I have been waiting for the military intervention which African leaders, especially, those of the ECOWAS region pledged, as the only alternative to remove Laurent Gbagbo from office. The reason I am on the lookout for this intervention is to justify my long held believe that our leaders in Africa are simply, strings tied to the aprons of some western powers. For me, nothing is as laughable as the military option proposed by AU and ECOWAS leaders. Somehow, those fellows who sit at AU and ECOWAS meetings are confirming to us that they are blind to the realities of sovereignty.
Ivory Coast is a sovereign and the sovereignty rests in whomsoever Ivoirians decide to submit their will. Today, we are being made to see Gbagbo as a sit-tight. Of course, he is, having put in more than 10 years in the leadership of the country. But we have refused or even become deaf to the demands and desires of the greater number of the Ivoirian people. AU and ECOWAS leaders must, before deploying their soldiers to die on Ivoirian fields, first ask to find out what exactly the people of that country want. They must not fall into the trap of becoming pawns on the chessboard of France and some western war lords who are battling to sustain their annexation of an impoverished Ivory Coast.
Besides that, the basic reason I laugh at AU and ECOWAS leaders’ proposal of military intervention in Ivory Coast is the fact that Africa has been living and tolerating Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. I recall that soon after Charles Taylor was forced into exile in Nigeria on the platform of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), which some people christened Never Expect Peace And Development, a move was made to ease Mugabe out of office. That move was anchored by NEPAD through its peer review mechanism. The proposal was such that Mugabe had become an embarrassment to Africa and for the West to be assured of its interest in Zimbabwe and the aligning nations; Mugabe must be eased out of office.
Some of the details of the proposal were a plan to get Mugabe to introduce an ally, his boy more or less; to AU leaders whose task it would be to market him to the West as suitable replacement. It was then proposed that after a successful marketing tour of America, Europe, Asia and other parts of the world, an election would be arranged in which the Mugabe surrogate would be announced winner and power transferred to him. What happens to Mugabe afterwards would be part of the comic drama. AU leaders had proposed that Mugabe can comfortably go into exile in South Africa or Nigeria and his loot would be transferred to him while his domestic interests would be secured by the new president. The proposal given to Mugabe was such that he could still be president from exile while a new face sits in office.
Interestingly, this proposal was made to Mugabe while Taylor was still “enjoying” his exile in Calabar. However, the same African leaders who accused Mugabe of over staying his welcome as president of a sovereign country, and had successfully removed Taylor in what was more like a coup, were themselves plotting to extend their own tenure. Our own Olusegun Obasanjo, who was an integral part of the AU proposal and as a NEPAD advocate, made sure Taylor was removed as President of Liberia at a time he was busy plotting a tenure extension. It was later disclosed that the proposal to Mugabe failed because the Zimbabwean leader saw that those who had sent him a plan to ease him out of office were busy plotting tenure extensions for themselves. He also saw that Taylor, who was removed on mutual agreement, had been handed over to the US for punishment. So, it would have been foolish for him to accept to lose his grip on power and go the way of Taylor. Today, Mugabe is still president in Zimbabwe and those pontifications by AU leaders have come to nothing.
Among AU leaders who pursued the NEPAD cause included Boutefilka of Algeria, Wade of Senegal, Mubarak of Egypt, Obasanjo of Nigeria and Kuffour of Ghana. While Obasanjo lost out to popular will, and Kuffour was voted out at the end of his tenure, those other leaders have been working the constitutions of their various countries to give them longer hold on power. So, why haven’t AU leaders intervened in Algeria, Egypt and Senegal? I am sure that if Obasanjo had his way, he would still be in power till date. Atiku had made detailed expose on why Obasanjo plotted a third term. He had said Obasanjo was not comfortable about the prospect of leaving office when those he left while handing over in 1979 were still there when he came back 20 years later. No denials from Obasanjo yet. In essence, for most parts of Africa, constant regime change does not bode well.
I agree that democracy is about the will of the people expressed in ballot, even when an absolute and an irredeemable idiot gets it. But I think there comes a time when a people decide on the type of leadership that best suits their existential situation. Yes, democracy is good, but certainly, it is unAfrican to foist a western surrogate on a people. In Ivory Coast, democracy has been expressed as the will of France and some western corporatocracy forcefully expressed through allies. I do not think what is happening there at the moment is about an African state. To my mind, it is about western influence and pressure being expressed through AU and ECOWAS leaders, who in themselves will cry foul if the opposition wins in elections in their country. If AU leaders are not being hypocritical, why, for instance, would the Egyptian government not allow the Muslim Brotherhood, a free participation in a general election? Why would Sudan not freely walk into a referendum to decide the fate of Southern Sudan? Why would Wade in Senegal seek constitutional amendment for yet another tenure? And why, also, would the PDP in Nigeria not sincerely and openly honour its own constitutional provision on power rotation in the party?
Let us face the fact. None of these self-serving AU and ECOWAS leaders will willfully quit office if they find themselves in Gbagbo’s shoes. Between the two gentlemen in Ivory Coast, we find a situation where no one is asking the people, for whom power is being exercised, exactly what they want. The concern seems to be more of what France, IMF and World Bank wants. Between IMF and World Bank, you have a corporatocracy that determines who becomes president, when and how, in an African or developing country.
Alassane Ouattara’s background revolves around the IMF and World Bank and the determination to make sure he rules Ivory Coast should, in my mind, be x-rayed against his call for general civil disobedience in Ivory Coast which was largely ignored. But the same people trooped into the streets to demonstrate in support of Gbagbo and against the dictates of France in their country. This, in itself, ought to send some signals to the international community and the United Nations. This is the same international community that backed and defended the fraudulent presidential elections in Afghanistan in which Hamid Karzai clearly lost.
I therefore think that to solve the Ivorian conundrum, those super powers beating the drums of another civil war, including AU and ECOWAS leaders must think less of a military action and seek a better study and understanding of the situation in that country. I know that Nigeria, for instance, will bear the brunt of military intervention for which a resistance by the Ivorian military is certain. Such resistance will sure lead to another civil war causing massive outflow of refugees into neighbouring West African states. Nigeria will have a good share of them. So, is the Nigerian government prepared to handle such an inflow when it has proved incapable of attending to the needs of internally displaced persons? These are issues too.
Therefore, it is not enough to issue military threats against a sovereign nation. That, in itself, is an invitation to war. AU and ECOWAS leaders must look the way of Iraq to draw lessons from the forcefully removal its government. They must also look toward Liberia to realize that loyalists of Taylor are not entirely happy that their leader was betrayed. AU leaders must also go back to history to note that after the war, there was Nuremberg.
Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu in Nigerian Village Square, le 05 janvier 2011