This is a mini-post about what’s going on in the Ivory Coast.
Wealthy countries which support countries in the Global South by pushing for multiparty elections often think that support ends at the ballot box. That people will vote and someone will win and everything will be fine. It brings to mind the ‘dropping democracy from 40,000 feet’ comments from Blair’s time as Prime Minister.
What countries like the UK, and in the case of the Ivory Coast the former colonial master France, don’t bargain for is that they will have (reasonably) well run elections, someone will win but that the other person will simply refuse to leave. We’re not used to this in the developed world, we’re accustomed to politicians magnanimously standing down then taking up lucrative publishing deals. Not in the Ivory Coast. President Gbago (who lost the election and was President before) has raised an army of poor young men to keep him in power and to fight the army of poor young men raised by President Ouattara (who won the election). The latter is lucky in that he won the UN sponsored election so is the internationally recognised winner and de jure President of the small West African country.
This started in late 2010 but was rapidly eclipsed by the Arab uprisings, it’s sad that the media seem to care less about West African civil wars, they aren’t sexy or exciting any more, there always seems to be one on and we’ve become desensitised to them by Christian Aid adverts of tiny children holding up begging hands to the cameras like helpless victims (unethical advertising is a separate issue but important nonetheless).
Currently the forces loyal to President Ouattara who previously controlled the north of the country are poised to take full control of the capital Abidjan in the south. It’s hard to tell what this will mean for the conflict. Unless President Gbago tells his forces to stand down and gives up his claim to the Presidential palace this conflict could go on much longer.
French and United Nations forces, in the 2011 spirit of humanitarian intervention have fired upon Gbago’s forces to protect the French occupied airport and foreign occupied compound in line with the Security Council mandate saying they can protect themselves.
So they question is, what are the next steps?
If Ouattara’s forces take the capital and leave the UN and French forces alone they will anoint him the new President and probably fan out into the countryside to ensure no dissident pro-Gbago factions are still out there causing trouble beyond the capital’s sway.
If Ouattara’s forces fail the French troops will probably conduct a Britain in Sierra Leone style full scale intervention on Ouattara’s behalf and take control of the country briefly then hand it over.
Either way the UN and France are here for the long haul. Britain is still there in Sierra Leone 10 years later funneling millions of pounds into security sector reform, infrastructure, water projects, poverty reduction and more.