Friday, December 17, 2010

Analysis: Ivory Coast hangs between war and peace

Source: Yahoo News

AP – Rebel soldiers
loyal to
Ivory Coast
opposition leader
Alassane Ouattara,
the widely recognized winner …
  ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – After a day of clashes, some of the bloodiest to hit Ivory Coast in years, this divided corner of Africa where two rivals claim to be president stands at a precarious crossroads between war and peace.

On Friday, it seemed the nation of 21 million could slide either way. There were reports of rebels attacking several towns but retreating.
A day earlier, Alassane Ouattara, whose election victory last month over incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has international recognition, called on his supporters to seize the state TV headquarters in Abidjan, the capital.

Their advance got nowhere near the station, but a firefight broke out between rebels and security forces loyal to Gbagbo, the first significant clash between the two sides in six years. Rebels also briefly attacked government positions in the central town of Tiebissou on Thursday, marking a serious escalation in the conflict. The day's casualty toll given by various groups ranged from 9 to 30 shot and killed.

The former French colony is the world's leading cocoa producer, and skyscraper-lined Abidjan was once known as the Paris of West Africa. Then came a 2002-2003 civil war that divided it in two. The election was supposed to open a new chapter, except that the loser has defied international pressure to step down.

The harsh crackdown by police and troops backing Gbagbo drew further sweeping condemnation, and the U.S. and other nations gave Gbagbo an ultimatum: Leave Ivory Coast within days or face travel and financial sanctions.

But, despite having the outside world on his side, Ouattara is still "far from forcing Gbagbo from power," said Frederic Abe, a researcher with the Abidjan-based Center for Research and Action in Peace.

And peace seems further away than ever.

The civil war left the rebels in control of most of the north. A 2007 peace deal reunited the nation in theory and set the stage for elections that had been delayed repeatedly.

In reality, though, neither side was ready for the vote. The rebels never disarmed, and Gbagbo — who had managed to stay in power since his mandate expired in 2005 citing emergency clauses in the constitution — was clearly not ready to lose.

Although Ouattara's victory has been recognized by many foreign governments, Gbagbo fully controls the army and state media. He occupies the presidential palace and his loyalists hold most Cabinet ministries. Ouattara, by contrast, is trying to govern from a tiny hotel room in a compound protected by 800 U.N. peacekeepers.

From here, the crisis could move in any direction.

A power-sharing deal is one possibility, and deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq has said Gbagbo wants to talk to Ouattara about it.

But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was firm Friday in insisting Gbagbo step aside.

"Any other outcome would make a mockery of democracy and the rule of law," Ban said. "There was a clear winner. There is no other option." He threatened that those responsible for loss of life "will be held accountable."

His warning was echoed by U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "Time is running out," he said. "The United States is prepared to impose targeted sanctions individually and in concert with our partners on President Gbagbo, his immediate family and his inner circle should he continue to illegitimately cling to power."

But sanctions have typically failed to reverse illegal power grabs in Africa in the past.

Delegations from the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States are due in Abidjan soon and they face the same obstacles in trying to persuade Gbagbo to yield.

Ouattara is also trying to hamper Gbagbo's ability to pay civil servants, the army and the daily operating costs of government. Last week, he wrote to the regional central bank asking them to block funds. The bank has yet to respond.

In the meantime, the country is in fear and bracing for more violence. The U.N. refugee agency says at least 3,700 people have fled to neighboring Liberia and Guinea.

Ouattara called for more demonstrations Friday, but Abidjan was mostly calm.

Thursday's violence was the first firefight between the two sides since 2004, said Christian Bouquet, an Ivory Coast demographer and geography professor at France's University of Bordeaux II.

It was also a big setback for the goal of integrating rebel and government forces into a new 5,000-strong force — something that was supposed to happen shortly after the runoff vote on Nov. 28. Ahead of the vote, both sides carried out mixed patrols in the northern town of Korhogo, "but this rapprochement imploded between the two rounds" of voting, Bouquet said.

As part of the peace effort, both sides deployed forces in each other's territory, but they pulled back immediately after the runoff began turning sour.

Gbagbo's bid to hold on to power is steeped in irony. During the country's last election in 2000, tens of thousands of young militants launched protests that swept Gbagbo to power when his rival tried to steal the vote.
Pitman reported from Dakar, Senegal.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Associated Press West Africa Bureau Chief Todd Pitman has covered the region for more than a decade.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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