Thursday, December 30, 2010

Côte d'Ivoire: Rwanda redux... redux

In 2005, I wrote an essay entitled Côte d'Ivoire: Rwanda Redux.

The country was then, as now, run by the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). The FPI was a long-time opposition party that gained power through the same public outrage against a rigged election that now threatens it. The FPI has cultivated a hypernationalistic and very xenophobic streak to preserve its grip on power, against the obvious will of the people, at all costs... to the point where they are willing to destroy the country to hold on to it.

In my 2005 essay, I described the similarities between the situation then in Cote d'Ivoire and pre-genocide Rwanda as such:

There are so many parallels between the two, it's scary. From the leader who considered making peace with rebels but was opposed by extremists in his own camp. To the despicable hate media campaign against 'foreigners.' To the involvement of French and UN troops. To the meticulously planned campaign against all 'enemies' of the regime... and thus enemies of the Republic... the rhetorical unification of the government of the day with the nation as a whole is a key part of any sinister propaganda campaign. Even to the Lady MacBeth wife of the president with her own Pretorian Guard entourage (Agathe Habyrimana in Rwanda and Simone Gbagbo in Côte d'Ivoire).

Laurent Gbagbo and his FPI have changed little since that essay was written, despite being declared loser of the recent presidential runoff by the Ivorian Independent National Electoral Commission among others.

There are serious warnings of genocide in the country by pro-Gbagbo forces.

The UN has accused the regime of blocking access to mass graves.

Ivorian observers have expressed concern about the proliferation of hate media, a key component of the Rwandan genocide. As someone who's read and listened to the Ivorian media for many years, these accusations are consistent with my own experiences, both past and present.

No doubt hearing reports of serious human rights abuses and the violent fanaticism of some Gbagbo supporters, thousands of Ivorians have fled to neighboring countries, with officials fearing that influx could be as high as 100,000.

Gbagbo has been called upon to give up the power he legitimately lost not only by westerners and the UN, but also by the African Union and the West African regional body ECOWAS. ECOWAS threatened to remove Gbagbo by force by has since backed off. The military option is unlikely without the support of Ghana, which has one of the region's strongest militaries.

And that's probably just as well for the moment. Threats of outside intervention only play into the hands of the hypernationalistic Gbagbo camp and may provoke a return to civil war should it actually take place. Pressure should continue to be heaped upon the losers to give up power before a bloodbath occurs; a Nigerian human rights group has offered some suggestions in that regard. However, ECOWAS should be ready to intervene if Gbagbo's forces get out of control. Already, the pro-Gbagbo Young Patriots thugs have threatened Ouattara and his aides.

Botswana's president Ian Khama rubbished the idea of a power-sharing agreement with Gbagbo remaining as president and Ouattara returning to his old job as prime minister until the next elections. And very rightly so. Power sharing agreements prevent solutions rather than addressing them.

Pres. Khama denounced the precedent that this would set, noting that "Elections there [in Kenya and Zimbabwe] were hijacked by the ruling party and if that is what is going to happen every time someone wants to dispute an election result and then stay in power by default through a mechanism of power-sharing, then it’s wrong."

Former president Gbagbo has two options. He could follow the example of Cellou Dalein Diallo in neighboring Guinea by accepting defeat with dignity and prevent his country from descending into hell. Or he might end up facing trial in the Hague, like Charles Taylor of neighboring Liberia. May he choose the path of a civilized human being.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Congratulations to President Alpha Conde and Guineans

Congratulations to former political prisoner Alpha Conde for becoming Guinea's first democratically elected president. Thanks also goes to Cellou Dalein Diallo who accepted defeat grudgingly but peacefully, unlike his fellow runner-up in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo who'd rather destroy the country (again) than to give up his throne. But most credit of all goes to the courageous Guinean people for responding to what was probably the country's worst tragedy by truly taking back their country from the murderers and thugs.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Periodic Twitter update

Note: This is a series highlighting selected stories from the Twitter feeds for my blogs Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian and Black Star Journal. The Twitter feed contains not only links to original pieces from my blogs but also links ("re-tweets") to diverse stories from other media outlets. 129 people presently get their updates this way. Those interested are encouraged to subscribe the Twitter feed to get all stories by going to and clicking 'follow'.

