cote d'Ivoire have agreed to a new timetable to put the country's faltering peace process back on track, with the aim of starting a disarmament programme on 15 October, reports the UN's IRIN news service.

The announcement is certainly not a bad thing, but I am not exactly jumping for joy just yet. IRIN noted that the agreement committed them to enacting all the political reforms demanded by the French-brokered Linas-Marcoussis peace agreement of January 2003 by the end of August of this year.

Basically, they promised to respect the agreement they signed last year. If they haven't respected it in the last year and a half, I'm not going to bet the farm that their word is suddenly going to become golden.

Jonathan, over at The Head Heeb, is rightly skeptical. In Cote d'Ivoire, as in other parts of the world, such agreements depend on a degree of trust and goodwill that often doesn't exist, and often fall apart when one or both sides delay fulfilling their commitments, attempt to add last-minute conditions or accuse each other of bad faith.

Though Jonathan adds something I take issue with. If anything, this tendency is even more pronounced in Cote d'Ivoire, where the government must answer to a powerful rejectionist opposition. The need for full-time international involvement in peace agreements is often greatest after they have been brokered, and if the UN turns its attention elsewhere now that the deal has been signed, I'm not hopeful that it will hold.

I'm not saying there isn't some truth to his assertion, but it obscures the troubling tendencies within the government and President Gbagbo's allies, including the so-called Young Patriots militias and the vicious press. Gbagbo's FPI party and its cohorts have eagerly adopted the xenophobic Ivoirité initiated by the former ruling PDCI they so long combatted.

If anything, the opposition's "rejectionism" is based on a well-founded fear of a Rwanda redux, the precursors to which are already quite evident.




THE LUCRATIVE CONFLICT
IRIN also passed along a report by the International Crisis Group on the war in Cote d'Ivoire. ICG concluded that The political impasse is exceptionally lucrative for almost everyone except ordinary citizens. Today's political actors have found that war serves as an excellent means of enrichment, and they may be ill-served by the restoration of peace and security.

The ICG also pleaded for the international community to investigate the criminal politico-economic networks that make impasses such an attractive option for the political class adding that The massive amounts of money skimmed from the world's biggest cocoa crop have always constituted a slush fund for the government, giving its leaders effective independence from the normal processes of raising and spending funds by state institutions.

Much of the rhetoric of division and ethno-nationalist hatred on both sides of the conflict is highly theatrical and a cover for illicit economic gain the ICG said. Until the financial motivation of maintaining the impasse is addressed, there is little hope that the situation in Cote d'Ivoire will change, or even that elections will take place in October 2005.


MASS GRAVE IN REBEL HELD NORTH
UN human rights experts have uncovered three mass graves packed with at least 99 bodies in the northern town of Korhogo where heavy clashes between rival rebel factions took place in June, the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire (ONUCI) said, according to IRIN.

The dead were killed during clashes between two factions of the main rebel New Forces

"The existence of these mass graves prove that UN peacekeepers must be deployed rapidly around the country, both in the north and the south, to ensure the protection of all people," said a rebel spokesman.

Last May, the government of President Laurent Gbagbo was severely criticised by a UN human rights investigation for its bloody repression of a banned opposition demonstration in the commercial capital Abidjan on March 25.

2 Comments:

At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I may have been a little unclear in my use of language. When I mentioned the "rejectionist opposition," I was referring precisely to the youth militias and paramilitaries. Gbagbo and his predecessors may have created them, but I don't really think they can be called "pro-government" any more; they have their own anti-Marcoussis agenda and regard their creator as a sellout (much as ultra-nationalist Israelis now regard Sharon).

Jonathan Edelstein

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger Brian said...

"I think I may have been a little unclear in my use of language. When I mentioned the "rejectionist opposition," I was referring precisely to the youth militias and paramilitaries. Gbagbo and his predecessors may have created them, but I don't really think they can be called "pro-government" any more; they have their own anti-Marcoussis agenda and regard their creator as a sellout (much as ultra-nationalist Israelis now regard Sharon)."

Jonathan,
Ok, I understand your point and agree with it. I agree that Gbagbo's control over the militias that are nominally pro-him is questionable at best. Another example of my oft-repeated contention/fear that the situation in Cote d'Ivoire is eerily similar to the situation in Rwanda in 1993.

 

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