Playing with Fire

ABIDJAN/BERLIN | | cote-d-ivoire

ABIDJAN/BERLIN (Own report) - In spite of the risk of a bloodbath in the Ivory Coast, the West - Berlin included - is maintaining its support of Alassane Ouattara, the alleged winner of the presidential elections. Ouattara, a former high-ranking IMF functionary and a partisan of the West, has declared war on his rival, Laurent Gbagbo. His militia has begun their march on the capital, Abidjan. Ouattara is operating from a luxury hotel in the capital and is totally dependent upon the United Nations, which is protecting and bringing him abroad to political consultations, and under whose protection and with western backing, he has made his declaration of war. Observers are warning that in light of the ethnization of the conflict, it could result in genocide. The west's playing with fire aims at deposing the incumbent president, who, at least verbally, upholds the anti-colonialist tradition, to install one of their partisans as the head of government. Ouattara proved his loyalty years ago, when he, as Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast, provided access to important infrastructure facilities to European companies.

The Old Elites

Important aspects of the current Ivory Coast conflict have their roots in the last century. The leading personalities of both sides, who have been engaged on this collision course since 2010, were enemies already in 1980. Both Alassane Ouattara and Henri Konan Bédié (who had lost in the first round of presidential elections and had supported Ouattara) have their origins in the elites who, for decades, had been in power in the entourage of the former President, Félix Houphouët-Boigny (1960 - 1993), in close cooperation with the former colonial power, France. Both had important positions in the government of Houphouët-Boigny and - in part from high-ranking IMF and the World Bank functions - administered, since the 1980s, the austerity measures ("structural adjustment") that were being imposed by the West. In the 1990s, they came into conflict with one another. To force Ouattara out, Bédié developed the infamous "Ivoirité" ethnic concept, according to which, to be president of the country, both parents would have had to have been Ivory Coast citizens. Ouattara originates from an influential family with ties to Burkina Faso and was thus shut out of the running.

"Permanently Advised"

Ouattara and Bédié, who in the meantime have joined forces to fight Laurent Gbagbo were wooed by German party affiliated foundations. Bédié's Parti Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), the party of the former autocrat, Houphouët-Boigny, is listed as the "partner" of the CDU affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation's "Political Dialog West Africa". As for Ouattaras Rassemblement des Républicains (RdR), the FDP affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation writes that it has been "one of the first important African parties" professing itself a liberal party already in its 1994 founding statutes.[1] The RdR is engaged in the "African Liberal Network (ALN)", an "important partner" in Africa of the Naumann Foundation. Because of its "great political potential", it would be advisable to turn the "rather sporadic contacts" into a "permanent dialog" and to "provide the RdR with permanent advice".

Anti-Colonial Traditions

These two veteran partisans of the West are trying to depose Laurent Gbagbo, who had already been their adversary back in the 1970s and 1980s. At that time Gbagbo participated in protests against Houphouët-Boigny and his supporters, among the former colonial powers. His party, the Front Populaire Ivoiren (FPI) was founded in clandestinity in 1982 as one of the anti-colonialist, socialist forces. The ties established at the time to South Africa's ANC and Angola's Movimento Popular de Libertação (MPLA), an anti-colonialist movement fighting against the ultra-rightist, western supported UNITA, still exist today. When in 2000 Gbagbo was elected President in the Ivory Coast, replacing the partisans of the former colonialist powers, he shut down UNITA's base in the Ivory Coast. Inversely Angola is among the countries still supporting Gbagbo. The South African ANC is also supporting him.[2] According to his critics, Gbagbo's reference to anti-colonialist traditions are only meant for public relations, in reality he has long since left the path of his old political convictions. Nevertheless, forces such as the ANC and MPLA are still considering him their partner, whereas the West still suspects him of disloyalty. Whereas Ouattara has become known also for having opened the door to the French industrial magnates Vincent Bolloré and Martin Bouygues to take control of the Ivory Coast's water supply facilities, power stations as well as the railroad lines. Bolloré and Bouygues have close ties to Nicolas Sarkozy.[3]

90 Percent Results

The West is using last fall's presidential elections to place its partisan Quattara in power. As a result of Western pressure, Quattara has been given global recognition as the winner in the elections, in spite of strong doubts about the electoral results. The alleged electoral victory is based on a suspicious 90 percent in several constituencies, controlled by militias close to Ouattara. Election observers had not been allowed in those polling places and on pressure from the West, the UN General Secretary explicitly refused a recount of the votes, that would have permitted more clarity.[4] Until now, the formal recognition of Ouattara has served as an excuse to apply sanctions against Gbagbo and call for his resignation. Berlin is in support. "The defeated President Gbagbo must finally give up his position to his successor" demanded German Foreign Minister Westerwelle in mid-March.[5] The Director for African Affairs in the German Foreign Ministry has intervened several times in this sense in Abidjan. The Foreign Ministry is demanding consequences.

Declaration of War

This Tuesday, Alassane Ouattara, with the support of the West, including Germany's, has literally declared war on Gbagbo. All "peaceful means to get Gbagbo to step down, have been exhausted" he declared. His militia has begun to advance southward, from their stronghold in the country's north, toward the seat of power, Abidjan, where they are to bring the partisan of the former colonialist powers, Ouattara, to the head of government.[6] Observers are anticipating an unimaginable bloodbath. What is essentially a political conflict has, to a certain extent, become ethnicized. Ouattara has succeeded in attracting numerous members of his ethnic group, due to the fact that they are often discriminated against in the south, which is under Gbagbo's control. This could lead to massive brutality. Some observers are even warning that a genocide could result.[7] There have already been some 500 people killed.

Under Western Protection

Ouattara is operating from a luxury hotel in Abidjan, where he is under the protection of UN soldiers and is from time to time picked up in UN helicopters and taken outside the country for political consultations, which is why, for the past three months, he has been totally dependent on the West, which could easily have blocked what amounts to his declaration of war. This would have prevented a totally incontrollable escalation of violence. They did not do it. The West is willing to play with fire to place their man in power.

[1] Ernst Specht: Côte d'Ivoire/Elfenbeinküste - Gewollter Stillstand? Hintergrundpapier der Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung Nr. 13, Juni 2010
[2] International Crisis Group: Côte d'Ivoire: Faut-il se résoudre à la guerre? Rapport Afrique No 171, 03.03.2011
[3] Africa Correspondent, Thomas Scheen, reported on the close ties between Ouattara and France, according to which the incumbent President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, "as Mayor of Neuilly, conducted the civil marriage ceremony of Alassane and Dominique Ouattara, and was guest of honor at their wedding party. In addition, the two major French industrialist magnates, Vincent Bolloré and Martin Bouygues, to whom Sarkozy has close ties, are the largest entrepreneurs in the Ivory Coast. Both companies own the country's water supply facilities, the electrical power plants as well as the railroad lines. These former state enterprises were privatized thanks to a former prime minister by the name Alassane Ouattara." Unzählige alte Rechnungen; www.faz.net 23.12.2010
[4] Völkermord nicht ausgeschlossen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.03.2011
[5] Côte d'Ivoire: Sicherheitsrat fordert Ende der Gewalt; www.auswaertiges-amt.de
[6] Ouattara sucht militärische Entscheidung in der Elfenbeinküste; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 31.03.2011
[7] Völkermord nicht ausgeschlossen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.03.2011