Ivory Coast: Before Putting our Boys in Harm's Way

by Ossie Ezeaku

The debate on if Nigeria could have avoided the last civil war was one that’ll continue to linger for a long time. Some of the voices that experienced that war do remind us about the ravages of war, and the need to exhaust diplomacy whenever possible. This is to say, that however intractable a political impasse might be, there should always be the need to leave the lines of communication open.

Having fought a brutal civil war, Nigerians have learnt from it and have equally applied the lessons on a number of dicey political issues at home. From the cancellation of a presidential election result, the Niger Delta, to the unending ethno-religious killings, Nigerians have learnt to manage potentially explosive situations. Thus, it is incumbent upon the present leadership and the citizens to continue to set the example of peaceful resolution of crisis, while upholding the tenets of democracy.

To a large extent, the root causes of a war do determine how quickly it could be brought to an end militarily or diplomatically. Bearing this in mind, There is more to the disputed Ivorian election than meets the eye. The history of the Ivory coast; her citizens, demography, migratory patterns, religion and ethnicity should be a subject of intense consideration before ECOWAS, particularly Nigeria, commits her troops. The disagreement between the two Ivorian electoral bodies was apparently the consequence of underlying issues of religion, ethnicity and citizenship.

That being the case, it should not warrant putting our young men and women in uniform in harm’s way in that land. Ivory Coast’s problems should be handled by the Ivorians themselves, aided by diplomatic shuttles as presently being done by African leaders. Putting together a multi national force to oust Gbagbo is a bad idea. It could turn out to be another Sudan. In retrospect, it would be a complete error of judgment to equate the socio-political and cultural clime of Ivory Coast to that of Sierra Leone and Liberia; i say this with reference to ECOWAS’ past military successes in these lands.

We are talking about an otherwise predominantly Roman Catholic nation that hosts of one of Christendom’s formidable land marks – The Basilica Of Our Lady Of Peace – at Yamoussoukro. The Guinness World Records lists the edifice as the largest church in the world, having surpassed the previous record holder, St. Peter’s Basilica of Rome. What is the guarranty of it’s safety in the event of an all out war?

However, the truth is that for most Ivorian Christians, the present situation have left them with no choice other than to have the so called Muslim immigrants dominate them or simply resist the flagship of Allasane Ouattarra. The two men, highly educated, and knowing the efficacy of the opium that is religion, have harped on it to maintain and consolidate their hold on their constituencies.

An Ivorian friend told me bluntly that a Quattarra presidency would bring about a disequilibrium. He was emphatic on the fact that Quattarra would grant more citizenship to thousands of immigrants, thereby, permanently tilting the already delicate balance of Ivorian demography in favor of his constituency..

In the aftermath of the death of Pres. Felix Houphet-Bougny, who opened up immigration and encouraged immigrants to call Ivory Coast home, the question of who is an Ivorian had become more controversial as 40 percent of the present population were not autochtonuos to the present Ivory Coast. The most are Muslims, and trace their origins to Burkina Fasso. Allasane Ouattarra is just one of them.

Dr.Laurent Gbabgo, a political scientist and a member of the International Socialists Movement, may well know his constituency more than many commentators have actually written in their analysis.. He is a well grounded politician that had garnered enough exposure during his many years of exile in France. The current position of the French President notwithstanding, Dr. Gbagbo’s years in exile was a period during which he made acquaintances with the French Socialist establishment. Which has consequently created a big division within the rank and file of the French Socialists.

On the other hand, the United Nations, as a body, seem to have derailed from her modus operandi. Standing by her known principles, she has been able to deal with rogue leadership around the globe by pressing for sanctions and other punitive measures where applicable. But, her tacit approval for the use of force, which, in the present circumstance in Ivory Coast, tantamounts to war, was weird and outrageous to say the least.

The quickness to which the UN took sides in the Ivorian elections was unprecedented and highly suspicious. The UN has to exercise her independence and must not make pundits see her as to be protecting the geo-political and economic interest of a leader of an influential nation, more especially at the risk of blood-letting.

To summarize: while it is important to recognize the rights of authentic Ivorian citizens of all faiths and ethnic groups, President Jonathan should be mindful of Nigeria’s limited financial resources in this regard. The safety of our young men and women should be paramount. Equally, is the irony and the moral burden which Nigeria faces: Nigerian citizens have not been able to exercise their full citizenship rights and privileges in their own nation. The bloody fall-out of which is the frequent ethno-religious killings. Here we are contemplating to enforce citizenship law in another man’s land. Let the Ivorians sort out their differences, please.

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