Saturday, January 8, 2011

western Hypocrisy in Ivory Coast

Dr. Gary K. Busch

The Western powers, egged on by France, are calling for a military intervention in the Ivory Coast to solve a political impasse over the race for the Presidency there. The racist and patronising overtones of this policy will not be missed in Asia and Africa. On the 19th of December there was an ‘election’ in Belarus. The President jailed four of the candidates before the vote and his troops were openly involved in the beatings and arrests of scores of opposition candidates, pro-democracy demonstrators and bystanders after the presidential elections. The European Union cannot even agree to apply sanctions against Belarus despite their observers testifying to the abuses and jailings. The U.S has done virtually nothing about this. It is business as usual. This arrogance in the West mirrors its attitude towards other African elections, which have been every bit as conflicted as that in the Ivory Coast, as African ‘Presidents-for-Life’ sought to avoid term limits imposed by their constitutions. It is a holdover of the general contempt expressed by the West for Africans and African institutions.

The West’s attitudes and posturing mask a self-imposed ignorance of the facts and a rejection of any truth which interferes with their preconceived prejudices. They praise and promote Allasane Ouattaara without recognising that he was the “Father of the Rebellion”, which plunged the democratic state of the Ivory Coast into chaos as mercenaries and dismissed soldiers took the French shilling to fight a civil war against Gbagbo and his elected government. He has continued to support the rebels since 2002 and was joined in his rebellious actions by Henri Bedie (Ouattara’s old enemy) in pushing for the rights of the rebels. In other any country of the world this type of activity would be condemned as treason and these traitors and their followers would have been strung up from the nearest tree.

When, in 2002, this band of mercenaries and dismissed soldiers faced the Ivoirian Army they were driven back to Bouake. They were on the path to surrender when the French demanded a 48-hour cessation of hostilities to evacuate the civilians. In that 48-hour interval the French dropped paratroopers into Bouake who stood beside the rebel soldiers so that the Ivoirian Army couldn’t extinguish the rebellion. For four days after that, Burkina Faso sent truckload after truckload of soldiers down to assist in Bouake and weapons and mercenaries arrived from Nimba County in Liberia to augment the rebel ranks. The French saved the rebels.

In all the accords which followed at Linas-Marcoussis, Accra, Pretoria and Ouagadougou there was one common element. The rebels were told to disarm. They refused and still refuse. They are sure their aggression gives them the right to decide who runs the country. There is an important principle in international law “Ex Injuria Jus Non Oritur” which states that a party cannot create legal rights for itself by virtue of an act of aggression or injury that it has committed. This was a topic hotly debated within the UN in relation to resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003 (on the question of Iraq). There are other legal questions which arise, especially the “Erga Omnes” dictum encapsulated in the Barcelona Traction Case of 1970, which outlaws acts of aggression and genocide and emphasises the obligations of the international community to protect the human rights of those aggressed against.

In short, the rebels have no rights under the Ivory Coast Constitution. They have acted to destroy the institutions of the State. As such, they do not have rights under Linas-Marcoussis, although they accrued obligations to work towards the restoration of order. As they had no rights under the Constitution or Linas-Marcoussis, they have no rights under Resolution 1633. They only have obligations; to disarm, return the territory they illegally occupy in the North to a unified Ivory Coast; and to end their rebellion against the state. Using the guidelines of Ex Injuria Jus Non Oritur, they should not pretend to have acquired rights as a result of their aggression.

Even worse, as a compromise made by the legitimate government of the Ivory Coast it was agreed to appoint a Prime Minister from outside the ruling party and to allocate Cabinet seats to various rebel groups. These thugs and tin pot warlords suddenly became Ministers. They demanded chauffeured cars and fat salaries. They did no work. They demanded jobs for their families in the Civil Service. They turned governance into a running comedy. They were protected in this by the ‘international community’ who forgot about disarmament.

