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Opinions of Sunday, 2 January 2011

Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei

Ghana’s Policy On The Ivorian Crisis

: Protecting Gbagbo With The Language Of Diplomacy (Part One)

By Samuel Adjei Sarfo

Ghana has made it clear that it is against the forcible removal of Laurent Gbagbo, citing concern s over her citizens’ safety in Ivory Coast and the possibility of military assault on her oil interest along her boarder with Ivory Coast. The government’s new position reflects the shifting stance of Ecowas strategy, which previously contemplated force to remove Gbagbo. It also goes against the grain of the calls of many international actors who see the use of force as the final solution to Gbagbo’s recalcitrance to cede power to Ouattara, the true winner of the October ….elections.

This essay gives a comprehensive background to the Ivorian crisis, examines the wisdom of the government’s policy and its implications, the popular views and fears expressed by the general population and the options available for a resolution of the Ivorian Impasse.
Background to the crisis
The Ivorian tragedy could only be recounted through a trilogy of political showmanship, sheer chicanery, and ethnocentric posturing. For now however, the first part of this article can only recap its introductory essence……..

The thirty-year rule of the nation’s founding father was characterized by economic boom and political stability. However, tensions remained within the body politic, fuelled by intolerance for dissent, lack of freedom for the press and suppression of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry. In the background rose a diminutive figure of some charisma and intellectual acumen. He stood up to challenge the establishment, calling for true democracy and fundamental human rights for the people of Ivory Coast. In the time of Houphouet Boigny, Laurent Gbagbo’s voice was regularly in the news, but it remained largely a mere nuisance to the firmly entrenched political establishment-some whining drone which occasionally led to the great leader’s irritation and Gbgabo’s eventual reprimand, imprisonment or exile. He had strong socialist ideation and portrayed himself as a champion of democracy and a man of the people.

Meanwhile Alassane Dramane Ouattara remained the Prime Minister and a favorite son and servant of Houphouet Boigny. He was largely tipped by pundits to succeed the founding father. Cracks occurred in the formidable political establishment after the death of Houphouet Boigny and through a combination of intrigue and palace scheming, Conan Bedie succeeded Houphouet Boigny as President in 1998. In the year 2000, during the presidential elections , much against international opinion and national wisdom, Conan Bedie provided the catalyst for the Ivorian conflict through a law quickly drafted by his government and approved in a referendum which required both parents of a presidential candidate to be born within Côte d'Ivoire. This excluded the northern presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara from the race. Ouattara represented the predominantly Muslim north, particularly the poor immigrant workers from Mali and Burkina Faso working on coffee and cocoa plantations.

Thus began the political and ethnic tensions within Ivory Coast. By a stroke of the legislative pen, majority of Ivorians, largely consisting of the people of the north, had their citizenship questioned, abridged or denied. This created a lot of anger among the affected people. In the face of all this, the military intervened through a coup detat in Ivory Coast for the first time, and General Guei took over as Head of State . He was in power for some time, after which he organized presidential elections. Surprisingly, the laws on the books remained unchanged and Alassane Ouatatra remained disqualified. His party boycotted the elections and only Laurent Gbagbo contested the elections with Guei. The results of the electoral commission showed a clear 56% win for Gbagbo and 36% for Guei, yet General Guei had the results overturned, declaring himself President. Laurent Gbagbo then unleashed the people’s power unto the streets, and hundreds of people died during that demonstration. Unable to sustain the heat, General Guei fled to France, and Gbagbo declared himself President.
But the main political actors called for fresh elections, arguing that Gbagbo’s election did not reflect the popular will, insofar as it was not procured through a level ground wherein all eligible candidates could contest. The opposition’s demand fell on deaf ears, and their demonstrations against Gbagbo were met with brute force. The result of the frustration was the rebellion that began in 2002. Rebel army sympathetic to Ouattara moved all the way from the north to Abidjan, and they were poised to take the presidential palace when the French army inter-positioned itself between the rebels and the presidential palace. The country was divided between the north, held by the rebel forces, and the south, held by Gbagbo’s government. Negotiation by the international community began and ended in a United Nations Security Council Resolution 1528 of February 27, 2004, which established UNOCI for an initial period of 12 months as from April 4, 2004. In accordance with the resolution, on that date ONUCI took over from the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire(MINUCI), a political mission set up by the Council in May 2003, and the forces of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Council authorized UNOCI to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment. The mandate of the mission was originally stipulated by resolution 1528 and subsequently further developed first by resolution 1609 (2005) of 24 June 2005 and most recently by Resolution 1739 (2007) of 10 January 2007. According to the latter resolution, the mandate of UNOCI, which was to be implemented in coordination with the French forces stationed in Cote d’Ivoire, shall inter alia be as follows:

• To observe and monitor the implementation of the joint declaration of the end of the war of April 6, 2005 and of the comprehensive ceasefire agreement of May 3, 2003, to prevent, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, any hostile action, and to investigate violations of the ceasefire,
• To provide all necessary technical assistance to the Prime Minister, his Government, the Independent Electoral Commission and other relevant agencies or institutes, with the support of the African Union, ECOWAS and other international partners, for the organization of open, free, fair and transparent elections, presidential and legislative, by 31 October 2007 at the latest, as referred to in Resolution 1721 (2006),

• To contribute, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, to the security of the areas where voting is to take place,

• To contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, with special attention to violence committed against children and women, to monitor and help investigate human rights violations with a view to ending impunity, and to keep the Security Council Committee established pursuant to paragraph 14 of Resolution 1572 (2004) (the Committee) regularly informed of developments in this regard,
• To monitor the Ivorian mass media, in particular with regard to any incidents of incitement by the media to hatred, intolerance and violence, and to keep the Committee regularly informed of the situation in this regard,

• To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in conjunction with the African Union, ECOWAS and other international organizations in restoring a civilian policing presence throughout Côte d’Ivoire, and to advise the Government of Côte d’Ivoire on the restructuring of the internal security services,

The Agreement was signed on March 4, 2007 by President Laurent Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro in Ouagadougou under the facilitation of the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso. It sets out a series of measures to deal with the political divide. It calls, among other steps, for creating a new transitional Government; organizing free and fair presidential elections; merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defense and security forces through the establishment of an integrated command centre; dismantling the militias, disarming ex-combatants and enrolling them in civil services programs; and replacing the so-called zone of confidence separating north and south with a green line to be monitored by UNOCI.]By the terms of the resolution, the Council requested UNOCI, within its existing resources, to support the Agreement’s full implementation.

Among other things, the Council decided to terminate the mandate of the High Representative for the Elections, deciding also that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire shall certify that all stages of the electoral process provide all the necessary guarantees for the holding of open, free, fair and transparent presidential and legislative elections in accordance with international standards. It requested that the Secretary-General take all necessary steps so that the Special Representative has at his disposal a support cell to fulfill his task.
This detailed mandate virtually made the United Nations a partner and a huge investor in the Ivorian political context, endowing it as an impartial referee in the socio-economic fortunes of the Ivorian process from beginning to the end. The UN was to provide logistics for elections and to support social integration and equilibrium within the Ivorian society. The parties to the conflict duly signed on to this project, and bound themselves to the outcomes as certified by the UN and other international actors. Thus the United Nations had a vested interest in Ivory Coast to the point where no one signatory to the Ouagadougou accord can decide to expel the world body. That is why the call by Gbagbo for the expulsion of the United Nations forces and personnel is irrelevant to the Organization’s mandate in Ivory Coast.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo lives in Houston Texas. You can email him at sarfoadjei@yahoo.com