Feature Article of Saturday, 6 October 2012

Columnist: Mienza, Ebby

Côte d’Ivoire: President Mahama’s Dilemma.

In his book, My First Coup d’état: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa, President Mahama reveals how he helped his father escape Rawlings’ December 31st 1981 coup d’état to Côte d’Ivoire. During the exile, his father stayed with his Ivorian cousins in northern Côte d’Ivoire. This revelation presents two fundamental political dilemmas for President Mahama: primarily, how he joggles the case of Ivorian refugees in Ghana (especially the looming issue of Mr. Justin Kone Katinan) and how to tone down the euphoria among many Ivorians who perceive him as the “northern brother” of Côte d’Ivoire’s President Alhassan Ouattara.

Unlike the majority of Ghanaians, many Ivorians analyze politics and many issues through their different shades of tribal lenses. Scores of Ivorians, especially the northerners, and current members of President Ouatarra’s government perceived the passing of President Mills and the swearing in of President Mahama as a crucial window of opportunity for hunting down the ex-Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters and ministers who fled to Ghana. At long last, a new Ghanaian President with the same middle name “Dramani or Dramane” as President Ouattara and also has relatives in northern Côte d’Ivoire where President Ouatarra and most of his supporters come from would facilitate the deportation of Gbagbo’s supporters and ministers who are seeking refuge in Ghana to face trial in Côte d’Ivoire. Their hopes soared further when President Mahama declared in Côte d’Ivoire that, “Ghana will not allow her territory to be used as a platform to launch attacks on Côte d’Ivoire” during his famous “thank you” tours.
Unfortunately, what our brothers and sisters in Côte d’Ivoire do not comprehend is that President Mahama is operating in a completely different political arena from President Ouattara. In fact, the Ivorian meaning of democracy and the rule of law differ vastly from that of Ghana. With a recent civil war and an ongoing post election violence, which continues to add to the death toll fresh on his mind, a traumatized and nervous President Ouattara still sees members of Gbagbo not as political opponents, but as enemies of war. He recently banned several opposition news media without any court order and jailed political opponents apparently through dubious proceedings. These are actions President Mahama simply can’t do in Ghana! In spite of what they have in common, both Presidents have been shaped by different environmental experiences.

The toughest decision for President Mahama to make is whether or not to deport these Ivorians, especially Mr. Katinan. Morally and ethically, he is probably wrestling with his conscience knowing very well that Chairman Rawlings would have executed (without any trial) the senior Mahama had the late President Houphouet Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire deported him to Ghana when he fled to the Ivory Coast in 1981.
At a crucial time when he needs to focus on his election campaign, he is instead confronted with this crisis! It’s an awful time for President Mahama who was sworn in barely a couple of months ago and still mourning the death of his predecessor. Nevertheless, if not well handled, the fallout from the Ivorian crisis could have adverse domestic and international ramifications for him and the nation.

Ebby Mienza