Ivory Coast Violence May Not End With Ouster of Gbagbo
By Staff News & Analysis - April 06, 2011

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, warns the conflict in Ivory Coast could spillover to Liberia and have a major destabilizing affect in all of West Africa. The refugee chief has just returned from a series of missions, including one to Liberia at the border with Ivory Coast. U.N. refugee chief, Antonio Guterres, calls Ivory Coast one of the most dramatic displacement crises in the world. As of now, the U.N. refugee agency has registered more than 120,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia and several thousand more in Ghana, Togo and Guinea. – Voice of America

Dominant Social Theme: This Laurent Gbagbo is an evil fellow. Make way for the real leader Alassane Ouattara.

Free-Market Analysis: Have the French done it again? French President Nicolas Sarkozy (left) has taken France in a new and more bellicose direction recently, and the results may not be positive either for France or the countries it has helped attack. In Libya, France has helped create a war that may not be resolved for months, at least, without a significant campaign that includes NATO "boots on the ground." In the Ivory Coast, the conflict France helped spawn may yet entail additional violence. Economic development may be set back. The Ivory Coast, only a few months ago one of Africa's most prosperous nations, may not recover for years.

On its surface, as reported, the Ivory Coast conflict seems a simple one. Alassane Ouattara and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo ran against one another in the Ivory Coast's first election in years (after a protracted Civil war) and when Ouattara won, Gbagbo refused to honor the results of the election and declined to step down. A new mini-civil war ensured that just in the past few days has apparently left Ouattara the military as well as political victor.

But wait. Is anything really so simple in the Internet era? Despite every effort at shaping the above narrative, there is plenty of information on the ‘Net that inconveniently provides us with another, distinctly non-mainstream story. It is one that is not only disconcerting but leads us to believe that the aftermath of the Ivory Coast disaster (that's really not too strong a word) may actually be the destabilization of a swath of Africa far larger than the tiny Ivory Coast.

So let us delve a bit deeper. It's not hard. Even the larger mainstream press in certain cases has felt it necessary in recent weeks to report a more nuanced view. A number of facts leap out at one after a bit of study. First of all, Ouattara is Muslim and represents the wedge of an Islamic incursion that has displaced the Ivory Coast's Christian community represented by Gbagbo. An election dispute turns out to be part of an ongoing religious and ethnic conflict that the French have exacerbated by coming down so firmly on Ouattara's side. (The Ivory Coast has the misfortune of being a former French colony.)

Then there is the election itself. Gbagbo's supporters had suspicions about double-voting and other irregularities in the north of the Ivory Coast, where Ouattara's support is located. Gbagbo challenged the votes, the Ivory Coast Supreme Court duly threw out certain votes and without the votes Gbagbo was declared the victor. It might have ended there, but UN observers declared that Gbagbo was corrupt, that the Supreme was packed, and that Ouattara was the victor after all.

Imagine, during the contested US election back in 2004, if UN observers had disallowed the American Supreme Court decision putting George Bush in office and given the presidency to Al Gore based on the popular vote he had garnered. The resultant furor would merely have deepened an already confusing and unfortunate situation. In the Ivory Coast, this scenario really did play out. Gbagbo was certified as president by the nation's highest court and the UN refused to acknowledge the results. The UN basically took the position that its judgment superseded the electoral and judicial processes of the Ivory Coast.

There is more (as there always is these days). Gbagbo is something of loose cannon in Africa. Unlike other leaders he has not been especially amenable to Western influence (or not so much) and has not participated in recently implemented Western-style, pan-African military structures. Ouattara can be seen within this context as far more pro-Western: He has held jobs at both the United Nations and the IMF. Of the two candidates, Ouattara not Gbagbo would seem to be West's man, as well as the head of Ivory Coast's Islamic community. This is not lost on Christian Ivorians.

In the past week, especially, French forces have been active in fighting between Ouattara and Gbagbo armed forces. We have reported on this trend previously, which seems to have been the result of the UN overthrow of the so-called Peace of Westphalia negotiated in the 1600s. The treaty ushered in the idea of the sovereign state and formed a new nexus of constitutional law for the Holy Roman Empire.

The Peace of Westphalia apparently came to an end in 2005 when the UN approved R2P, the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine. This mandate is based on the idea that states have a primary role to play in shielding their populations from genocide. If the state abdicates this role, the "international community" should provide additional resources from mediation to political structures. Finally, if the genocide still threatens, the larger community must use diplomatic and even military action to ensure that civilians are safe. You can see a recent article here: Pax Westphalia Dies, Middle East Writhes.