When the pressures became too strong the Ivory Coast Government attempted to curtail the wildest excesses of the rebels. In retaliation, the French troops seized the airport; shot down the nation’s air force and attempted to march on the Presidential palace to capture Gbagbo. The citizens of Abidjan rallied at the Hotel Ivoire, empty-handed to try and present the French from attacking the Presidential palace. On November 6, 2004 the French’ Peacekeepers’ opened fire on unarmed Ivoirians from tanks and armoured cars. You can see for yourself in two videos on You Tube. and Sixty-four Africans were killed and 1.300 wounded. This was all planned as can be seen by the positioning of snipers in the upper rooms.

A colonel of the Ivorian gendarmerie affirmed that French forces on November 9 fired directly and without warning upon the crowd of protestors gathered in front of the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan. Colonel Georges Guiai Bi Poin, who was in charge of a contingent of Ivorian gendarmes dispatched to control the crowd and coordinate with the French troops, says that the order to fire came from the commander of the latter, colonel D’Estremon. Colonel Gaia Bi Poin is quoted saying: “French troops fired directly into the crowd. They opened fire on the orders of their chief Colonel D’Estremon. without warning.” “Not one of my men fired a shot,” he said. “There were no shots from the crowd. None of the demonstrators was armed — not even with sticks, or knives or rocks.”

The commentary from the ‘international community’ was muted and circumspect. Here, a Western country with a seat on the UN Security Council shot down another nation’s air force and slaughtered its citizens in cold blood and there was barely a ripple from Western commentators. Their next step was to demand that the Ivory Coast dissolve its National Assembly. This was a suggestion by Obasanjo of Nigeria. The UN agreed. The Ivoirians resisted and began to confront the UN ‘peacekeepers’. The UN relented.

The question to be asked is how, in the 21st century could such a policy of control be carried out. It was clear that the Ivoirian citizens did not agree to be dominated and murdered by the French and other peacekeepers. The answer is more disturbing and ominous. The rebellion was sustained in the Muslim north of the Ivory Coast by the installation of the UN of almost exclusively Muslim peacekeepers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Morocco and Jordan.

See (the deployment.pdf) and you will see that the Muslim rebels of the North are hosts to almost exclusively Muslim UN peacekeepers and these same peacekeepers are now in the South as well. The ostensible reason for the rebellion was that Muslims were not being considered equal citizens in the country. This is not a religious issue; it is cultural one as well as presenting a danger from the large groups of radicalised jihadists incorporated in these peacekeeping troops. Fundamentalism is not their only virtue. In addition to the eighteen French peacekeepers who were tried and convicted in French courts for rape, murder, theft, bank robbery and intimidation in the Ivory Coast there were scores of other UN peacekeepers indicted for similar crimes in the Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa. In 2003 UN peacekeepers were repatriated for abuse in Burundi; scores of UN troops were censured for sexual abuse in the Sudan; there were even more in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia; and there are similar accusations and trials which were underway in the Ivory Coast. The United Nations is not now, nor has it ever been a neutral presence in the countries in which it operates, nor have they proved themselves to be more than just another army living off the locals with impunity.

As the US former UN representative, John Bolton, queried during the last deployment of troops to Abidjan “Aren’t these peacekeepers the problem, not the solution?” Maybe it is time for the West to review their levels of ignorance and try to establish a rational policy on how to deal with rabble, traitors and mercenaries; not forgetting frustrated colonialists.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Servitude of the Colonial Pact

Professor Mamadou Koulibaly, Speaker of the Ivorian National Assembly and Professor of Economics, sheds light on the economic devastation caused to the African member states of the CFA (Communauté Financière d'Afrique - French Community of Africa) zone through their continued link to the French currency - the Franc - in the past and today to the euro. In this informative interview with New African's Ruth Tete and Soh Taadhieu, Professor Koulibaly does not mince his words as he calls for a total split and the creation of an independent currency free of colonial baggage.

Could you explain to our readers, what are the principle mechanisms of the CFA Franc Zone?

The CFA franc region represents a state-controlled zone of cooperation with, interestingly, the levers of control based in Paris, from where the priority is the interests of France. The satellite states that are members of this zone are dispersed in West and Central Africa. The operational logic driving the functioning of this zone brings to mind a similarity with the way the Eastern European states were linked during the Cold War to the former Soviet bloc through the Warsaw Pact.

