Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sanctions slapped on Ivorian xenophobes but will it prevent genocide?

The situation in Côte d'Ivoire is something that one could describe, hopefully erroneously, as pre-genocide. The international community (UN, African Union, ECOWAS and France) seems baffled as to how to deal with the situation. And I am too. There are UN peacekeepers in the country but not content with merely attacking Ivorian Muslims and other 'impure breeds,' the xenophobic militias and mobs have made the UN a target as well.

Ever since a pompous ass masquerading as head of state named Henri Konan Bédié started using a term called Ivoirité in order to bolster his flagging credibility, the country has gone downhill. Ivoirité is a nationalistic, xenophobic, racist term used to denounce anyone whose 'Ivorianness' is not sufficiently pure. Genocide is the logical conclusion of this hideous mentality. Tragically, once a Pandora's Box like this is opened, it's darn near impossible to close. But trying Bédié for treason would be a start.

Another good step is the recent UN sanctions imposed on three militia leaders, including the infamous fanatic Charles Blé Goudé, a radical who's been stirring up trouble for 15 years. Goudé is a master of whipping up young, unemployed men into a hysteria against his demon of choice. In the past, it was the regime of the dictator Félix Houphouêt-Boigny. Now, it's against the French and the UN. Anything to keep him in the spotlight. I'm not sure how much good it will do as the three leaders reportedly do not travel much or have foreign assets, but it's a start.

I really don't know how the crisis can be resolved. Normally, I'd say the international community and African Union need to put pressure on the regime of President Laurent Gbagbo (with whom the xenophobic militias are nominally aligned) to reign in those militias and to push through legislation to end discrimination against northerners, which is the cause of the civil war.

However, Gbagbo is in a virtually impossible situation. Such actions are the only way the country can ever hope to truly re-unite. Northerners (the main target of Ivoirité) have been treated like second-class citizens for too long and aren't going to return to a situation where this is likely to continue. He also needs to crack down on the xenophobic militias who are acting in his name. Frankly, I don't think Gbagbo has the least bit of influence over the militias and I don't think he has the backbone to stand up to them. But even if Gbagbo does push through such changes and effectuate such a crackdown, he will be seen as a traitor by the fanatics and will be at serious risk for assassination. He only needs to look at what happened to Rwandan strongman Juvénal Habyrimana when he signed a power sharing peace agreement with his country's rebels: the xenophobes nominally in his camp killed him and started a genocide.

Rwanda's hate radio was instrumental in the execution of that country's genocide. Côte d'Ivoire's hate media is already active.

Are you afraid for the country's future? I know I sure am.

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