-Poll: [NYS] Voters Say No To Raises, Yes To Taxing Rich (The Journal News)

-EU to sanction Cote d'Ivoire (al-Jazeera)

-How Glenn Beck's Twisted Worldview Goads Disturbed People into Acts of Violence (AlterNet)

-Australian Media's Finest Defend Wikileaks [unlike craven American journalists] (The Wakely Foundation)

-TX GOP Official Opposes Jewish House Speaker: Christians ‘Are The People That Do The Best Jobs’ (Think Progress)

-Indoleaks launched [Indonesian answer to WikiLeaks] (Jakarta Globe)

-Rwandan genocide finds release in photos (NPR)

-Julian Assange, like Daniel Ellsberg and Joe Wilson, Feels the Heat (The Progressive)

-Howie Hawkins says the Green campaign continues (GPNYS)

-Phone Companies' $100 Billion Rip-off -- Where Is That Hidden $6 a Month Going in Our Phone Bills? (Alternet)

-Guinea's [President-elect Alpha] Conde plans truth commission on violence (Reuters)

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Gbagbo leads Ivory Coast toward another civil war after electoral coup

The situation in Guinea seems to be stabilizing. The country's Independent National Electoral Commission and Supreme Court declared Prof. Alpha Conde the country's next president. Runoff loser Cellou Dalein Diallo complained about the Court's decision but said he would accept it. Sadly, such statesmanship seems absent in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire.

The Ivorian electoral commission declared that former prime minister and longtime opposition leader Alasanne Ouattara had defeated incumbent Laurent Gbagbo by 54-46 percent in the recent presidential runoff election. This victory was concurred with by international observers. The top UN official in the country said he had "absolute confidence that there is only one winner - Mr Alassane Ouattara."

However, the Ivorian constitutional court invalidated the results in several regions where Ouattara had strong support and declared Gbagbo the winner with, surprise surprise, 51 percent.

The electoral coup was denounced by Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who was the rebel military leader during the civil war.

Apparently, Gbagbo is not content having presided over one civil war that destroyed his country; he now wants to provoke a second. Why did he bother holding an election if his hand-picked court was just going to declare him the winner regardless of what the Ivorian people wanted?

The results were invalidated because of alleged fraud. Of course, "fraud" only occurred in pro-Ouattara areas. And just enough to get Gbagbo to the 51 percent mark. How convenient!

Since the current regime is the one that organized the election, it's accusing ITSELF of not being able to run a competent, fair election? Isn't that be grounds for annulling the ENTIRE vote?

This is an outrageous electoral coup d'Etat. Even if there was alleged fraud in those areas, final results should have been delayed while the election was be re-run in that region. Instead, Gbagbo's judges have disenfranchised thousands of Ivorians... to say nothing of those Ouattara supporters murdered in Abidjan by Gbagbo fanatics.

If northern Ivorians are not permitted to vote for the president of their country, they are not full fledged Ivorian citizens, a sentiment which provoked the civil war in the first place. If they are not treated as Ivorians by Gbagbo and his judges, can you blame them if the try to secede again and form a country where they actually have the right to vote as well as other basic rights?

In an attempt to prevent his fellow citizens from knowing the truth about its electoral hold up, the Ivorian regime has blocked foreign news broadcasters.

Gbagbo will try to quickly legitimize his stolen victory by being sworn in today. However, not only has the UN, the US and other non-African countries backed Ouattara's win. But crucially, the West African regional group ECOWAS has also urged the his victory to be respected. It seems Gbagbo and his supporters are the only ones who don't respect the verdict of the Ivorian people.

The Ivorian army has backed his controversial 're-election.' Since Gbagbo will stay in office because of the army, rather than the people, it now seems more accurate to refer to him as a military-backed dictator than a president.

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