Sunday, December 26, 2010

Q&A: The Struggle for the Ivory Coast


 What is going on in the Ivory Coast? The second presidential elections were held on 28th November, 2010 and the Constitutional Council which supports the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo declared him elected with 51.45% votes, while the Election Commission declared his rival Hassan Ouattara to be winner with 54.10% votes. The United States, the United Nations and the UN Security Council have meanwhile acknowledged the results declared by the Election Commission and Hassan Ouattara as the winner. President Laurent Gbagbo has rejected this and regards himself as the winner as declared by the Constitutional Council and insists on remaining in authority.
The armed forces have supported him. Is this electoral rivalry tribal in origin or religious? Or is it political rivalry, if so which are the parties involved? And what solution is to be expected in this electoral crisis?


 In response to these, we would present the following facts:

1: It is a well-known fact that France entered the Ivory Coast in 1843 and declared it to be a French protectorate. However the Muslims resisted and defeated the French and announced the formation of an Islamic emirate which implemented the Islamic Shari'ah. But the French were eventually able to occupy it and enforced their control on Ivory Coast with the help of certain tribes in neighbouring countries and eventually declared it to be a French colony in 1893. Then in 1960 they gave nominal independence to Ivory Coast on the same lines that many other African states were granted nominal independence by Charles de Gaulle's France which was owing to the international situation prevalent in those days. Ivory Coast then came to be ruled by a French puppet Hofouet Bogny who ruled until his death in 1993 during which he relied directly on the French forces and divided the country in deference to the French wishes as follows:

Deprived and marginalised Muslims worked on Cocoa farms in poverty and exposed to severe persecution and injustice in the north even though they constituted some 65% of the population of Ivory Coast, though the Western figures puts their percentage at about 40% or even less owing to their well-known policy.

The well-placed pagans who were well supported in the south so as to prevent the spread of Islam among the pagans and were induced to convert to Christianity. They include heads of the state as well as the commanders of the armed forces.

2: The Ivory Coast is Cocoa rich and contributes to some 40% of the world's production which is mostly done by French companies. In addition to cocoa, certain other minerals like copper, diamonds, cobalt and uranium are found and are mostly exploited by the French. Even the financial establishments in Ivory Coast are overwhelmingly controlled by the French. The Ivory Coast regime is linked to France by the rulers and so are its economy and its security which continues to include some 900 men who protect the regime as well as the French investors whose numbers are between 15,000 and 20,000. The Ivory Coast is situated in the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic coast and is thus a strategic location surrounded by many African states which were once French colonies and remain under French influence. It is considered to be a Francophile stronghold where France imposed its language and culture and this is why it has been important to France in addition to its economic and strategic aspects.

3: The United States exerted efforts to salvage Ivory Coast from under the French influence and into its camp. Thus new events and disturbances came to the fore as a result of this clash. Ivory Coast witnessed a military coup in December, 1999 when the coup leader General Robert Guei promised elections which were actually held on 22nd October, 2000 and the French were able to hold on to the reigns of power through their agent Laurent Gbagbo despite the hostile American resources.

Despite this the American pressures did not ease but increased to levels that and the French became worried over the fall of Laurent Gbagbo in the next elections. Thus when his term ended in 2005, he postponed elections several times until they were at last held this year due to increased US pressures on him and his regime which was threatened with imposition of international isolation and sanctions. The first phase of the elections in October last while the second phase on 28th November, 2010.

4: The election results as declared by the Constitutional Council which backs the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, declared him to be the winner with 54.10% of votes, while the US, the UN and the UN Security Council recognised election results declared by the Election Commission which declared Hassan Ouattara as the winner. Laurent Gbagbo rejected this and considered himself to be the winner as declared by the Constitutional Council and insisted on him remaining in authority supported by the army.

The recognition of the Election Commission results by the US, the UN and the UNSC and the American pressure which still persist are meant to threaten and force Laurent Gbagbo to step down from power, and this implies that Gbagbo continues to follow anti-US policies and remains loyal to France.

