Monday, December 27, 2004

Optimism squelched again in Côte d'Ivoire

There was much optimism in some quarters last week when Côte d'Ivoire's parliament finally approved long overdue revisions to the country's constitution. Those changes were part of the Marcoussis peace agreement which was supposed to end the country's civil war. The rebels started the war to protest discrimination and harassment of northerners (the region is mostly Muslim and has large numbers of laborers from neigboring countries) by the southern political elite (who are mostly Christian). The change was supposed to precede rebel disarmament.

The most notable change was to qualifications for the presidency. Future candidates would only need to have one parent born in Côte d'Ivoire, rather than the present requirement of both parents. (The present requirement is all the more absurd since any presidential candidate's parents would have been born in French West Africa). The change would pave the way for the candidacy of northern opposition leader Alasanne Ouatarra, who was trusted enough to be the country's first ever prime minister but who was excluded by present nationality rules.

However, there has been so much backsliding and duplicity by Côte d'Ivoire's politicians that optimism should only be granted cautiously: 'trust but verify,' to quote Ronald Reagan.

Accordingly, the country's head of state Laurent Gbagbo has crushed any optimism in its tracks by demanding a referendum on the changes. The UN's IRIN service reports: But holding a free and fair referendum in the divided West African country before then may well prove difficult and opposition leaders suspect that Gbagbo may try to manipulate such a vote to reject the amendment approved by parliament.

Whether Gbagbo has the will, or even the ability, to persuade his nominal followers, the fanatic and xenophobic 'Young Patriot' militias, is highly questionable.


At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for fantastic blog
happy new year

peace & love


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