Is Rawlings Trying to Rekindle the Ivorian Civil War?
Following the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC), in The Hague, to acquit former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo of crimes against humanity charges brought against him by France and its Western allies, in the aftermath of the Ivorian Civil War, longtime Ghanaian strongman Chairman Jerry John Rawlings was reported by the media to have jubilated over the ICC’s decision and said that Mr. Gbagbo’s acquittal “marks a new beginning” for the unification of the factions of the world’s largest producer of cocoa (See “Exoneration of Gbagbo Marks a New Beginning for Ivorians – Rawlings” Modernghana.com 1/15/19).
This is simply pathetic on the part of the former Flt-Lt. Rawlings because the ICC verdict did not state that former President Gbagbo did not either commit or cause to be committed wanton atrocities against Ivorian citizens. Rather, the Court said that the prosecutors in the case or trial had not been able to convincingly connect the allegedly inflammatory and divisive political rhetoric of the former university professor to the crimes and/or atrocities for which the accused was arrested, detained for 8 years and unsuccessfully tried. It also not clear whether Chairman Rawlings is commending Mr. Gbagbo for being a “great African patriot” by his adamant and megalomaniacal refusal to step down and make way for the now-President Alassane Dramane Ouattara who defeated Mr. Gbagbo in a 2010 presidential-election run-off.
We know for a fact that in Ghana, Mr. Rawlings entrenched himself on the seat of power via bluster, the barrel of the gun and plain rigging of the polls. Thus, if self-imposition on a democracy-loving people is what makes a dictator or would-be dictator a “great African patriot,” then, truly, Africans have a very long way to go in order to fully appreciate and instructively practice civilized democratic culture. Indeed, we have in recent years also witnessed the ICC’s either failing to prosecute President Uhuru Kenyatta because many of the scheduled key witnesses who could guarantee the successful prosecution of the son of the legendary President Jomo Kenyatta, had been made to disappear under mysterious circumstances by their country’s “democratic strongman.”
The ICC’s prosecutors would also claim to have run short of the requisite fiscal resources to enable them track down evidence strongly supporting the criminal culpability of these very powerful and filthy rich suspects. I also don’t know how megalomaniacally causing the deaths of several thousand Ivorian citizens, as well as causing the displacement of another half-million Ivorian citizens, could be envisaged to be an enviable benchmark for kickstarting a dignified process of reconciliation and national unity. Even so, I perfectly agree that time is long overdue for France, the former colonial suzerain over the Ivory Coast, and its European allies to stop stage-managing the internal political affairs of that resource-rich African country.
Indeed, it is because of the abject lack of respect that French leaders have for their Francophone former colonies that I winced and squirmed when, recently, Ghana’s President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo officially signed his country into membership of the Francophone alliance I was a bit taken aback. That it was another leader of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo-inspired New Patriotic Party (NPP), to wit, former President John Agyekum-Kufuor, who initiated such lurid flirtation with the arrogant French leaders, that makes such bizarre proposition all the more perplexing. The fact of the matter is that Ghanaian youths and students can be strongly encouraged to learn the French language, because most of our neighboring West African countries are officially Francophone. But this fact, in of itself, ought not to have pushed us into forging a clearly subservient alliance with France, which is what full-membership of the Francophone alliance means.
Personally, I found both Messrs. Gbagbo and Ouattara to have been equally guilty of having royally failed the Ivorian people, and would rather have had totally new key political players on the Ivorian political scene forge a transitional alliance or coalition of national unity prior to the restoration of peaceful organicity. It can scarcely be gainsaid that President Ouattara is a veritable puppet of France. But it can equally not be gainsaid that the sort of geopolitical tribalism fomented by then-President Gbagbo, as an opportunistic means of entrenching himself in the seat of power was likely to logically erupt into the sort of bloody civil war that the Ivory Coast experienced in the wake of the 2010 electoral impasse.
Matters are more likely to become complicated with the ICC’s acquittal of Mr. Gbagbo in the eyes of his supporters and sympathizers, who are now likely to feel “vindicated” like Ghana’s Chairman Rawlings and even adamantly righteous in their cause, unless a way is peacefully negotiated to have the now-President Ouattara peacefully exit the scene on a mutually acceptable terms, as provided by the Ivorian Constitution, when President Ouattara’s tenure is up.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
January 15, 2019