The principals of monetary cooperation between France and the member states of the CFA zone were formulated in the 1960s in a colonial pact which was reviewed in the monetary cooperation convention of 23 November 1972 between the member states of the Banque des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale (BEAC) (Bank of Central African States) and the French Republic on one hand, as well as in the cooperation agreement of 4 December 1973 between the member states of the Union Monétaire Ouest-Africaine (UMOA) (or the Monetary Union of West African States) and the French Republic on the other hand.

Just before France conceded to African demands for independence in the 1960s, it carefully organized its former colonies in a system of compulsory solidarity which consisted of obliging the African states to put 65% of their foreign currency reserves into the French Treasury, based on the convertibility, at a rigid exchange rate of the CFA - a currency France had created for them.

Although the administration of the CFA currency was entrusted to a common central bank (comprising BCEAO and BEAC), these so-called African banks were only African in name. The reality is that they have no clout and are nothing more than huge bureaucratic institutions which have no monetary policies of their own. They exist to give the CFA countries the impression that they too are masters of their own monetary destiny, which in reality is not the case. The African CFA zone countries continue to this day, to perpetuate a system put in place by their former colonial master.

How would you describe the balance-sheet of the CFA countries since

their membership of this monetary union?

The CFA franc zone has engendered a long-running debate which continues to raise new arguments among economists. In a general sense, what we should not forget, as we go along, is the privileged relations between France and the CFA countries which have conferred on France huge advantages in terms of market outlets for its goods and services. For the CFA countries, their monetary balance sheet, when viewed beyond the figures and statistics occasionally issued via official reports, is one of a long history of perpetual secrecy by France whose sole concern is to preserve its interests.

For instance, the foreign reserves of the CFA African states are deposited in the French Treasury, but no African country is capable of telling you exactly how much of this hard-earned foreign reserves belong to them. Only France has privilege to that information. Yet, these funds which are deposited in the French Treasury in the so-called Operations Accounts are expected to generate interest whenever the amounts register a surplus in relation to the import financing needs of the African countries concerned. These Operations Accounts, according to the monetary cooperation agreements signed between France and the CFA zone countries, are supposedly expected to have unlimited overdrafts, contrary to all the basic rules of the French public accounting procedures.

However, the French authorities have carefully tried to conceal in the African central bank statutes, measures that are sometimes preventative, aimed at avoiding a situation whereby the Operations Accounts become indebted on a permanent basis. Critical matters concerning the operations of the CFA franc are kept top secret and only French Treasury officials are in a position to give the exact amount of money belonging to the CFA zone countries held in the Operations Accounts. Only these French officials can give the level of remuneration as well as the cost of maintaining these accounts. The whole system is shrouded in secrecy; it is opaque and authoritarian.

The CFA zone economies are very vulnerable. The effects caused by the operational mechanism of the CFA franc are asymmetric: The most wasteful countries in the zone are able to use the foreign reserves of other more economically prudent countries. The monetary solidarity of the CFA zone countries benefits the richest of them and encourages the exploitation of the poorest in the zone. The existence of a stable and unified monetary system has not led to the emergence of an efficient and major banking/financial system in the CFA countries. Of the 107 banks within the CFA countries, 42 were declared bankrupt in 1990. The banking networks which were constituted thereafter are strongly dependent on the banks in metropolitan France.

France encourages the CFA countries to live far beyond their means. What difference can you see between Gabon, a member state of the CFA zone whose foreign currency reserves are deposited in France, and Ghana which has its own currency and is not a member of the CFA zone? Or between Cameroon and Kenya? Benin and Tunisia? The balance-sheet that you asked about can be found in the answers to these comparisons.

The CFA zone has been in existence for more than 60 years. How do you explain this long period, despite the negative effects that it continues to produce in the CFA countries?

A: This long period, in my view, is due to the influence of France over the Francophone African countries, although those in favour of the CFA franc use the following arguments to justify their support: monetary guarantee which generates an influx of capital; austerity measures in monetary policy which limit the risks of inflation and maintain an equilibrium in the external balance and credibility of the CFA franc.

