Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gbagbo defiant as calls to step down mount

Source: Associated Press

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – The noose of international pressure tightened further around Laurent Gbagbo as the top U.N. official in Ivory Coast said Gbagbo's challenger had won the presidential election by an "irrefutable margin" and the Security Council warned it would not shy from imposing sanctions.

Gbagbo has shut himself off from the international community, defying French President Nicolas Sarkozy who called to urge him to step down and refusing to take a telephone call over the weekend from U.S. President Barack Obama.
The 65-year-old former university instructor is being threatened with sanctions and isolation, even as his government flooded the airwaves with images of his rushed inauguration and explanations by constitutional experts laying out why Gbagbo is the lawful president.

The head of the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast, Choi Young-jin, explained Wednesday how he went over the election results again and again before concluding it was "absolutely clear to me that the Ivorian people had made their choice without any doubt."

He said opposition leader Alassane Ouattara won the election outright, refuting Gbagbo's argument that violence and voter intimidation were so widespread in areas where Ouattara won a majority as to invalidate the results from those spots.

Choi showed a map with red dots locating incidences of electoral violence. The majority of the dots were in the west of the country, not the north where Ouattara comes from and where more than half a million of his votes were canceled.

"I remain absolutely certain that I have found the truth," said Choi in a room crowded with diplomats. "The people have chosen Mr. Alassane Ouattara with an irrefutable margin as the winner."

In New York, the Security Council issued a statement saying it condemned "in the strongest possible terms" any effort to subvert the will of the people. The council warned they were ready to impose targeted sanctions on anyone who threatens the peace or tries to obstruct the work of the U.N. office in Ivory Coast, whose mission includes verifying and certifying the results of the contested poll according to a 2005 peace deal.

Last month's presidential election was delayed at least six times over the past three years and has been called "the world's most expensive election." Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into trying to stabilize the West African country, and identify voters amid convoluted rules over citizenship that were at the heart of the country's civil war.

The election was supposed to be the final step in a drawn-out process to reunite the country following the was. Instead it appears to have plunged a nation into another tailspin. World condemnation of Gbagbo's actions has been swift, but it remains unclear what foreign powers can do to make him step down if he refuses to do so voluntarily.

Ouattara's camp has asked for the U.N. to force Gbagbo out through military intervention, but it appears unlikely that the nearly 10,000-strong peacekeeping force will do anything more than protect the internationally recognized president who is holed up in a luxury hotel.

Asked if the U.N. was willing to use force to impose the results of the vote, Choi told reporters they were looking for a solution without violence. Diplomats say the mounting pressure is beginning to yield results and on Wednesday for the first time, Gbagbo's camp spoke about the possibility of a power-sharing agreement. Although the suggestion was rejected outright by Ouattara's side, it indicates a softening of Gbagbo's stance.

Foreign governments are considering sweeping sanctions targeting not just Gbagbo and his inner circle, but also their wives, their children and their extended family. It would mean that Gbagbo's relatives could no longer travel to France for their summer holiday and ministers in his government may need to pull their children out of U.S. colleges and boarding schools.

While Gbagbo maintains control over the institutions of state including the army, the treasury and state television and radio, Ouattara on Wednesday began trying to exercise the control he wields abroad.

He has sent letters to the European Union, Belgium, France and the United Nations asking that they no longer recognize Ivorian diplomats appointed by Gbagbo, said his spokesman Patrick Achi. Ouattara also asked the regional central bank used by the Ivorian government to store a majority of its deposits to freeze Gbagbo's access to the state's accounts.

Ouattara hopes that will prevent Gbagbo from being able to pay state employees, paralyzing his ability to govern.

Foreign leaders have not shied from making clear they do not consider Gbagbo the legal president. On Tuesday, an Ivorian diplomat was allowed to attend the meeting of the Security Council, but not before U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice made clear that his presence did not signal they considered his government legitimate.

Ivory Coast retains a special place in geopolitics because it was once the pre-eminent colony of the French Empire. The civil war that officially ended in 2003 destroyed much of the economy and Abidjan, once a chic destination with designer boutiques and open-air French-style cafes but now a crumbling relic of its former self.

Yet despite years of upheaval including outbursts of violence as late as 2005, Ivory Coast still remains an economic powerhouse. It's the second-biggest economy in the region after Nigeria, even though Ivory Coast has one-sixth of Nigeria's population, according to Jean-Louis Billon, president of the Ivorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It remains the world's largest exporter of cocoa, and boasts the biggest port on this side of Africa through which neighboring countries receive more than 80 percent of their imports, said Billon.

The continuing uncertainty over what will happen next has led the U.N. to evacuate around 400 nonessential employees. At U.N. headquarters here, suitcases were piled up in the lobby Wednesday and staff with children in strollers were waiting for buses to the airport.

While international workers left by the planeload, regular Ivorians have begun fleeing by foot including to neighboring Liberia, itself a nation shattered by over a decade of war.

"Gbagbo has taken a dangerous gamble," said Africa expert Jennifer Cooke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "In the current context, a return to civil war in Cote d'Ivoire is a very real risk, with a strong possibility that conflict will be far more violent and costly (before)."

Associated Press writers Anita Snow and Edith Lederer contributed to this report from New York.

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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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