5: As for Hassan Ouattara he was earlier a deputy head of the International Monetary Fund and was brought in by Hofouet Bogny as the prime minister in order to please the United States and meant to reduce US pressures which were considerable. France was aware of Hassan Ouattara's loyalties during his term at the IMF but was not worried as long he worked under the powerful and experienced French puppet Hofouet Bogny especially since this arrangement meant a reduction in US pressures.

However when Bogny died in 1993, the French were worried over its influence and the rise of the new star Hassan Ouattara who began to implement IMF policies in Ivory Coast. Therefore France brought in the parliament speaker Aimé Henri Konan Bédié as the interim president so as to bring in a law to bar Hassan Ouattara from the presidential electoral process and make himself as the president of Ivory Coast in 1995.

All these indicate that Hassan Ouattara remained loyal to the US ever since his IMF tenure which is why America backed him by recognising his victory as the legitimate president of Ivory Coast. America worked to form international public opinion on the issue and thus the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon supported him and the US was able to pass a resolution at the UNSC to this effect which was announced on 9th December, 2010 which recognised Hassan Ouattara as the president of the Ivory Coast by sounding a warning to Laurent Gbagbo which said: "The members of the Security Council condemn in the strong possible terms any effort to subvert the popular will of the people or undermine either the integrity of the electoral process or the free and fair elections in Ivory Coast."

The United States also made the African Union (OUA) to issue a resolution supporting the victory of Hassan Ouattara and continues to apply pressures and threats as well as temptations to make Laurent Gbagbo to step down and hand over power to Hassan Ouattara. This is why we saw the African Union move in this direction and declared on 9th December, 2010 that: "[it] suspends the Ivory Coast membership of the organisation until Laurent Gbagbo hands over power to Hassan Ouattara".

Similarly the West African regional economic group, ECOWAS demanded that Laurent Gbagbo steps down and hand over power to Hassan Ouattara which it recognises as the winner. Thus the US influenced international opinion and mobilised all international and regional institutions against Gbagbo and his regime causing disturbances in the country and threatening it with severe divisions and further sanction and global isolation. In addition to this, the US also offered incentives to Laurent Gbagbo and as the Reuters agency reported on 10th December, 2010 quoting a US official that "invite him to the White House to discuss how to advance democracy in the region, laying out a role he could play. But Obama also warned in the letter, whose receipt was confirmed to Washington by a senior Gbagbo government official, that he would support efforts to isolate Gbagbo and hold him to account if he refused to step down".

6: The American pressures, political manoeuvres and threats accompanied by some inducements, which is generally known as the ‘carrot and stick' policy were effective and decisive in that they generated an international opinion which has worried France and the European Union and they came to support election results declaring Hassan Ouattara as the presidential winner over his French and EU-supported rival and especially Britain called for power sharing on the Kenyan model under which Gbagbo would remain as the president with Hassan Ouattara serving as prime minister. France tried to play its military card with its forces present in the Ivory Coast and Ivorian armed forces themselves are strongly under French influence. So France tried to use this card as the pressure weapon to gain acceptance of power-sharing. Britain on its part moved in support of France through their African agents, it mobilised South Africa which in a statement issued by its external affairs ministry stated: "that Pretoria calls upon the rival leaders to restrain themselves for the sake of national reconciliation, and make unity as their absolute priority during this period". [BBC 09.12.2010].

Thus South Africa did not support Hassan Ouattara, instead it said that it is concerned about the unity of the country and calls for a solution which will ensure that Gbagbo remains in authority. The British also mobilised their agent Thabo Mbeki, the former South African President to find a solution and Mbeki nominally acted in the name of the African Union. After Mbeki's meeting with Hassan Ouattara which lasted for about half-an-hour, Ouattara addressed Mbeki and said: "I ask him [Mbeki] to demand that Laurent Gbagbo does not stick on to power". [AFP 06.12.2010].

This indicates that Mbeki is not working to make Gbagbo step down, rather he is working to keep him in power. This is further stressed by the statement issued by Mbeki himself after the meeting which said: "The situation is fraught with danger, and it is important that violence and return to war is avoided and a peaceful solution is found". [AFP 06.12.2010].

