Tensions have been rising in the Cote D'Ivoire since incumbent president Laurent Gbagdo refused to concede the election to internationally recognized winner Alassane Ouattara. The Wire reported last week that the United Nations and other international groups were attempting to keep violent protests at bay, but according to the BBC today, clashes in the past week have resulted in 173 deaths and almost 500 arrests. 800 UN peacekeepers are currently protecting the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where Mr. Outtara and supporters are taking shelter. Here are some more details and observations of the situation:
- 'Power In Institutions' Morgan Roach at the Foundry notes that conflict has been almost continual in Cote D’Ivoire in the past ten years, despite once being considered one of the more stable African countries. Roach predicts that Gbagbo and his forces may be subdued with enough international pressure. She writes:
While Gbagbo is ignoring calls from the U.S. State Department to step aside and make way for a peaceful transition, the imposition of financial sanctions are a realistic possibility. The African Union hasn’t fared much better in its progress. Gbagbo turned down a compromise, and potential power-sharing deals have fallen through. Though no single country or organization has wielded enough influence in dethroning the unwieldy leader, there is power in institutions.
- Preparing for Civil War Vivienne Walt at Time reports that "fighting talk on all sides has raised fears that the post-election deadlock will revive the civil war" from earlier this decade.
A Young Patriots leader told huge crowds in an Abidjan square on Monday to gear up for fighting, saying: 'We are ready to die.' Ouattara supporters, aligned with militia concentrated in the north, have spoken of waging 'the last struggle.'
- A Soccer Star Appeals for Peace In addition countries such as the US and France issuing sanctions and urging nationals to leave the increasingly dangerous area, Cote D'Ivoire native soccer player Didier Drogba is making an effort to keep the peace in his home country. Drogba made a statement today urging "each of you, every manager, every soldier, every supporter, not to turn to violence and to make every effort to restore the calm and responsible democracy that our nation is waiting for." Business Insider's Dashiell Bennett suggests that the soccer player "may be the one person who can make a cease fire happen," pointing out that "Drogba and his Ivory Coast teammates actually helped negotiate a nationwide truce in 2006 after they qualified for the World Cup."
- Will Other African Nations Come to the Rescue? Cote D'Ivoire's West African neighbors are also getting involved in the conflict. While the UN is concerned about Gbagdo receiving aid from Liberian forces, Marco Chown Oved and John Heilprin report that "the regional bloc ECOWAS is due to hold a meeting on the crisis late Friday." In the same Time article mentioned above, Walt cites a political science professor from the Sorbonne University who believes "African countries could play the key role, by isolating Gbagbo among his peers, stripping him of legitimacy and greatly limiting his ability to move around."