However, the CFA proponents pretend not to see the political and financial repression which successive French presidents have exercised over their African counterparts who have tried to leave the CFA zone system. We are witnesses to a number of repressive measures aimed at preventing the growth of any ideas of emancipation from the CFA: the recent crisis relating to uranium in Niger, gold in Mali, petrol in Chad, raw materials and the transfer of public utility shares in Côte d'Ivoire and the crises in Rwanda, DRCongo and Senegal, all to protect French interests.

When Senegal recently announced oil discoveries in Saint Louis, the country turned to Venezuela to help in its exploration instead of France. This was seen in Paris as betraying the cooperation agreements that tie all CFA countries and their resources exclusively to France. Added to this is the nature of the African elites and the political class who, during this long period, have continued to pretend that they don't have the necessary expertise to manage their own currency in a responsible and efficient manner just like Western experts and their Asian counterparts do.

Instead, they are content to see African states being reduced to the level of taxpayers for France (remember the 65% of hard currencies that the 14 CFA zone states are obliged to deposit yearly in the French Treasury!). Yet, our people neither have French nationality nor access to the public goods and services made available to other French taxpayers. All this has led to a situation that can only be described as voluntary servitude which has conditioned the population and other economic operators into believing that there is no chance for survival outside the Francophone system.

This is a pity because this belief is totally false. The world out there is vast and open; it only requires that one develops a keen desire to integrate into it freely and responsibly through trade and not through foreign aid which has the effect of conditioning the mind and transforming people into beggars. Everyday, globalization creates millions of opportunities which do not profit us because we are trapped in inefficient systems.

A meeting of finance ministers from the CFA zone was held in Paris on 14 October 2007. This meeting is traditionally held in prelude to the autumn meeting of the World Bank and IMF. You were at one point the minister of finance of Côte d'Ivoire, and in that capacity you perhaps participated in these meetings. Many Africans say nothing good ever comes out of these gatherings to benefit the African people. What is the case exactly?

No, I never participated in those meetings when I was the minister of finance. But most the CFA countries are practically weak and on a drip. They can therefore not bring their weight to bear on decisions taken during the finance ministers' meetings. It is, therefore, reasonable to wonder why they keep participating in such meetings in which they don't even have an effective voice. These countries are in effect saying they are irresponsible and convinced that France can do all for them and do better than the rest of the world. Our countries prefer to take things easy even if that means endangering employment, revenues, savings and private investments. We are, in fact, accomplices to the poverty trap in which we find ourselves.

Could you cite at least three major reasons which would justify why African states should break away from the CFA franc?

To begin with, the CFA franc is financially repressive, unfair, and morally indefensible. It has created a zone of state corruption. During elections in France the CFA zone countries are constantly solicited to provide private funding to French politicians, an obligation that has no justification whatsoever. This has always been a requirement from successive French presidents. The fact that the CFA countries provide their French counterparts with bags loaded with money at every election has been a source of numerous conflicts and provides room for other forms of corruption.

It's these connections that continue to perpetuate French monopoly in the CFA countries, despite the globalization of the market. Under the pretext of assisting poor countries with French tax-payers' money, it is in fact the political class of France and Africa who enrich themselves in an illicit manner and this alone is justification enough to break up and reject the CFA zone system. Economic and financial liberalization cannot happen when there is a fixed exchange rate, and an artificially maintained zone of economic influence. In fact, the emergence of tensions within the international monetary system and the financial crisis of this last few years incline one to think that the choice of the exchange regime is dependent on the type of commitments undertaken by monetary authorities.

And yet, the voluntary limitation of the CFA countries regarding monetary policy freedom has led to increased official worries about a possible devaluation of the CFA franc.

After the break with the CFA franc that you advocate, what monetary future do you propose for the African countries?

