It was interesting to see the swear in of Ouattara as the notional President of the Ivory Coast amidst his French and UN supporters and the butchers and killers of his armed forces. One was reminded of the old Igbo proverb “Ikwikwi nyuru ahuru si umunna ya kwere ya egwu, ha si ya tufia anghi ekwere ihe ojoo egwu” “An Owl farted and demanded to be praised by his kinsmen; they mocked him and said that it was not right to dance to an abomination”. The whole spectacle was an abomination.
This new president of the Ivory Coast, a Burkinabe national from birth, was installed in his seat by a murderous campaign of violence against a largely unarmed civilian population by the French, the UN, a band of Nigerian ‘Kill and Go’ policemen and the local rabble of rebels, ‘dozos’ and mercenaries recruited for the purpose of killing Ivoirians loyal to President Gbagbo. It descended into an orgy of rape, murder, pillage and a wanton destruction of government buildings and private shops. The ‘rebels’ destroyed almost every government building; they destroyed almost every public record; they destroyed all the universities and most of the schools; and they went on a spree of looting and attack which killed almost 2,000 students in the period of a week. In the interior, these rebels stopped buses and cars of people fleeing the carnage. If the people were Guere, Bete or any group who couldn’t understand or speak Dioula or Malinke (the main languages of the North), they were shot on the spot. This reached its nadir at Duekoue where of 800 were massacred.
Within Abidjan, in places like Youpougon the killing continues as former members of the Gbagbo loyalist forces and politicians are rounded up in raids by the rebels and then killed on the spot or detained for a while in prisons. The blame is placed on anonymous “Liberian mercenaries”. This is a complete fiction as the Liberian mercenaries took their stolen loot, stole almost every government car and truck, and went home weeks ago.
Through all of this the ‘international community’ has supported the re-imposition of French colonial rule in the country and offered support and assistance to the ‘victor’, Ouattara. They refused the entry of Gbagbo’s French lawyers and, with amazing cheek, have started proceedings against Gbagbo for ‘war crimes’. The use, by the UN and the French of Russian helicopter gunships in blasting their way into Gbagbo’s residence was preceded by days of bombardment across Abidjan where thousands of innocent civilians were killed or injured by the bullets and missiles launched from these gunships. These gunships are deployed at a range of about 2 kilometres from their target. Mi24's and Gazelles pounded the civilian areas. These gunships are not precisely targetable weapons. There is a dispersion of at least 15% on all weapons on each side. Nothing is guided there. This means that if you fire at 2km’s you have a spread of 300m at least (about 150 meters on either side of the target. In an urban area; that covers a wide swath of innocent civilians. The French and the UN knew this but it made no difference. They now have the brazen cheek to accuse Gbagbo’s troops of war crimes. The international NGOs are no better.
To be fair, the bloody affray instigated by the rebels and the UN after the disputed second round of the Presidential election in December 2010 and the precipitate and erroneous declaration that Ouattara had won was not the origin of the conflict. The stage had already been set in 2002 with the mutinous rebellion of small group of disgruntled Guei soldiers with the support of the French. This effectively split the country in half. This split has survived until the Ouagadougou Agreement when the rebels again agreed to disarm and the UN sent in Muslim peacekeepers from Pakistan, Morocco, Jordan, Bangladesh, etc. to promote neutrality and peace in what has become a religious as well as political conflict.
Without going through the history of the Ivory Coast and its many peace talks and agreements, some key elements can be seen. The most salient point is that since the beginning there has been an agreement by the competing sides in the Ivory Coast and the UN that there should be disarmament of the rebels. Despite at least five agreements this has never happened and the UN never enforced this. The 2005 elections were postponed by the UN on the grounds that there could not be a fair election unless disarmament had happened. Why the UN never enforced its own agreements, judgments and obligations is a lesson in point. The ‘international community’ supported the UN in avoiding its responsibilities. As the French were busy planning coups and attacks on Gbagbo’s forces, no one had any expectations of them, but the UN's inertia puzzled many.
The second element in play is the treason of the PDCI and the RDR. Both parties were legally part of the Gbagbo Government and obliged, under the Constitution, to fight against the rebels. Both traitorously supported them instead. They took up Cabinet seats along with the rebels in the coalition governments forced on the Ivory Coast. A more confident government would have taken Ouattara and Bedie and tried them for treason instead of rewarding them. The best precedent for this is the famous speech by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 which mirrors the Ivory Coast situation, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” The Ivoirians lacked such vision and their colonial masters made sure it could not happen.
So, what can one expect from a Ouattara government? There is no chance that there will be reconciliation for the wanton killing and destruction by those who supported him. There will be a sullen resentment at the role of the international community and enduring ethnic hostility. There are many of Gbagbo’s soldiers still in the country and there are many who will be returning from Ghana and Liberia. Their time will come.
So as the Owl continues to fart he will never convince anyone that he isn’t always an abomination.
Gary K. Bush in ocnus.net, le 19 mai 2011