‘President’ Laurent Kodou Gbagbo was born on May 31 1945 in a small village called Mama in the town known as Gagnoa in the South-western Cote D’Ivoire. He hails from an ethnic group ‘Béte’, a minority compared to other ethnic groups like Agni, Baoule and Djoula. A professional politician who is a historian by training and a former history lecturer he has been ‘ruling’ Ivory Coast as the President since the year 2000 after ‘winning’ a controversial presidential poll in which two big political opponents like the former President Henry Konan Bedie and ex-Prime Minister Dr Alassane Ouattara were ‘disqualified’ on flimsy excuses by the then military ruler now late Gen. Robert Guei.
From 1960 when Cote d’Ivoire obtained her political independence from France the late President Felix Houphouet-Boigny dominated the political space in a one-party system and when he succumbed to mortality in 1993 a huge leadership gap he left behind is stiull being felt today. As a benevolent despot the late ‘Nana’ Boigny was a statesman who loved his people and his cocoa and cafe-rich country deploying the fiscal resources realised by the state through the exploitation of these God-given natural resources to develop his country beyond his time. The late Boigny was a great leader from every indication and imagination; though crafty with power and ruthless sometimes in the application of power.
During the Nigerian Biafran war he (and France) were in support of ‘Gen.’ Odumegwo Ojukwu trying very hard to see to the dismemberment of the Nigerian federation. Perceived as the ‘disorganised’ giant, Nigeria was becoming an ‘African menace’ worth dividing up at least into two or more parts so that the behemoth can become a bit ‘manageable’. But these external efforts failed as Biafra became history following its defeat by the Nigerian army in the 3-year war that saw the extermination of more than 3 million Igbos!
During the ‘wise’ reign of ‘Nana’ in Abidjan spanning three decades Laurent Gbagbo was the only man who stood up to challenge the ‘dictatorship’; history recorded that he was one of the primary opponents of the late President braving the odds. He founded the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) in 1982 in clandestine fashion and unsuccessfully ran for President against Houphouët-Boigny at the start of multi-party politics in 1990. Before then attempts were made to corrupt and gag him but he ‘soldiered’ on running nto exile to France at a time when the heat became too hot for him to handle.
In 1990 the late President Boigny introduced a multi-party democracy following incessant pressure from the Gbagbo forces and faced with a declining economy he invited over an IMF technocrat Dr Alassane Ouattara to help the country and his regimle stabilise the economic tempest threatening to consume his government. when the health of ‘Nana’ Boigny deteriorated in 1992 following ‘subversive’ campaigns by the Gbagbo frontists Dr Ouattara had Gbagbo arrested, tried and sentenced to two years in prison charging him with inciting violence! The veteran opposition figure was released months later and he continued unabated his struggle for more democratic concessions.
When the late Gen. Robert Guéï, heading a military junta that toppled the Konan Bedie government on Christmas eve in 1999, barred other leading politicians from running against him in the October 2000 presidential election, Gbagbo was left as the only significant opposition candidate. Gen. Guei later revealed that the plot to have Bedie and Ouattara excluded from the 2000 polls had Gbagbo as the mastermind! Gbagbo claimed victory after the election as well as the late military strongman who was crudely assassinated (together with his beautiful wife, Rose, and his bodyguard Fabian) during the early hours of a rebellion by the ‘New Forces’ in 2002. Using a foreign media based in France he ordered his supporters to take to the streets around the country until the late General retreated from the course he was headed.
Eventually Gen. Guéï was ‘eased’ out of power and Gbagbo was installed as President, more because of the French principled stand for democracy. Normally the Ivorian constitution stipulates that the duration of a presidential mandate is for five years but due to the ‘minor’ war in 2002 and the splitting of the country into two parts Gbagbo delayed the organization of any general elections until late last year (November 28) always citing security concerns and relying advantageously on a portion of the constitution that says that in the event of serious threat to national security and unity the President should re-establish order and unity before organizing any election. The opposition had posited that he had never wanted elections for fear of defeat. Today they have been proved right!
Described by the opposition as “Le Boulanger d’Abidjan” (The Baker of Abidjan) for his capacity to manipulate and deceive friends and foes even while laughing heartily and publicly. Infact the notorious capacity of the defeated President for duplicity, blackmail, and hypocrisy is legendary. Gbagbo had said severally that he was not born with a golden spoon in his mouth; that his late father Paul Koudou, a war veteran, was never a rich man nor a popular figure beyond his village of Mama in Gagnoa. So when providence catapulted the bad election loser to the pinnacle of state power he ought to be grateful to the unseen forces that propelled his inner spirit and soul.
‘President’ Gbagbo is a polygamous man whose sexual exploits are known by even a ten-year old girl in the streets of Abidjan! When he was in exile in France he married a French woman with whom he had children the first of whom, Michel, is based in Abidjan as a businessman and government contractor. The ‘half-cast’ owns the rich popular night club in Plateau called “Cafe de Rome”. The obdurate man bitten by the bug of power had gone there on more than one ocassion, at wee hours of the night, to have fun with his French friends on a private visit from Paris. After seperating from the White woman he engaged the marital services of another woman, this time a black lady with big political horizon and vision, Simon Ehivet. Together they founded the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), the party through which he rose ‘calamitously’ to power in 2000.
