How Libya’s Crisis is Gbagbo’s Gain

Look at any central news page in any paper, and every day a new headline is generated about North Africa and the Middle East. Yet as events in Libya overwhelm news agencies, a forgotten post-election crisis in Cote d’Ivoire is escalating into shocking levels of violence and bloodshed. After losing the presidential elections four months ago, former president Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down has been left in the shadows while over 400 people have been killed in the violence that has ensued.

In an article on the Eurasia Foreign Policy site, Willis Sparks identifies that within the Arab World’s unrest, there are winners, and Gbagbo is one of them. On 28 November 2010, Alassane Ouattara won the country’s presidential elections (postponed since 2005): a victory that is recognised by the UN and the African Union. Yet, Gbagbo has refused to accept the deal, and until Ouattrara left the country in earlier this month to head to Ethiopia for an AU meeting, the rightly elected President had been kept under 24-hour UN protection in a hotel, unable to take control.

Meanwhile, the political uncertainty has led to hundreds of people being killed in the resulting violence. The AU have suspended the country’s membership, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West Africa States) have suspended the country from all its decision-making bodies, the UN have repeatedly made pleas to Gbagbo to step down peacefully and the World Bank have halted loans to the country. But it is now almost four months since the elections, no progress has been made and Gbagbo is still clinging on to power, while in Libya (where the oil dwells), within a month of the revolt kicking off, world leaders and the UN are already heavily involved and ready to send in their troops.

What about Cote d’Ivoire? As the situation stands, hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled the country in fear of a resurgence of the civil war. Humanitarian agencies are reporting of between 300,000 and 400,000 people that have been displaced by the unrest, crossing the border into Liberia or escaping to newly set up refugee camps. But resources are stretched.

The impact doesn’t end at the country-level – this has worldwide implications. Being the world’s largest producer of cocoa, the rising political tensions in Cote d’Ivoire have resulted in a sharp jump in cocoa prices. In January, Ouattara imposed a ban on cocoa exports, in order to increase the pressure on Gbagbo to raise funds to pay for the services he is using; the military, for instance. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported of a 32 year peak in cocoa markets. The political risks continue to provide uncertainties about supplies.

Yesterday, Ouattara signed a decree to unify Cote d'Ivoire's security forces to "contribute to the construction of a democratic, unified and modern Cote d'Ivoire state". This was on the same day that pro-Gbagbo security forces shelled a market killing at least 25 people and maybe more, in what the UN says “may be a crime against humanity”. The situation in Cote d’Ivoire should have been resolved months ago. For a country whose situation is described by one correspondent as “madness”, one country’s catastrophe shouldn’t let a fraudulent leader continue his reign of terror in another.

Photo: Ouattara signing the order to create the Republican Forces of Cote d'Ivoire

Photo Credit: IronMaskAfrica