Politicians in the developing world seem to want the best of both worlds; the logic and ideals of democracy, and the convenience and one-sidedness of traditional rule. Over the last few months scenes of revolt have unfolded all over the continent with down-trodden citizens crying for an end to this outdated way of government which seems to favour either tribes, or the inner circle of the person in power.
These “presidents” treat the country and the presidential seat as something they are entitled to and live in wealth while most of their citizens live in relative squalor. Ivory Coast has been in the headlines the most being the largest exporter of cocoa. The country had a standard of living much higher than most of Africa and has been governed by the now embattled Laurent Gbagbo since 2000. Ivory Coast has been plagued by instability in the past, with a civil war between the rebels in the north of the country and government troops in the south, caused by rulings by Former president Robert Guei, which effectively ruled out candidates from the Muslim north of the country. The fighting continued well into 2004, further bolstered by the ascension to power of Mr. Gbabo after a dispute over the 2000 elections in which President Guei was forced to flee after vote rigging accusations. This was somewhat ended when the nation united after the national team qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 2006. A peace agreement was brokered in 2007, with the promise of a democratic election to follow to put an end to the fighting. Three years and six postponements later the elections took place in October 2010 and Alhassan Ouattara, was recognised as the victor.
However President Gbabo has refused to hand over the power and as recently as February 24th 2011 the fighting had once again started between forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara in the west and President Gbabo’s East of the country. Charles Ble Goude has issued a call to arms to the youth in the country, urging them to enlist in the army and fight the progress of the forces to the west.
Estimates show up to 90, 000 refugees have fled into Liberia and Ghana. This causes major concerns due to the fact Liberia is itself a country recovering from devastating civil war. There are fears that the fighting in the Ivory Coast poses a threat to the stability of the whole of West Africa.
Since the UN-organised elections in November, over 450 people are estimated to have been killed largely due to the increased number of youth militia on the streets. The Young Patriots as they are called have set up road-blocks all around the capital Abidjan, under orders from Mr. Goude, himself under sanctions by the UN for inciting violence. This recent development has led to an extra 400 000 fleeing the capital as the violence intensifies, the worst of which resulted in the shelling of a market in a pro-Ouattara district of the capital. This, according to the UN could possibly constitute a crime against humanity.
The African Union as well as the UN endorse Mr. Ouattara as the winner of the elections and have issued a mandate for President Gbagbo to step down by the 24th of March. President Gbagbo fiercely claims the voting was rigged-.This seems to be the default position for any president who loses an election.
For now, Ivorians can only wait and see if the president who claims to have their best interests at heart will do what is right and step down to bring peace.
Kwaku Kyei Manu