In reality, since an Anglo-America power elite generally runs the UN, and seeks global governance, R2P gives the Anglosphere enormous, worldwide powers. Any nation-state that does not obey the Anglosphere's dictates can now find itself on the wrong side of a massed international "coalition of the willing" led by NATO and fulfilling the strategic desires of the City of London, Washington DC and perhaps even Tel Aviv. Again, in the current era, none of this is unfortunately hypothetical anymore. R2P was used as the justification to attack Libya. And so far as the Ivory Coast goes, we find this in the Wall Street Journal:

Last week, the Security Council voted unanimously to beef up UNOCI's mandate, giving it authority to "use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, including to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population." That gave the green light for U.N. forces, acting with needed military capability of French troops, to take offensive action beginning Monday against Mr. Gbagbo's heavy weapons, including those deployed near the presidential palace.

Apparently, R2P was the justification under which the French made common cause with Ouattara to attack Gbagbo. Now Gbagbo's "regime" has dwindled to a couple of blocks around his "compound." Yesterday there was a spate of reports that Gbagbo was seeking to surrender and place himself under the protection of the UN. Today, however, there is this:

Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo has refused to handover the country's presidency to Alessane Ouattera, despite being surrounded by fighters loyal to his internationally-backed rival. Gbagbo remained defiant even as three of his top generals reportedly ordered their men to stop fighting Outtera's forces, who had seized the presidential palace in the commercial capital Abidjan. "I won the election and I'm not negotiating my departure," he told French TV station LCI by telephone from a bunker at his home. "I find it absolutely incredible that the entire world is playing this … game of poker." …

Earlier, UN officials told reporters that Gbagbo's surrender was "imminent" and France's foreign minister Alain Juppe said the international community was "on the brink of convincing him to leave". Juppe said that any negotiations with Gbagbo would require his recognition of Ouattera as president. US President Barack Obama urged the embattled incumbent to step down immediately and voiced strong support for French and UN military efforts faced with the violence.

This does not sound to us like the response of a tyrant so much as politician (albeit a stubborn one) who believes he won his election fairly. The UN and France issued a series of releases yesterday indicating that Gbagbo would go quietly (and soon end up in the dock at the Hague no doubt) but instead as of this writing anyway, he continues to maintain from the basement of his residence that he is the ruler of the Ivory Coast.

Ouaterra's forces (and presumably France) want Gbagbo alive to answer for his crimes. But again due to the violence, the situation may not merely end with Gbagbo's acquiescence (or death). In an article posted at Voice of America (of all places) we find this: "UN Refugee Chief Warns Ivory Coast Conflict Could Spillover to Liberia"

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres notes the conflict has displaced between 750,000 and one million people inside Ivory coast. In addition, he says, thousands of people are stranded in the country's commercial capital, Abidjan. This, as forces loyal to rival presidential contenders, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattera fight a ferocious battle to the end. He says he is very concerned Liberia's successful transition to democracy after years of conflict might be derailed by the civil war in neighboring Ivory Coast. And, he warns the situation could have wider implications.

"It is absolutely essential to support Liberia in order to avoid any kind of destabilization that the situation in Cote d'Ivoire might have over the very successful, until now, Liberian process of peace-building and democratic buildup," said Guterres. "But, there is a concern in relation to the possible spillover of the conflict. Let us hope this will not be the case and I hope also that the conflict ends quickly in order for this kind of effects to be contained because a prolongation of this conflict in Cote d'Ivoire could have a major destabilizing effect in the whole of West Africa."

Guterres says this problem feeds into another major concern. He says the political conflict in Ivory Coast has generated new ethnic tensions. This, he says, was highlighted in the battles that took place in the West before Outtara's forces moved into Abidjan. "You have all heard about the massacres in Duekoue can be triggering an inter-ethnic tension and that, of course will last beyond the conflict and this is a very important source of conflict," said Guterres.

It sounds as if the UN, having acted in haste may now be able to regret at leisure. The situation is complicated by a massacre of Gbabgo forces apparently conducted by Ouattara supporters. It will be easy to tell who is responsible: If the dead are Christians, the blame is Ouattara's. This may surely have an impact on the Hague trial that was doubtless planned for Gbabgo and may even complicate Ouattara's ascension, though no doubt the French will see to it anyway.

The peace of Westphalia may not have been an especially effective document but the UN's current mandate seems even less so. In blindingly short order, R2P has been used in Libya and the Ivory Coast to justify French and NATO military actions under the pretense of "civilian protection." It is truly a mandate for perpetual war. Anytime the West wishes to destabilize a regime it doesn't have to use covert ops anymore. It merely declares citizens are in danger and sends in the tanks.

After Thoughts

Ouatarra's ascension to the Ivory Coast presidency may not necessarily put an end to the underlying tensions that the recent election only exacerbated. Sometimes it is better to let individual countries resolve their own problems. Sometimes, perhaps, it is better even not to hold elections. Of course that would contravene one of the Anglo-American power elite's most sacred dominant social themes: That regulatory democracy is an ultimate good no matter how much blood is spilled during its implementation. In the Ivory Coast, anyway, it is now up to the future to justify the present.

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