Given the stakes involved, the reforms that are called for must be in the financial and monetary spheres. A currency must resolutely be at the service of the economy. It must adapt to the prevailing contexts. To that effect, efforts must be made to enable countries to protect themselves against asymmetric shocks, improve macroeconomic convergence and adjustment as well as to be able to finance their development. t has become vital today for the CFA franc to acquire its own existence, free of colonial stranglehold. It is high time that the African countries assumed the consequences of freely pursuing macroeconomic policy without allowing France to direct it for them. There is no magic in that. It suffices that we make a decision to freely assume our own policies and to be responsible. Freedom only has meaning when it is accompanied by responsibility.

After the break, the ex-CFA zone must construct its own system based on simple principles. These include:

* establishing direct access to international markets without having to pass through a tutor (read France); and

* without a monetary guide (read France);

* establish a simple fiscal system and not complicated tax codes that are incomprehensible; have flexible exchange rates vis-à -vis major currencies.

In order to achieve this, the CFA countries have two options:

* Either they create independent national currencies with flexible parity as was the case with the European Union national currencies before the advent of the euro. This option can only prosper if the banks are free and private, and the central banks independent to put in place credible monetary policies.

* The second option is that African countries can get together and create a unique and common currency with a unique and common central bank for all, independent of politicians and a single economic policy (monetary and budgetary).

Whatever the option that may be adopted by the African countries, the states must be democratic and clearly spell out the ownership rights of their populations, and then allow the people the freedom to decide whether they wish to mortgage these rights. Everything starts with the rights of ownership accorded to the people, rights which would then free people from poverty. After that, free trade will do the rest.

In 2005, you published a book entitled, "Les Servitude du Pacte Colonial” (The Servitude of the Colonial Pact). Could you briefly explain what this book is about and in particular about the message it conveys?

The purpose of the book was to put at the disposal of the public the "colonial pact" which is the foundation on which the Franco-African Cooperation Agreements are built. It's a hereditary model organized by Gaullist France on the eve of the independence of Francophone African states, aimed at indirectly controlling the management of the Francophone countries. The book aims to expose the texts which are used to organize, French state interventions despite the theoretical end of colonialism in the 1960s. According to this Colonial Pact, when Francophone African presidents came to power, die were expected, to manage their countries as though on behalf of Paris.

Independence was thus nothing more than the transfer of the competence of the Elysée Palace (the seat of French presidential power) to the African presidents who owed allegiance to a master based in Paris, and not to their own people over whom they govern. Paris, dictated the policies that they must adopt. The book shows how the Defense Agreements are in reality commercial agreements protected by Paris which obliges Francophone African states to maintain French military bases on their soil, and these soldiers are ready to intervene in any Francophone African state to chase recalcitrant leaders and replace them with more docile ones.

In this book, you will discover that France has monopolistic ownership of all raw materials in the Francophone African countries, both in the soil and on land. After reading the Colonial Pact, the public would then understand how France organized self-serving measures to ensure that it retained all colonial prerogatives after giving independence to the African states. In reality, France may have physically withdrawn the colonial administration of the time, but through these Colonial Pacts, it continues to be omnipresent in Francophone Africa and still enjoys all the colonial advantages of yesteryear.

The true independence of the CFA zone countries has, in reality, been confiscated by Paris. A key lesson is that we must collectively denounce this Colonial Pact. Every African, whether Francophone or not, must be morally shocked. When President Sarkozy of France was in Dakar, he acknowledged that colonisation was a crime against humanity but he refused to repent for it. Africans must denounce all agreements and systems that distance Africa from economic markets. The Colonial Pact is a permanent betrayal of African ownership - it is full of diplomatic witchcraft.

Has the book achieved anything?

I suppose yes. I wanted to share my convictions with a large number of Africans and friends of Africa. That they may be in a better position to weigh the dangerous effects of the Colonial Pact, the state-controlled leadership and principally the administration of the economy as a source of poverty in our countries; In Africa we do not need alms, our problem is not the lack of money. My conviction is that we must first of all clearly state our ownership rights over our own land and the resources in our soil which were taken away by the colonialists when they conquered our countries, and still being taken away through the Colonial Pact.

Lastly, I wanted, via the book, to let the world accept that Africa urgently needed individual liberty, limited government, free markets, open society and peace which can only result from economic and political freedom.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Is peace a possibility for Cote D’Ivoire in 2011?

