Bad Signs in Worsening Côte d'Ivoire Crisis

President Gbagbo refuses international demands to leave office

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Leaders from neighboring African states, the United Nations, and even U.S. President Obama are renewing their push for Côte d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo to leave the office, which he has clung onto despite losing a recent presidential election. Ongoing post-election violence has claimed at least 173 lives, a number expected to rise if the UN confirms reports of mass graves being dug by military elements loyal to Gbagbo. Earlier, we explored the pan-African effort to prevent civil war and possible reasons why crisis and violence persist in this West African country. Now here are the most recent international efforts to deal with Gbagbo and some worrying signs about this conflict's future.

  • African Pushes for Peaceful Resolution Go Nowhere  The New York Times' David Goodman reports, "Leaders of four African states traveled to the Ivory Coast on Monday in a second attempt in less than a week to persuade Laurent Gbagbo" to step down. However, "Gbagbo has remained defiant in the face of mounting international pressure, and it appeared unlikely that the African delegation would succeed in its goal on Monday after having failed in a first attempt last week." But those foreign leaders are expected to keep pushing because "Gbagbo's refusal to budge has placed the burden of action on the international community, which risks a loss of credibility if it allows Mr. Gbagbo to remain in place."
  • Will Africa Take Up Threat of Force?  African leaders, such as Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is also the lead African Union representative in Côte d'Ivoire, have warned that the AU could remove Gbagbo "by force" if he doesn't step down. Now, Reuters's Ange Aboa and Tim Cocks say, "if military forces are eventually sent in by [West African nations], it may trigger open conflict between Gbagbo's government army and the [West African] force. Northern rebels who tried to topple Gbagbo in 2002 have said they would also get involved." However, "West African leaders are seen as unlikely to carry through the threat of force because of the risk of being bogged down in an urban war. They are also believed to lack the operational intelligence to track Gbagbo and his supporters down in a strike."
  • UN Investigating Possible Mass Graves  In a sign of just how violent this political crisis may have turned the normally quite peaceful Côte d'Ivoire, UPI reports, "United Nations peacekeepers were ordered to do all in their power to investigate reports of atrocities and mass graves in Ivory Coast, officials said." Adding to that suspicion, "Peacekeepers have so far been kept away from the alleged mass graves." UPI says the UN suspects two possible sites, both in "pro-Gbagbo" areas.
  • Liberian Mercenaries 'Looking for Work' in Côte d'Ivoire  Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that Liberian mercenaries--"impoverished former fighters from Liberia's civil war of the late 1980s and 1990s"--are already traveling to the Côte d'Ivoire to look for work. Machine guns and machetes in hand, the impoverished fighters-for-hire say they are willing to fight for either side. Already, Gbagbo is accused of "employing hundreds of Liberian merceneries in deadly raids on pro-[opposition] neighourhoods. Gbagbo's camp denies the charge, but diplomats and security sources say there may be up 1,000 on his payroll."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.