Bizzare Stories a l'Ivoire

by SOC Okenwa

Cote D’Ivoire as a country is not without her own bizzare tales, stories socio-religious and politico-economic that puzzle an impartial observer. Africa being a land of more pain than gain, despair than hope Cote D’Ivoire has had her fair share of gripping stories that continue to define Africa in the eyes of the wider world, a definition that brings us more dishonour than honour.

Two weeks back on a Friday the francophone country was hit by a terrible news story that shook the people here. The repentant rebel leader turned Prime Minister was marked out for assassination in no other place than his fiefdom of Bouake. The city of Bouake hosted and still hosts the ex-warlords whose movement went by the name MPCI (Force Nouvelle) prior to the Peace Accord in Burkina Faso.

After Abidjan in terms of national econo-political significance one gets Yammoussoukro then Bouake before the port city of San Pedro. The rebellion and the policies it operated forced many Ivorians to leave in droves depopulating the once vibrant city of almost 2 million inhabitants. The population of Abidjan exploded as a result of the exodus.

Soro Kigbafori Guillaume and his entourage were billed to be in Bouake that fateful Friday morning to instal judges and magistrates towards the kicking off of the hitherto stalled national huge ID card scheme (Audience Foraine). As Soro and his bodyguards and other civillian aides touched down aboard a presidential plane in Bouake local airport a staccato of heavy artillery welcomed them as the aircraft was hit from different directions causing pandemonium in the interior. As the heavy barrage of gun-fire subsided Soro’s four bodyguards lay dead with their chilled bloods re-painting the aircraft’s interior! His other aides (6 in number) had sustained various degrees of first-degree injuries. One of them (with a funny sobriquet ‘Soul to Soul’) had eight life bullets extracted from his left leg!

One of the aircraft’s captains managed to roll the giant presidential bird away from the spot it was attacked with the other captain’s forehead pierced by a shrapnel. Soro survived the assassination attempt without any injury whatsoever! Perhaps Allah was on his side or his aides died to protect their boss. But one of the opposition newspapers here the next day screamed in its headline: “Soro disappeared from flight!”. Whether the youthful PM has the disappearing and appearing African magic wand is not what this piece is focused on.

Suffice however to add that more than one of the rebel Ministers has had to suffer humiliation in the past at the presidential palace as they were made to surrender their ‘gri-gri’ amoulletes before being allowed into executive meetings of government. In one of such ocassions there was a standoff between the rebel-minister’s bodyguards and the presidential elite guards. In the end the latter prevailed.

Again the rebellion led by Guillaume had butchered one of the top commanders in Bouake, Kass, for betrayal and his heart was allegedly removed and used for a barbeque! The presidential camp in the heat of the rebellion had accused Force Nouvelle of killing a dozen cows in order to kill the president. Over time the Soro forces had been generously accused of fetish conducts and diabolism. Perhaps that was what kept them going and in reckoning until the Ouaga accords.

After the failed assassination bid the MPCI (Mouvement Patriotique du Cote d’Ivoire) high command accused UN Peace-keeping Forces (ONUCI) of being behind the chilling attack. PM Soro and President Gbagbo are agreed for an international probe of the gory incident, an international inquest is right now on into the circumstances sorrounding the grievous incident whose major target was Soro and ultimately the peace agreement.

Different political formations here (including FPI the ruling party) had all gone to Bouake where the PM remained to pledge their loyalty and in solidarity visits to the Head of the Ivorian government. Soro earlier this week returned back to base in Abidjan after a weekend sojourn to the Compaore country where he took time off to brief the Sankara killer and guarantor of the Accord of developments. Compaore has agreed to re-inforce the PM’s security network with Burkinabe troops.

President Gbagbo on national TV penultimate week had accused some un-named “undesirable elements” and “enemies of the peace process” for wanting to thwart the efforts of his government to re-unify the Ivorian nation and reconcile her people. He expressed sadness for the souls lost but happiness for the failure of the operation to reach its prime target. Straight from Accra where he took part in the AU Summit he landed here and straight from the airport he ordered his protocol personnel to drive him to the hospital where the victims/survivors of the attack are receiving emergency intensive treatment.

And before the Bouake saga pentecostal churches and some politicians here came under a calculated damaging attack; they were still smarting from the huge scandal involving a voodoo priest and his collaborator. The man, Behazin, and Sumah Yadi from Benin Republic early last month shook the Ivorian society with their huge recorded allegations against the pentecostal movements and high-profile politicians. In the video clip released to the public which circulated like wild fire around Abidjan and cities outside the economic capital the two men alleged, naming names, that they assisted some pentecostal pastors, Catholic priests and politicians in occultic acts that included sacrificing babies, visitations to shrines and other demonic practices for the acquisition of powers and privileges.

The Ivorian society was shaken to its foundation with the strong pentecostal missions (especially the figure-heads cited in the video) hit by the sweeping surprising onslaught to the extent that the Sunday following the release of the clip churches were deserted. Prosperous ‘indicted’ pastors were defending themselves, queuing up in the high courts and suing the duo for libel. The pentecostal umbrella association after much deliberations and internal investigations addressed a press conference and gave a clean bill of health to the pastors mentioned in the wild claims.

Serious credibility damage was done to the church by the videod confession of a devil and his accomplice who had seemingly sought to destroy the church of God here and Christianity in general. Men of God with decades of integrity joined issues with the evil pair saying in unison that the devil was at work. Damage control mechanisms were deployed chief of which was to come out openly

— individually and collectively — to condemn in strongest terms attempts to take the Christian community here for a ride and its reputation (dragged) to the mud.

The undeniable truth is that the body of Christ was hit below the belt with many scampering for safety and others striving hard to clear their names rubbished in the video. The widow of the founder of our Church based in Paris France had to fly down to Abidjan in solidarity with her colleagues. She was furious though her late husband’s name was not mentioned.

In a televised debate two Sundays ago men of God wore gloomy angry faces as they castigated the two monsters with one man (a so-called ‘pastor’) taking sides with Behazin and Yadi insisting that there was no smoke without fire! He declared (without any shred of evidence) that in Nigeria this kind of thing happens daily so may be Ivorian pastors and politicians have ‘imported’ the practise to Cote d’Ivoire. I was flabbergasted by that man’s submission questioning myself :”must everything evil and bad has Nigeria‘s name tied to it?”

Both Bahazin and Yadi are currently in detention, cooling their heels in the MACA maximum security prison as the special crack investigation unit of the Ivorian police dig deeper into the apparent sponsorship and motive of those detained. They are set to appear in court soon to answer to charges of libel and perjury.

These are some of the bizzare stories from here — la Cote D’Ivoire, ‘la terre de l’esperance’ (the land of hope), ‘pays de l’hospitalite’ (country of hospitality).

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