In Africa, peace, rebecca sargent's posts, violence on January 3, 2011 at 2:30 am
This past month or so has been a particularly stressful one for me. I have been living in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire for most of the past year and have watched as the country has been sinking deeper and deeper into violence and intense propaganda. Sadly, I’ve found I no longer believe a word I read in both local and international news, as I have read “news” that is in direct contrast to what I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears. The stories seem to be escalating the situation further and further, and I’m finding myself extremely frustrated that everything seems to be so one-sided (either pro-Ouattara or pro-Gbagbo). It hurts me to think I have posted articles and comments that are seen as even slightly defensive of Gbagbo in the international sphere in an effort to elicit some form of balance in the reporting, as I have been (and still am) heavily critical of him. It hurts to try and have discussions with locals within Abidjan in defense of Ouattara, to try and bring reason to fervent Gbagbo supporters. I hate playing the “other-side” game in response to one-sided arguments, but I think it’s important to try to play devil’s advocate with those die-hard supporters who only paint one side of the story. Frankly, I wish both presidents would move on and allow a fresh batch of politicians that aren’t tainted with past violence to step forward to take the country to a more peaceful future, but this is not reality.

I was last here in 2004, during the previous civil war and saw the violence as it spread and resulted in the intense hatred of all things foreign. It was sometimes scary and devastating to watch. I heard many horrific personal stories from friends of the violence they experienced at the time. Despite this, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to come back here. I love this country. I love the mostly kind and friendly people I have encountered here. I love the rich culture and delicious food. I love the countryside, the beaches and the thick, lush forest. I love the way of life here, barring the corruption that sometimes makes things difficult. It’s a beautiful country with a lot of really amazing treasures.

The November 28th presidential elections resulted in a political crisis, with two different entities announcing two different results. Both Presidents were sworn in, in separate ceremonies and the country has been awash with reports of violence and violent-rhetoric ever since. The crisis didn’t really begin here; it has been festering for many years but it is now looking likely to outbreak into civil war, political assassinations or exiles and further inter-group hatreds.

Though I have been writing detailed personal notes throughout this situation, I must admit that I have been fearful to publish anything on the situation in the past few weeks. After writing a critique of the nearly unanimous support for Ouattara (the opposition) demonstrated by the international community on this site and several posts on the subject in a few other forums, I received some rather scary death threats from one person and many comments that broke my non-violence, non-discrimination, non-racism policy. I decided to take a bit of a break from posting on the subject.

The results of the elections sadly, is no longer even really relevant to the discussion. Whoever “really” won did so in a circumstance of intimidation and irregularity that can be attributed to both parties, depending on where one is situated in the country (with Gbagbo-supporters being intimidated mostly in the north, and Ouattara supporters being intimidated mostly in the south). The events that have happened since have only worsened the possibility of the “truth” being told. Propaganda has run wild, with increasingly violent-rhetoric being spread among both state and opposition media. Any probing of results or investigation at this point will be lost behind propaganda I’m afraid.

There has been acts of violence and the country is at real threat of returning to civil war, which it never fully recovered from in the first place. At least 150 are confirmed dead, and probably somewhere closer to several hundred. Dozens (and perhaps many more) have disappeared, and hundreds are said to have been arrested. Many thousands have fled to neighbouring Liberia, escaping violence in the south perpetrated mostly by Gbagbo-supporters, alleged mercenaries and the security forces; and violence in the north perpetrated mostly by Ouattara supporters and the Forces Nouvelles. Further investigation is needed to assess the refugees and their experiences of violence.

Some 120,000 Liberian refugees reside within Cote D’Ivoire, thousands of Burkinabes, and other West Africa refugees; and there have been hints from some sources within the UNHCR that suggest that many of those flooding out of Cote D’Ivoire are these long-term refugees who have long worked the system. They are appearing heavily at the UNHCR border office rather than being evenly distributed throughout Liberia or other neighbouring countries (this is taken from both personal communications with officials and comments made to Chris Blattman from a UNHCR official). I do however believe, that even if these refugees “know how to work the system”, they are still experiencing violence, as foreigners are often scapegoated during domestic troubles.

