16.01.2011 Feature Article

Statement on the Cote D'Ivoire Crisis-The Socialist Forum of Ghana

Statement on the Cote D'Ivoire Crisis-The Socialist Forum of Ghana
16.01.2011 LISTEN

The Socialist Forum of Ghana (SFG) has today 21st December released a press statement on the crisis in Cote D'Ivoire after the 28th November second round election which led to the swearing in of both the incumbent,Laurent Gbagbo, and main opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara as presidents.I reproduce here the full text of the statement.

The Socialist Forum of Ghana (SFG) calls urgently on pan-African nationalists to challenge the dominant international narrative regarding the crisis in la Cote dIvoire (CI). Actions based on that narrative, driven as it is by deliberate misinformation, shallow analysis and chauvinism will push the country into prolonged conflict and its working people into even deeper misery. It will also ultimately undermine the credibility and efficacy of our regional institutions like ECOWAS and the AU. Progressives owe it to Africa and to the people of la Cote dIvoire to offer a factual, scientific, historical and constructive perspective on this crisis.Pan-African activists must challenge the false assertion that Alassane Ouattara won the November elections. This does not mean support for the opposing claims of Laurent Gbagbo.

The truth is that neither the results declared by either the Independent National Electoral Commission nor those declared by the Constitutional Council can be said to reflect the will of the Ivorian people. All the evidence (and this is widely available now) suggests a fatally flawed election. This in turn is the result of a badly flawed electoral process superintended by a UN bureaucracy with little commitment to the rights and aspirations of ordinary Ivoirians or willingness to confront the deeper crisis of Ivoirian society. The growing buy-in to the claim that Alassane Ouattara won the November election is a classic application of the Nazi Big Lie technique (tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth) by neo-colonial (especially the US and French) interests, cynical UN bureaucrats and the international corporate media. The global public has of course been primed for over a century to accept facile, a-historic and self-serving Northern narratives about African realities. Africans have also had 50 years experience of corrupt and intransigent African leaders. As a result it is easy to convince people that the CI situation is nothing more than another African dictator clinging to power against the demonstrated will of his people.

It is clear that both leaders enjoy significant support and that their supporters genuinely believe that others seek to cheat them out of deserved victory. The imposition of either leader on Ivoirians can only escalate the conflict. La Cote dIvoire deserves better. Pan-African activists must challenge recent declarations made in the names of ECOWAS and the AU as well as the processes through which our regional bodies make critical decisions. The AU position was announced by a secretariat official without Council approval and purely on the basis of the supposed ECOWAS position. The Abuja ECOWAS summit itself was attended by only 5 out of 15 eligible heads of State and was apparently conducted on the basis of their seniority i.e. longevity in office. Three of the heads of state present (Presidents Jonathan of Nigeria, Wade of Senegal and Compaore of Burkina Faso) endorsed Ouattara. Presidents Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia and Mills of Ghana urged caution and engagement. The only other ECOWAS leader that has taken a public position on the matter (President Jammeh of Gambia) has come out in support of President Gbagbo. Three out of sixteen is hardly a democratic majority. It is certainly inadequate for making life and death decisions affecting millions. That the majority of ECOWAS leaders have not spoken to the Ivoirian elections whether of reluctance to attract scrutiny to their own electoral credentials or fear of antagonising the international community or sheer short sighted indifference is simply not acceptable. We must demand more of our leaders. More fundamentally we must challenge the narrative that suggests that La Cote dIvoires problem is an electoral one.

A credible election in La Cote dIvoire would help to resolve the larger political crisis. However, the election dispute is only the most immediate of the deep divisions that afflict Ivoirians like. The fundamental division that drives African politics is the division between the incredibly wealthy foreign and local elites that control continental resources and the dispossessed and oppressed African poor that have to sell their labour and surrender their dignity to these elite machines just to survive. This fundamental division in African society has been compounded across the continent by many decades of elite divide-and-rule tactics that promoted secondary identity differences between ordinary working Ivoirians precisely to prevent them from uniting and challenging the elites responsible for their misery.

In Cote La dIvoire several factors allowed those identity divisions to take on a life of their own in the 21st century. These included the growing challenge to French neo-colonial hegemony in West Africa from the US and from certain regional interests. These also included the collapse of local elite coherence following the death of President Houphouet-Boigny. As neo-colonial power fragmented in the mid-2000s identity politics degenerated to militarisation and partition and a massive increase in the woes of the Ivoirian people. Obviously, the imposition by the international community of Alassane Ouattara on such a deeply divided society will not solve the La Cote dIvoire crisis. What it will do is however is advance the overall cause of neo-colonialism and set the scene for further conflict between France and the US and allied regional powers for control over La Cote dIvoire and regional resources in particular oil and gas.

The Socialist Forum of Ghana does not in any way seek to downplay the difficulties of making real progress in La Cote dIvoire. Nor do we pretend to have all the answers. We are however clear that the pseudo-answers being offered by the international community will lead only to disaster. What we seek is a fresh discourse amongst Pan-African activists regarding the best alternatives for La Cote dIvoire and the role of Africa in realising these. As part of that discourse the Socialist Forum of Ghana would like to put forward some ideas about an African platform for support to CI. We think Africa should commit diplomatic and other resources to demand:a.respect for Ivoirian sovereignty and the exclusion of neo-colonial political and military interference and specifically the withdrawal of all French troops from Ivoirian soil;

b.phased disarmament of all irregular forces and unification of the entire country under an interim government preferably composed of national civil society leaders and statesmen willing to forgo participation in elections for at least 10 years;

c.a popular national political process that seeks to develop Ivoirian solutions including a democratic and inclusive national constitution, social reconciliation and stronger national institutions; andd.a credible election system and fresh elections within a reasonable period. We have no illusions that this can be achieved overnight or without a major commitment of scarce financial resources. We are clear however that the ultimate political, human and financial costs to Ivoirians and Africans of a complete breakdown in Ivoirian society or a return to conflict will be much higher than the costs of a protracted peace project.

Long Live the People of la Cote dIvoire!
Africa Must Unite!

Kwesi Pratt, Jnr For Convener

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