Sunday, December 19, 2004

He's no Abdoulaye Wade

Côte d'Ivoire's National Assembly has FINALLY passed legislation designed to ease tensions in the divided country, a move that should've been done long ago according to the details of the Marcoussis peace agreement. The new measures include a constitutional change allowing presidential candidates with only one Ivorian parent to contest elections.

Discrimination against northerners by the government, which stood accused of equating 'Muslim' with 'foreigner' via its xenophobic 'Ivoirité', was at the heart of northern resentment and ultimately the civil war which has split the country.

These constitutional changes are a welcome step, though a concerted campaign by the country's head of state, Laurent Gbagbo, to reign in his allies in the hate media are equally important to calming the situation in the country.

Though his recent threat to pull out of the CFA franc zone, French-speaking West Africa's currency union, shows Gbagbo's two faces: one moderate telling the international community what it wants to hear, the other belligerent telling the borderline fascist 'Young Patriot' militiamen types what they want to hear. He made his threat as a means of punishing his fellow heads of state allegedly fueling the rebellion in his country.

"Let me tell you, no Côte d'Ivoire, no UEMOA (West African Economic and monetary Union). Some heads of our sub-region think as [long-time Ivorian leader Félix] Houphouet Boigny is no more alive they will weaken Cote d'Ivoire to take the lead, but let me tell you even if a 15 year old boy takes over in Côte d'Ivoire, we will still be leading the West African sub-region" Gbagbo said.

Statesman-like? I think not.

Gbagbo's rule has been a huge letdown to those who thought he might bring welcome change to the country after nearly 40 years of one party rule (which imprisoned him several times) followed by a brief military regime. Those who thought he might be another Mandela, or even another Abdoulaye Wade, have been bitterly disappointed. Now, the best we can hope for is that Côte d'Ivoire doesn't become another Rwanda.

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