From the Editor’s Keyboard

Laurent Gbagbo: The beginning of the end

By  | 29 December 2010 at 00:59 | 750 views

The West African country of Cote d’ivoire, whose capital, Abdijan, was once the Petit Paris of Africa, is agin heading to what looks like all out war as the former president, Laurent Gbagbo digs in and refuses to leave after losing an election.

Gbagbo was soundly defeated, according to the country’s electoral commission, by long time opposition leader Alassane Ouattara but he (Gbagbo), announced he was the winner through one of his political appointees the head of the constitutional council, whose verdict was not recognized by the international community including the United Nations.

Both Gbagbo and Ouattara have sworn in themselves as president, making Cote d’Ivoire a country with two presidents, one recognized by the international community (Ouattara) and the other (Gbagbo) by the Ivorian army.
Gbagbo has asked the United Nations peacekeeping force (ONUCI) and the French troops stationed in the country leave the country, a request both have refused to entertain.

In fact international pressure on Gbagbo is mounting every day with most governments of the world refusing to recognize him and his new government. Financial and economic sanctions have also been put in place as the world seems to be speaking with one voice against his tactics.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also met and a military invasion to remove him is being considered as a last resort. Gbabgo and his supporters are aware of this and one of his aides recently called on Gbabgbo supporters (mostly from the south of the country) to "prepare for war." This might sound foolish considering the fact that the Ivorian army(Gbagbo’s main backers) is deeply fragmented with some officers secretly supporting his rival Alassane Ouattara, who has strong support in the north of the country, the base of a very powerful and well organized rebel army.

Gbagbo therefore might be hoping for civil war between north and south, with him as chief warlord. Which will be a return to what had obtained in the country during most of his ten-year rule, before the recent elections that kicked him out. Only a quick, surgical and decisive military intervention would therefore resolve the Gbagbo issue. Any prolonged military intervention will only spell disaster for the country.

It remains to be seen whether the international community would follow Gbagbo’s screenplay or craft their own.