Regardless of who these refugees are and where they came from, they must be assisted and resettled with caution. The increase of people into Liberia, itself prone to instability, leaves an already burdened population with more mouths to feed and endangers peace in that country as well. Armed groups have been cited crossing borders to intimidate refugee populations and take the conflict to new populations as they do. Instability in the region could easily pass borders if things in Cote D’Ivoire worsen.

Besides the refugees, there are many foreigners with money who have decided to return to their home countries by more planned means (via plane with actual luggage) as their embassies sent messages urging them to quit the country before more violence came. This has had some effect on the local economy, although it appears many major business owners will be staying and instead sending their wives and families back home.

Nearly half the population was already unemployed before the conflict began and the vast majority lives on little more than $1 a day. Those that work often support large numbers of people on their meager salaries. Many workers have been laid off since the crisis, and the prices of food staples has doubled. As the population becomes more food and job insecure, so the risk for conflict increases. Strikes called by Ouattara’s camp affected some of the services of the buses, gbakas (minbuses) and taxis for a few days, but as most of the population is living day to day, long-term or full out striking is extremely unlikely. Most can simply not afford to take the time off without severe repercussions to themselves and their families.

Rallies have been held and marches planned. Ouattara’s march on the RTI television station ended without real success and resulted in much-expected clashes between security forces and protesters. Despite the violence, Ouattara was calling on his supporters to continue the attempt the following day, again without success. He has since repeatedly warned Gbagbo of imminent consequences should he not back down immediately, though it is difficult to administer consequences when one is backed into hiding and the consequences have yet to be seen. The notorious Ble Goude (Gbagbo’s Youth Minister) has been busy rallying up Gbagbo supporters and spinning them into an angry frenzy, readying them for the moment he can unleash them to try to take the Golf Hotel (where the Ouattara camp is currently residing under UN and Force Nouvelles protection) by force. Two major marches planned by Ble Goude have been canceled the night before they were even begun, allegedly to prevent further violence (though they were called using the extreme violent-rhetoric Goude is famous for).

The local political humour paper Gbich has taken the opportunity openly mock both candidates and their behaviours, much to my enjoyment. However, in the serious papers (both state and opposition); violent, inciting rhetoric makes me skeptical of the veracity of anything printed inside and angered that more peaceful dialogue is not the popular option. Rumours of local media intimidation by Gbagbo forces haven’t stopped most opposition papers from writing, as they can still be found daily in many places around the city. I’ve personally been threatened by a pro-Ouattara supporter, so I know that the intimidation definitely goes both ways, but I can also say that I fear writing anything hyper-critical of either candidate should the situation deteriorate further.

On the streets, during the day time, things are pretty normal. The streets and markets are crowded with people again going about their daily business, though people are still cautiously stocking up on supplies and keeping an eye out for any signs of coming danger. The police in many parts of the city have even returned to using radar to ticket speeders. I’ve found no trouble or signs of blatant violence while traveling throughout the city in the past two weeks, except for roadblocks and neighbourhood patrols in a few districts at night. In fact, on New Years eve, I traveled throughout several districts (including both known pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo districts) and saw drunken partying, fireworks and dancing as if nothing was wrong. I couldn’t sleep that night as the music, cheering and fireworks of those partying around my apartment blared in through my windows.

I have detailed some of the local situation and the underlying tensions that exist in this post. I will discuss in further detail some of the proposed “solutions” to the crisis and the effects I see coming from those in the next post.
n Africa, peace, rebecca sargent's posts, violence on January 3, 2011 at 2:30 am

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Manufacturing a president in Cote d’Ivoire

Cote d’Ivoire is in a political impasse after the presidential elections that were supposed to reunite the country. What went wrong?

After the failed coup of 2002 and the ensuing military takeover of the northern part of Cote d’Ivoire by rebel forces, there was a round-table discussion in Linas-Marcoussis, France, during which 10 political groups agreed to create a coalition government and a total disarmament of all the rebel groups and militias.

