Why Crisis and Violence Persist in Cote d'Ivoire
President Laurent Gbagbo clings to power
Over three weeks into the Cote d'Ivoire political crisis, with president Laurent Gbagdo refusing to leave office despite losing the recent election, low-level violence continues and several efforts at international intervention have failed. The internationally-recognized election winner, Alassane Ouattara, has struggled to push his way into office. Though Ouattara has the backing of the African Union and the United Nations, as well as the majority of the Cote d'Ivoire voters, Gbagdo has the loyalty of much of the military, making him very difficult to remove from power peacefully. The latest on the situation in Cote d'Ivoire, and why it's not getting better:
- Thousands Flee as Violence Rises The Associated Press' Marco Chown Oved writes:
At least 14,000 people have fled the violence and political chaos in Ivory Coast, some walking for up to four days with little food to reach neighbouring Liberia, the UN refugee agency has said. At least one child drowned while trying to cross a river. The UN believes that at least 173 people have died in violence over the disputed presidential runoff election held nearly one month ago. The toll is expected to be much higher, though, as the UN mission has been blocked from investigating other reports including an allegation of a mass grave.
- Ouattara Calls for National Strike, Which Fails "An attempt by would-be Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara to call a general strike to force strongman Laurent Gbagbo from office appeared to have failed on Monday," Agence France-Presse reports. "From the chic, leafy northern suburb of Cocody--where Gbagbo has his home--to the bustling, low-rent southern district of Treichville beside one of West Africa's major ports, the city was at work."
- Can Gbagbo Be Separated from His Military? The Daily Telegraph's Aislinn Laing explains that "members of the West African economic and monetary union, of which the Ivory Coast is a member, voted to block his access to the state funds used to pay the soldiers who are currently one of the main obstacles to his removal from power. The hope is that their loyalty to the 65-year-old Christian strong man will ebb away when their pay dries up." She adds that "government sources told The Sunday Telegraph that they believe support for Mr Gbagbo is wavering among some senior Army officers, and that military action to remove him would meet little serious opposition."
- The Next Step: Can Other African States Push Gbagbo Out of Office? The Daily Nation reports that "Gbagbo's next challenge will be a meeting Tuesday with leaders from Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone, who come carrying a message from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that Gbagbo must step down." But will it work?
There seems little chance of that, however, and Gbagbo has warned that ECOWAS' threat of military action could plunge the region into war and endanger the millions of West African migrants living in Ivory Coast. ... "We're not afraid. We are the ones who are attacked. We have the law on our side. How far are those attacking us prepared to go?" he demanded.
- Gbagbo Warns Intervention Could Spark War Voice of America says that although "The international community is recognizing Ouattara as the winner, and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS is threatening to use force to get Gbagbo to leave," Gbagdo is resisting even these threats, and says that "any attempt to use force to remove him from power could start a war in West Africa."
- Gbagbo Blames French-U.S. Conspiracy In an interview with Le Monde (Google-translated here) Cote d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo speaks of a "conspiracy" against him by France and the U.S. to oust him from power by recognizing Ouattara as the election winner.