Monday, January 03, 2005

Blame thy neighbor

The Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo has called for international sanctions on neighboring countries he claims are implicated in his nation's civil war. This was in response to a leaked United Nations report which blamed government forces and rebels and speaks of mass executions, torture, rape and death squads.

Mr Gbagbo called for the UN to name the countries involved
, according to the BBC but, not shockingly, says abuses committed by his forces should not be compared with those committed by the rebels.

Gbagbo has been critical of neighbors Mali and particularly Burkina Faso, for alleged support of Ivorian rebels; not surprising since Malian and Burkinabe residents of Côte d'Ivoire are the primary targets of xenophobic violence advocated by many of Gbagbo's supporters. Though other African countries, such as Guinea and Angola, are widely suspected of supporting the government forces.

No word on if the target of Gbagbo's call for sanctions on foreign meddlers includes his allies.

Given Burkina Faso's role in destabilizing other West African countries, most notably Liberia and Sierra Leone, Gbagbo's claim probably has some basis in truth. But it reminds me of the French saying 'L'arbre qui cache la forêt': the forest that hides the trees. It could well be one of those things with just enough credibility to be a small truth that is used to hide a greater truth. Namely, the Pandora's Box of Ivoirité (nationalist xenophobia) opened by former strongman Henri Konan Bédié and seized on to by Gbagbo has destroyed the country.

"On both sides of the conflict women were used to assuage the bestial appetites of the combatants, some of whom were under the influence of drugs," according to the UN report as quoted by the French daily Libération.

Tragically, sexual violence perpetrated by drugged up wanna-be Rambos (some of whom you wouldn't think are even old enough for physical act of sex) is an increasingly common horror of 'modern' wars.

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