Perhaps finding Simone no more attractive Gbagbo went for a younger more beautiful thing by ‘marrying’ another muslim girl by name Nady Bamba. With her he had another child and the official second wife runs a media outfit including a newspaper that daily defends the indefensible and calls a spade another name in order to please the ‘king’. He did not stop there: rumours were flying all over the place of his many mistresses and in one of such rumours it was alleged that the ex-president had a carnal knowledge of the daughter of the President of the National Assembly Mamadou Koulibally. He had fathered a child with Ahoua Ehoura, now legally married, one of the chief propagandists in the state nay Gbagbo-controlled TV, RTI.
During a peroid of ten years the chieftains of the ruling party were all smiling to the bank and riding jeeps and other powerful automobiles; these same people the former PM now president-elect Dr Ouattara once revealed had been coming to him in motorcycles, bicycles and ‘leg-edez’ begging for financial assistance when they were still in the opposition! Most of them have become emergency millionaires and billionaires buying up properties in choice capitals of the world! One of the party’s barons, a septugenarian, Abudramane Sangare, even went a step further by marrying the former dashingly pretty Miss Cote d’Ivoire, Lynda Delon. Though they had a daughter together they have gone their seperate ways after Miss Delon must have ‘fleeced’ the old man of millions of CFA with a baby girl as a product of the ‘marriage’.
Some years ago the city of Abidjan was in a toxic waste dumping fiasco. Loads of toxic waste materials from Holland were dumped in many areas in Abidjan leading
to the death of hundreds of people, Ivorians and foreigners alike! After investigations it was discovered that the out-going President’s wife had a hand in the local company that received the deadly cargo. Since 2000 it has been a regime of scandals degenerating into mediocrity and infrastructural decay. At a time for months running last year electricity was rationed area by area because of the neglect of the critical sector by the out-going regime. The late ‘Nana’ Boigny knew the importance of power to societal development and had ensured that electricity and pipe-borne water were available round the clock.
Patriotism is said to be the last bastion of the scoundrel and in this case when you mix pseudo patriotism with nationalism of the minority what you get is Gbagbo and his ‘area boy’ Charles Ble Goude, the enfant terrible whose certificate forgery case is yet to be vacated yet appointed, all the same, a Minister in the new ‘government’ of his benefactor Gbagbo. It is instructive to note that Ble Goude and the Commander of the Republican Guard and Presidential Guard, Gen. Dogbo Ble Brunot are both ‘Bete’, the same ethnic group Gbagbo belongs. These two ‘brothers-in-arms’ are the most vocal and resistant in the on-going impasse.
The major problem right now about any military intervention, ECOMOG et al, remains the weeks upon weeks grace extended to the ‘dictator’ which has enabled him to stock-pile arms and ammunitions from Europe and Angola. Again before any military operation takes place there should be a certain consideration given to the millions of West Africans (Nigerians included) still ‘trapped’ in Abidjan and elsewhere in Cote d’Ivoire. There must be emergency evacuation missions aimed at reducing at barest minimum the number of casualties in the event of military action. The first thing to do in the event of the military strike is to either destroy or take over the RTI TV and radio, the propaganda machinery Gbagbo uses daily to insult and attack his opponents (including the UN) relaying messages of hate, of division and xenophobia.
In a period of ten years of democracy under the ‘refondateurs’ the defeated but resisting ‘President’ had systematically looted the country’s resources with his lackeys; and the ‘small war’ fought in 2002 gave him the justification to blame every of his failure on the September 2002 pre-dawn invasion of Abidjan and other cities by organized hot-headed rebels, now holding forte the entire north and some western parts of the country. According to a publication in a Swiss online newspaper few weeks ago the out-going President and his wife, Simone, ‘stole’ millions of dollars and in the heat of the grave political crisis they had withdrawn the funds from the Swiss accounts and transferred same to accounts in banks in Lebanon, Iran, India, South Africa and Angola.
As the AU mediator Raila Odinga left Abidjan few weeks ago in yet another failed mission at mediation it became clear to every observer that Monsieur Laurent Gbagbo is not ready to quit when the ‘ovation’ is in its loudest. The Kenyan Prime Minister denounced the unpresidential attitude of Mr Gbagbo who promised to lift the blockade of Golf Hotel by his troops where the President-elect Dr Ouattara and his government are temporarily operating from. As the AU embarks on yet another peace missions it is hoped that this time reason will prevail over absurdity in the Gbagbo spirit.
In this elaborate (last option) international military project to reclaim Cote d’Ivoire from the enemies of its cosmopolitan peoples it is significant in the eyes of the world that Gbagbo has been given the chance to go as a democrat and patriot he had all along pretended to be. As his opponents continue to maintain day in day out the only language ‘the baker’ understands seems to be that of force and superior force; if and when that ‘dish of fire’ is served I believe he and his unfortunate nation can never be the same again. Deconstructing his mind cannot therefore be said to be a major task: The dictator in Gbagbo has bared its fangs and it is baying for blood of the innocent!
Laurent Koudou Gbagbo and his ‘gang’ of marauders, mercenaries from Liberia and Angola and some leading elements in the military must not prevail in this clear battle for the soul of democracy in a unique ‘international’ country. Abidjan will soon be liberated from the forces of fascism and obsolete state terrorism. Let the ‘war’ against the masked tyranny begin in earnest in the Ivory Coast! Democracy, epitomised by the huge victory of Dr Ouattara in the Nov. 28 poll, must prevail!