This would be enacted under the supervision of the French and West African forces in preparation of a free and fair presidential election. A new independent electoral commission was created, composed of representatives of the political parties.

The independent electoral commission during these past elections was composed of a total of 461 members, out of which only 42, that is 9 percent, are pro-Laurent Gbagbo, who is Cote d’Ivoire’s incumbent leader. And 419, that is 91 percent, are pro-Alassane Ouattara and the opposition.

The president of the commission, Youssouf Bakayoko, is pro-Ouattara. To offset this imbalance, it was agreed upon that the commission function by consensus and that ballots should be counted both manually and electronically.

The country’s constitution stipulates that the electoral commission should announce the temporary results consensually agreed upon within 72 hours. The Constitutional Council is the only legal authority that will announce the final results, taking into account all irregularities and complaints. It is important to note that the government did disarm all militias in the southern zone under its control. The rebel forces in the north of Cote d’Ivoire did not disarm.

The current deadlock in Cote d’Ivoire stems from the massive fraud that the electronic tally-ups revealed from the votes in the areas of the country still under the control of the armed rebellion. The voting records submitted from these areas showed that there were more voters than were registered.

And, from the testimonies of African election observers, accredited by the Independent Electoral Commission, voters were intimated, pro-Gbagbo voters were physically attacked (including cases of murder), and ballots were being supervised, stuffed, and carried by rebel forces, contrary to election rules. The tally-up of the Bandama voting district under the control of the rebellion was a textbook showcase of vote rigging and a well-defined example of where the electoral commission was having problems finding a tally consensus.

The opposition candidate appeared to receive the following votes from this particular electoral map: Katiola (38,416); Bouake (42,070); Beoumi (19,058); Dabakala (34,398); Sakassou (15,656); that is, a would-be total of 149,598.

However, Sangare Moussa, the head of the Bandama voting district, reported a total of 244,471 votes, which means there were 94,873 surplus votes in favor of the opposition candidate Ouattara. When the ballots were closed, all observers and those of the two candidates asserted that the voter turnout was 70 percent. Hours later, the electoral commission put it to 81 percent, a jump of 11 points.

Then, out of 20,073 manual tally-ups of the votes submitted to electronic verification, 2,000 were rejected for over-stating the numbers of voters compared to the registered voters in the districts, and, altogether, the overestimated voters were more than 600,000.

Out of the 19 electoral maps, the votes from 15 of them were consolidated, but the commission was having problems consolidating the votes in the remaining four areas under the rebellion’s control, where voting irregularities were observed.

In addition to those tally irregularities, the spokesperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, acting without the consensus of (and in spite of the objections of) the Constitutional Council, unilaterally invalidated all the absentee votes from the 28 districts of France (nominally because of fighting among Ivorians in three voting areas in Paris) in both the initial election and the run-off election.

These votes, as well as the voting irregularities in the northern region of Cote d’Ivoire, where the African election observers had also documented beatings, killings, intimidation, and women being publicly stripped of their clothing, should have been submitted to the Constitutional Council for review.

Because of all these irregularities, and because the Electoral Commission could not constitutionally proclaim, within the constitutionally prescribed deadline period, the provisional results that were to be validated by the Constitutional Council, its mandate was terminated, leaving the Constitutional Council to handle these matters.

But, while that procedure was in progress, the president of the defunct Independent Electoral Commission was ushered to the headquarters of the opposition candidate at the Golf Hotel to illegally proclaim Ouattara the winner before the French state and foreign media and the U.N. representative.

The Constitutional Council stated that the defunct Independent Electoral Commission had no right to declare Ouattara the winner, as constitutional electoral procedures had not been followed.

It deemed illegal the U.N. representative’s ratification of would-be provisional results that were illegally proclaimed. The U.N. representative was to ratify the final results that the Constitutional Council would have certified.

The Constitutional Council then analyzed all irregularities and tallies, partially validated some of them and, after the adjustments were completed, proclaimed Gbagbo the winner. Cote d’Ivoire thus descended into a post-electoral nightmare.

Ekra Miezan, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. He can be reached at