Which means that Mbeki is not concerned with Gbagbo's stepping down or Hassan Ouattara taking over as president as the US wants and insists, rather for Mbeki, avoiding violence and war which French influence will lead to, is important as well as finding a peaceful solution. This implies finding a reconciliation between Gbagbo and Hassan Ouattara. It has become evidently clear that Britain is working against American influence and not for pleasing France, rather Britain is aware that waning of French influence in Ivory Coast will result in building British influence in the country which will enable it [Britain] to strengthen its influence in the African continent. The British, during their period of colonisation in Africa have often cooperated with France in order to maintain their stronghold, and their cooperation was aimed at consolidating their influence in the region.

When the United States emerged on the scene and attacked against them in order to end their colonisation, British-French cooperation increased so that they could withstand the situation. On the other hand, it is easier for Britain to exercise their influence in French-controlled areas as they did in many other countries in northern Africa, but it is not easy for them to compete with the US with enormous resources and immense opportunities, especially because the British are aware that America is working to totally eliminate their influence in their former colonies and strongholds.

7: Thus the electoral crisis in Ivory Coast is an aspect of the international rivalry between France and the United States. As for what is expected, the power sharing arrangement may well work if neither of the parties is able to achieve what it wants. But if one of the parties is in a position to have its way, or feels that it can have its way, then there is but a weak chance of reconciliation. For an observer of the events in Ivory Coast and the US-mobilised international opinion against Gbagbo, the United States as an unprecedented opportunity to not accept reconciliation and expect Gbagbo to step down with Hassan Ouattara taking over the reigns of power. This is at least expected in the foreseeable future, but reconconciliation cannot be ruled out, indeed the US has the opportunity to get hold of an African country through the electoral process without any military coup. This situation provides the US with ways to openly gain loyalists and protect them simply because they would be seen as legitimate who came to power through popular mandate via the electoral process. Hence none would be in a position to blame and accuse the United States of colluding with dictatorial regimes if its agents were to come to power through military coup.

Thus what is expected is that the US will not ease pressures and threats against Gbagbo and even offer him inducements until he steps down. The US administration led by the Secretary of State and other officials have exerted all their strength on this issue even to the point of using weapons and internal killing. The US has its trump card in Ouattara and it backs him to the hilt in order that he comes to occupy the reigns of power in Ivory Coast. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State stated: "We are in complete agreement that Hassan Ouattara is the legitimately elected president of the Ivory Coast and that he respects the election results". [BBC 03.12.2010].

It appears that America will succeed this time, however the US may reject the power sharing proposal which calls for Gbagbo to remain as the president and keep Hassan Ouattara as the prime minister, especially because the Gbagbo regime is known to be oppressive towards its people, though the oppressed ones are Muslims, and the US takes this oppression as the reason for its current attack to gain influence in Ivory Coast and eliminate French influence from here and the entire region. America has warned its people against traveling to Ivory Coast and has said in a statement issued by its State Department: "there is an increased probability of political unrest and potential violence". [AFP 03.12.2010]. It is as if the US is calling for such violence or has prepared for such eventuality should Gbagbo choose not to step down. This indicates America's insistence on gaining complete influence and wiping off French influence if France insists on power sharing.

8: Such is the situation in Ivory Coast which is regarded as an Islamic country with a Muslim majority and which remains the focus of an international conflict between the colonialists who are bent upon pilfering and stealing is resources. France insists on retaining an effective role in Ivory Coast and the US is keen to have total influence there. While the Ivory Coast is an Islamic country with a Muslim majority which was earlier under Islamic rule, it is imperative that its people remain in charge of its destiny without the colonialists kuffar's intervention. It is another matter that the Muslims the world over have no one over them to take care of their affairs ever since the departure of the Khilafah from the world. The Ivory Coast like other Muslim countries awaits the establishment of the Khilafah State to liberate it from the strongholds of the kuffar colonialists and make it a part and province of the Khilafah State, this is not a tall order for Allah (swt).

5th Muharram al Haraam, 1432 A.H
11th December, 2010 C.E.

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