Rule of the Few

ABIDJAN/PARIS/BERLIN | | cote-d-ivoire

ABIDJAN/PARIS/BERLIN (Own report) - Following the putsch in the Ivory Coast, the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation has announced its opening of a new branch office in Abidjan and wants to serve the new ruling RPR party, as a "permanent advisor." The foundation announced that it would establish closer relations with the new president, Alassane Ouattara and his party. The RPR has been active for years, in the FDP's liberal West African network, which includes an advisor to the president of Senegal. The fact that the Naumann Foundation's partner, Ouattara, was bombed into power last April, by France and the United Nations - and with Berlin's explicit approval - in spite of the presumed electoral fraud, has met with continuing strong protests in Africa. The media is openly speaking of "imperialism" and "neo-colonialism". For example, South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki considers that not only the African Union has lost all credibility through the military intervention in the Ivory Coast. After its armed attack on the presidential palace in Abidjan, the United Nations, as well, can no longer claim to be a "neutral force" of mediation in conflicts. The events in the Ivory Coast have put an end to "the fiction that the major powers respect the rule of law in the conduct of international relations."

Business as Usual

German media are hardly taking notice of continuing tensions in the Ivory Coast, since the West successfully helped enthrone its crony, Alassane Ouattara, a former high-ranking functionary of the International Monetary Fund into office, as president, in Abidjan. For several months, western media had been attentively following the power struggle between Ouattara and his rival, Laurent Gbagbo, who had sought more autonomy in the country's relations to the West. Ouattara, who claimed to have won the presidential elections, based on presumed electoral fraud, was bombed into office in April with the help of militias, French troops and units of the United Nations, following massive lobbying efforts by the West. ( reported.[1]) He officially assumed power as president of the country in May. The population is divided in half. Ouattara's followers, who mainly come from the north of the country, are confronted with Gbagbo's partisans who see themselves as victims of a neo-colonial intervention. Militia, who had brought Ouattara into the presidency by force of arms, are accused of having killed at least 150 of Gbagbo's followers since the putsch. No one has yet been indicted for the massacres of hundreds of civilians, killed even before the putsch. Observers do not rule out the possibility of a renewed escalation of bloodshed. However, western media is reporting little about it. The crony of the EU and the USA is now in power, European and North American companies have restarted their activities, it is now business as usual.

FDP Networks

Berlin had greeted Gbagbo's overthrow and Ouattara's takeover with sympathy even though Ouattara's very close ties to its rival, France, could not completely stifle criticism. Ouattara is receiving practical aid from the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNSt). High-ranking representatives of the foundation and the Liberal International, holding powerful positions in the FDP, were on hand at his inauguration May 21. In reference to the military takeover, the foundation wrote that, today "the democracies of the continent" are no longer accepting "the usurpation of power" as "the socialist, Laurent Gbagbo was seeking."[2] Ouattara and his party, Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR) are members of the Africa Liberal Network (ALN). The ALN is comprised of 27 parties from 21 African countries, and is an associated organization of the Liberal International.[3] At a seminar in Abidjan, lasting several days, the FNSt's West Africa Project provided Ouattara the opportunity, even before the elections, to coordinate his plans with 20 high-ranking ALN functionaries. This is but one example of the useful assistance provided by the FDP organization.

West Africa Bureaus

Ouattara's inauguration provided new possibilities for FNSt's influence in West Africa to enhance the attractiveness of its austerity economic policy. Already in the summer of 2010, an FNSt expert declared that "the current sporadic contacts" to Ouattara's RPR should be upgraded to "a continuous dialogue" and that the FNSt should have "permanent advisors" to the RPR.[4] The foundation is now announcing that in the next few months, it intends to open a foreign bureau in the Ivory Coast, to stabilize its lobbying efforts. This will be the third West African country with an FNSt office. The foundation, until now, has had offices only in Ghana and Senegal. In Senegal, the party in the FNSt network, the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais, of President Abdoulaye Wade, has been in power for years. The current chairperson of the ALN, Mamadou Lamine Ba, is a member of this party. Ba, a former Senegalese minister and special foreign affairs advisor to the Senegalese president, has special ties to the FNSt, he is also in their alumni network.

Lumumba, Nkrumah, Gbagbo

Unlike in Europe and the USA, Gbagbo's overthrow and the enthronement of Ouattara, so praised by the Naumann Foundation, have been met with angry protests in Africa. The reporting in Africa's media has been quite different from reporting in western capitals. The South African Mail and Guardian, for example, has openly described Ouattara as the West's crony and has criticized France's imperial role and hegemonic interests. It considers the French approach, in line with its neo-colonial practices over the past 50 years, when France always appointed its partisans to key positions in politics and the economy.[5] "French imperialism" is resurging, writes the Kenyan business press: Gbagbo "should have studied the fate of Patrice Lumumba and Nkrumah."[6] Kwame Nkrumah and Lumumba were the most prominent anti-colonial politicians in Africa in the 1950s and 60s. Both were overthrown or killed by the West. Pan-African organizations are even more explicit. The Pan African Youth Union (PYU) is openly talking of "neo-colonialism". Ouattara has been brought to office as a "puppet of the French".[7]

Partisan Belligerent, not Neutral

The deep impact of the overthrow in the Ivory Coast on Africa's political elite can be seen in the statement by former South African President Thabo Mbeki that was published in late April. He writes, the "Ivorian reality points to a number of incontrovertible conclusions." It was fatal that the West insisted on holding elections in the fall against massive Ivorian resistance - even though various conditions that had been agreed upon were not met. These include the disarmament of the militia and the arbitrary and ominous recognition of Ouattara as president. The West therefore disavowed African NGO's, who had pointed to serious electoral irregularities. Moreover, particularly fatal: "the United Nations elected to abandon its neutrality as a peacemaker, deciding to be a partisan belligerent in the Ivorian conflict."[8]

Many Casualties

"In the end of it all," - in addition to those who lost their lives - "there are many casualties," Mbeki writes, "one of these is the African Union": Its "marginalization" has been confirmed in the dispute with the West. Another casualty is the United Nations: "It has severely undermined its acceptability as a neutral force in the resolution of internal conflicts." In the future, the UN will have difficulty convincing countries "that it is not a mere instrument in the hands of the world's major powers." The events put an end to "the fiction that the major powers respect the rule of law in the conduct of international relations." One can only hope that the Ivorian people will not "continue to suffer" - as "abused and humiliated victims of a global system," which, even though "shouting loudly about universal human rights," is only seeking "to perpetuate the domination of the many by the few, who dispose of preponderant political, economic, military and media power." Such unambiguous declarations of a former head of state are quite rare.

[1] see also Der Mann vom IWF, Playing with Fire and The Right of Might (II)
[2] Historischer und symbolischer Tag für Demokratie in Afrika;
[3] Welcome to the Africa Liberal Network;
[4] Ernst Specht: Côte d'Ivoire/Elfenbeinküste - Gewollter Stillstand? Hintergrundpapier der Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung Nr. 13, Juni 2010
[5] Expediency is the unofficial French policy in Africa; 15.04.2011
[6] Resurgence of French Imperialism; 26.04.2011
[7] 'Don't let chickens and cowards sell Africa'; 17.06.2011
[8] Thabo Mbeki: What the World Got Wrong in Cote d'Ivoire; 29.04.2011