Ivory Coast: A Pyrrhic Victory, Genocide, Scapegoating, and Cover-up

The current man-made human disaster unfolding in Ivory Coast represents a statement of the failure of humanity and human institutions such as UN, AU, ECOWAS and EU in solving global sociopolitical problems. Yet, this failure and its negative consequences will pale next to the predictable defensive response of especially those institutions as they pile blame on a convenient scapegoat. Such a reaction will not help humanity in the year 2011 and the coming years.

Statements like: Laurent “Gbagbo is to be blamed for everything that is happening in Ivory Coast today”, already issuing from some stake-holder, otherwise responsible quarters today, constitute such scapegoating. As repugnant as Gbagbo’s action is in refusing to accept electoral loss, no one should forget that legally, he followed Due Process in his own country in challenging the results and managing to have them reversed. If Ivory Coast’s Supreme Court is biased, as the UN and foreign opinion believe, and its judgment flawed, then, that’s a different matter—an important matter that needs a different handling than what has gone on now. And, there is at least one precedence.

In 2007, elections declared by the same world bodies as so flawed that they had never seen anything like that before took place in Nigeria and resulted in Umaru Yar’Adua’s presidency. The peoples living in Nigeria also cried foul, until they were hoarse, in utter helplessness. What did the UN, AU, ECOWAS and EU do about it? Nothing—initially; later, they did the most unconscionable thing: they all got comfortably in bed with Yar’Adua’s administration. The election results were appealed to Nigeria’s Supreme Court; after dragging its feet for months, that court finally ruled that the election results would stand, thereby refuting charges of rigging and impropriety which were ever so glaring. Did the UN, AU, ECOWAS and EU do anything to challenge this? No. As a matter of fact, four years later, the UN was only just now calling and counting on same Nigeria which had volunteered her forces for military intervention against Gbagbo to march into Ivory Coast.

To be sure, Gbagbo’s political tactics and antics do not ingratiate him to any outside observer, but he has a staunch following in his own country: one should ask and answer, Why? Gbagbo is no more to be blamed for Ivory Coast’s fate than the UN, AU, EU and ECOWAS—and, France. And of course, Ouattara.

Ouattara is to be congratulated for installing himself the new President of Ivory Coast? Hardly. Where is the victory if he reigns over streets and villages littered with human corpses, and with the parochial military support that placed him on the throne, which by any name, including the convenient, “just-in-time” whitewashed re-christening as “Republican Forces,” is guilty of unconscionable genocidal massacres of non-combatant villagers and other civilians? Ouattara only presides over a non-united, irreconcilable country which has been divided for over ten years. The UN may support him now, but these crimes against humanity are going to make the UN think twice about that, although, predictably, to save face and cover its mistake, the UN will go into a hypocritical mode where it will play down Ouattara’s shortcomings and involvement and responsibility for these crimes, while doing everything to blame solely Gbagbo for them. At the same time, the UN will now try very hard to make Ouattara look like a saint.

But in fact, the psychological profile of Gbagbo is no better or worse than that of Ouattara. Laurent Ggagbo believes that he is the staunch nationalist and it is up to him to defend and save Ivory Coast from foreigners—ex-colonial masters as well as those like Ouattara, whose Ivory Coast citizenship is considered dubious and who should not be recognized as true citizens of Ivory Coast when it comes to voting. No matter what. Alassane Ouattara, for his part, is out to prove that he is a real citizen of Ivory Coast; his being Prime Minister is not enough proof; he must rule Ivory Coast as its President, believing that he can then “unite” Ivory Coast and erase this contentious citizenship-line drawn by his adversary and followers once and for all; perhaps, then, Ivory Coast can then be truly one, and he, Ouattara, the hero. No matter what.

So, civilians perish; lives and livelihoods are destroyed, pogroms become commonplace—“no matter what.” And, Ivory Coast has since become two incompatible countries with two hostile and genocidal armies and two uneasy and adversarial peoples; but, “no matter what.” Genocide and reigniting of a smoldering civil war are now the reality: “no matter what.”

With all the expertise, skill set, information, intelligence and tools available to these world bodies, it is a huge disappointment that this is “the best they can do” and produce in Ivory Coast. For at least a decade, it must have been well known to them that Ivory Coast is a divided country. Why didn’t they do anything other than the usual “you have to live together and learn to get along among yourselves” hypocritical policy that they well know has never really worked anywhere else? Did that policy and attitude ever work on the continent of Europe, for example? Why, of course, “this is Africa”: who really cares if it works or not; let’s just impose it and act like it is working out!

Do the world bodies think, for one moment, that Ouattara, despite the self-serving support they are rendering him and will continue to give him, by becoming President of Ivory Coast, is now going to change the reality of a “country” where “the basis of unity is no longer there”—to paraphrase General Gowon’s statement as the head of the then Nigerian putschist military government on taking over power in a bloody coup in July 1966. There too, in Nigeria, the world bodies supported Gowon; he went on to commit the worst genocide on the continent of Africa by murdering over 2 million Biafran children and pregnant women, old men, women and non-combatants, in a scarring irony when, even after his statement, he went ahead to militarily force a “union” of Nigeria with a civil war. Gowon and his Nigeria too had a Pyrrhic victory: that is the real explanation of why Nigeria has never since gotten its act together and never will—as long as Nigeria insists on the illusion of one-Nigeria for an obviously divided Nigeria. The same fate awaits Ivory Coast if the UN, AU, EU, ECOWAS and Ouattara insist on the illusion that Ivory Coast could ever again be one united country.

Rather than walking this predicted path, the world bodies can do Ivory Coast civilians a favor: Support and conduct a Referendum for the peoples of Ivory Coast. Ask if they want to belong to different countries, which is really how the place has been functioning now, and help implement their decision. Hopefully, the world can learn to begin to apply this principle in every similar situation in Africa—at least, although a global application would be more consistent and meaningful. It is to be remembered that Referendum is a tool of Self Determination. It will be more logical, prudent and humane to see this rather than the typical act of these bodies who must find it pleasurable to work on the quixotic task of trying to force a union in an arrangement bereft of unity.

As for the dramatis personae, if the world tries and condemns Gbagbo, the same world must try and condemn Ouattara, especially when it comes to genocide, pogroms and crimes against humanity committed against the peoples of Ivory Coast. The only other question is how to effectively condemn the UN, AU, ECOWAS, EU and especially France for their negligent role and for their one-sided action enabling those who have murdered innocent villagers and townsfolk of Ivory Coast. These world institutions have a chance at atonement, and that’s by now doing what they should have done a decade ago: Propose and support a self-deterministic Referendum in Ivory Coast.

A Referendum for Ivory Coast!

Oguchi Nkwocha, MD. is a Biafran Citizen. He can be reached at: oguchi@comcast.net. Read other articles by Oguchi.