Feature Article of Sunday, 9 January 2011
Columnist: Sidibe, Abbul-Rahman
There is a famous maxim that says “put your money where your mouth is.” The crisis
in Ivory Coast exposed some African leaders as hypocrites who are never principled
and would bet against their own words. It is clear from some of their pronouncements
in the aftermath of the Ivorian election and the ensuing crisis that some Africans
leaders are willing to accommodate Gbagbo. Some are even willing to provide him
cover by blaming France and West Countries for the crisis. Even though they know
that the Ivoirian problem is not an issue of colonial imperialism, but a determined
effort by a tyrant willing to defy the will of his people and of the international
Whiles western democracies are trying frantically to help Africa entrench democracy
and the rule of law in their respective countries; African leaders are busily
destroying it and reversing the continent back to the dark ages of coups, power
grabs and human right violations. In Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Gambia, tyrants were
allowed to stay in office after losing elections or staging a coup by creating a
diplomatic back channel for them to air their anti-democratic grievances. It seems
the same backroom diplomacy is playing out in the Ivory Coast crisis.
Even though the AU and ECOWAS had suspended Ivory Coast from the organizations
because of Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat and recognize the winner of the
election; Gbagbo appointees still sit in Ivoirian diplomatic missions across the
continent. Recently, the Ivorian Ambassador in South Africa (a Gbagbo appointee) was
seen in Zimbabwe trying to garner support for him ahead of the AU emergency meeting
in Bamako, Mali. In Ghana, the Ivorian mission was used to lobby the ruling NDC,
especially former President Rawlings, to convince the President of Ghana not to make
public statements in support of the internationally recognized winner of the Ivorian
elections. There are intelligence reports that the Ivorian Ambassador to Ghana held
several meetings with former President Rawlings.
Hence immediately ECOWAS issued a threat to use “legitimate force” in Ivory Coast,
Mr. Rawlings issued a counter statement against it. It is unclear whether Mr.
Rawlings has received any financial or material benefit from the Gbagbo regime. In a
meeting between Mr. Rawlings and the President, he insisted that Ghana do not
participate in the military operation. In a press conference at the Osu Castle on
Friday President Mills said Ghana will not send troops in a military operation in
Ivory Coast. The president added that “as a person, I do not think that this
military operation will bring peace to Cote d’Ivoire,” a 360 degree reversal from
the ECOWAS resolution to oust Gbagbo by force if necessary in Abuja, Nigeria just
Even if Prof. Mills disagreed with the resolution put before the emergency meeting
in Abuja to oust Gbagbo by force and had aired his reservation in private; isn’t it
appropriate for the President not to cast doubt on a meeting he attended and a
decision he personally endorsed? Shouldn’t the President’s public statement match
his signature at the Abuja emergency ECOWAS summit? Certainly, the Abuja summit was
just a formality. It was a public show meant to camouflage his true intent. This is
the most outrageous political miscalculation and flip-flop ever.
The Ghanaian president also argued that it is not the responsibility of Ghanaians to
choose leaders in Ivory Coast. As if Ghana has nothing at stake in the crisis in
Ivory Coast. This position is very wrong on two fronts. First, there are precedents
of ECOWAS, including Ghanaian, involvement in member countries leadership struggle.
In 1998, ECOWAS intervened and reinstated Ahmed Tejan kabbah, the democratically
elected President, in Sierra Leone. ECOWAS was involved in removing Charles Taylor,
now facing human rights charges at the International Criminal court.
Second, the crisis in Ivory Coast could have implications for Ghanaian democracy and
national security. It is important to note that the civil war that is engulfing West
Africa spread from Liberia, touched Sierra Leone, and now Ivory Coast. Apart from
the pressure that massive Ivorian refugees in to Ghana could impose on our limited
resources, there is also the problem of arms smuggling in to neighboring countries
including Ghana. Ghana has the longest boarder with Ivory Coast stretching three
regions. The more the amount arms in neighbouring countries; the more likely that it
could be smuggled in to Ghana. With the chieftaincy conflict in Northern Ghana, arms
smuggling will be the worse for Ghana from Ivory Coast. The President and his
advisers are wrong. Ghana has a vested interested in the Ivoirian crisis. The
Ghanaian leadership could either face this problem head-on or be caught off guard.
Ironically, the President was the victor in the narrowest opposition victory in
African history. Professor Mills won the 2008 election by less than a per cent. Is
he by implication arguing that it was wrong for the former NPP government to hand
over the Presidency to him? Is he saying that he would have been satisfied if the
High Court in Ghana had upheld the ex-parte motion filed by Nana Akuffo Addo to
prevent the EC from the declaring the 2008 election results? Or this is just a
matter of complete and outer lack of principles.
I am one of the most ardent supporters of both candidate Mills and now President
Mills, but on this issue I think the President is dead wrong. If care is not taken
his position on the Ivorian crisis would come back to haunt him. Historical lesson
are important. When the Liberian civil war was raging and ECOWAS was scrambling for
ways to contain that situation in the 1990s, another leader next door decided to be
aloof. That African leader was Nana Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Cote d’Ivoire. A
decade after his death, his beloved Cote d’Ivoire ignited because he failed to
assist in quenching a fire outbreak in a neighbouring home. The inferno had reached
his own, killing hundreds of his countrymen/women, sending thousands more in to
exile, and dividing his beloved Cote d’Ivoire into two. Something he would not like
had he been alive. I am sure former President Houphouet-Boigny would be turning in
his grave wondering where he went wrong.
Like Professor Mills, Houphouet-Boigny's had hopes for his country and it was read
during his funeral. They were peace, stability and prosperity for his people. That
peace and prosperity is now in shambles. A leader's hopes are not what matters;
rather it is his actions that are most important.
I hope history would prove me wrong.