When the Belgian sociologist, Benoît Scheuer, came to Cote d’Ivoire in the late 90’s during the presidency of Henry Konan Bedie he spent some weeks (nay months) in Abidjan and elsewhere in the hinterland and came out with a block-burster documentary with the title: “Cote d’Ivoire: Poudrière Identitaire” not a few discerning Ivorians were shocked by the film’s socio-cultural depth and professional depiction of societal truism that they applauded it and highlighted its positive side. The controversial 90-minute film had sought to expose the xenophobic and identity crisis in Ivory Coast which, according to the Belgian producer was a ‘time-bomb waiting to explode’.
The Belgian who worked with the NGO “Prévention génocides” was bold enough to declare: “la crise identitaire en Côte d’Ivoire est profonde. Si nous ne faisons rien maintenant, le pays court vers une “rwandisation”. ( The identity crisis is profound. If we do not do anything now the copuntry is heading towards a ‘rwandaisation’). As expected however many an Ivorian on the receiving end of the film’s philosophical and critical theme condemned the ‘crude’ attempt by the ‘Belgian colonial white man’ to paint the Ivorian nation black and Ivorians as ‘beasts’ feasting on nationalism and primordial internal ‘racism’.
Today, wherever Mr Scheuer is he must have felt vindicated for having exposed a simmering national problem which had been widely ignored and swept hypocritically under the carpet by the ruling elite until it blew violently open in September 2002, more than a decade after the Belgian had seen it coming and predicted it. Today Cote d’Ivoire is reaping the germinated fruits of social divisions planted over time by those who believed the modern ‘international’ country belonged to them and must be so preserved against the wish and aspiration of the late founding father! The late Houphouet Boigny laboured hard to build a United States of Africa in his country but behold years after his glorious departure scoundrels had wanted to reverse the trend but it was too late!
The televised images of a captured Laurent Gbagbo were beamed to the world last week from the Golf Hotel in Abidjan. We saw a humbled capitulated former president, sweating profusely and fagged out, siezed from his bunker with his wife, first son and relations and aides. Gbagbo was no more his obdurate swaggering self, rather what we saw was an unkempt brutal dictator whose low life ‘underground’ inside his Cocody bunker — surrounded by marabouts, radical pastors, prayer warriors, close relations and bodyguards — sweating from the yoke of military and political defeat. It was a great moment for democracy, a new day in the lives of an abused nation at the throes of a creeping civil war.
The history of the conflict from November 28 last year could be traced to the rooted problems of nationality and identity bedevilling the Ivorian cosmopolitan society ever since the death of the founding father ‘Nana’ Boigny, a pan-Africanist. The happy thing today is that with the change in the supreme power taking place the problem is half-solved given the deep-rooted issues involved. President Alassane Ouattara must break the cycle of ‘Ivoirite’ in Cote d’Ivoire which he himself helped to install in early 90’s as Prime Minister by the establishment of “carte de sejour” (resident permit) for fellow West Africans toiling for survival in the cocoa-rich nation. Victims of this un-African concept abound including he himself and I!
Named ‘le Boulanger d’Abidjan’ (The baker of Abidjan) for his effortless capacity to deceive friends and foes alike Gbagbo is a political fox without scrupples. A historian who betrayed history Gbagbo saw himself in the heat of the debacle as a replica of the assassinated Patrice Lumumba even though the original late Lumumba could not have allowed the poor Congolese to be massacred before being forced out of power. A philanderer with manifest libido problems Gbagbo’s sexual escapades could only be understood when his childen with different mothers present themselves; some white, others black. He has had children with more than five women!
Gbagbo the naive dictator had once exhorted the top Generals in the Ivorian Army to continue owing allegiance to him even before the presidential poll took place insisting with messianic gusto that ‘si je tombe vous tombez aussi’ (If I fall you all will fall too). A corrupt man full of himself Gbagbo and his wife and their loyalists milked the Ivorian resources and deposited the proceeds abroad in the form of billions of dollars while he regularly told gullible Ivorians that he had no foreign bank account and that his only local bank account was still with SGBC Bank in Riveria.
It was the fallen dictator with a ‘Jezebel’ Simone as wife who once memorably (albeit unstatesmanly) declared that in his philosophy of life and power death does not count and that it was welcome whenever it came. But when death was starring him in the face as battle-ready rebel commanders went inside his bunker to smoke him out he had desperately uttered these first words of surrender: “ne me tuez pas; ne tirez pas; je me rends” (don’t kill me, do not shoot, I’m surrendering). A delusional man from a poor background who once said that ‘one thousand deaths by my left and another thousand by my right I keep going’ cannot pretend to love Ivorians more when in ten years of ‘scandalful’ management of power nothing concrete in terms of achievement could be attributed to him.
when more than 5000 innocent people are killed in any crisis just because of one mad man’s quest for power and political dominion then something is terribly wrong with the chief executive. Gbagbo became mad hearing demonic voices in his head and the ‘evangelical’ advice of his ‘childless’ wife Simone never to quit power for a ‘foreigner’ contributed to his months of belligerent obstinacy. A man like Olusegun Obasanjo whose occultic penchant is legendary Gbagbo hoodwinked majority of Ivorians into believing that he was a ‘christian’ whereas he was a regular visitor to shrines in the hinterland and had many marabouts on his pay-roll! Do not be deceived for God is not mocked!
The heroes of democracy in the Ivoriam political logjam includes President Alassane Ouattara (ADO) for his dogged determination and vast international network which saw ex-president Gbagbo rattled. Here is a man in his late 60’s who has been abused and called all sorts of unprintable names against his democratic rights as an Ivorian of Burkinabe origins. You begin to wonder if President Obama of America has his paternal roots in America much like the French President Sarkozy whose Hungarian biological roots are not in any doubt. Here is a technocrat whose quest to modernnize the Ivorian society has been met with stiff resistance by those who have been refusing sweeping changes and trends in the wider world.
Following him closely is the firebrand former student union leader and Gbagbo’s ex-Prime Minister and head of of the 2002 rebellion and now ADO’s Prime Minister and Minister of defense Guillaume Kigbafori Soro. Here is a young man in his late thirties who said an early no to electoral charade and constitutional coup of the ‘exiled’ veteran opposition figure. He chose the truth in accordance with his christian conscience and the democratic tenets and stood by it lending his military might to ADO’s electoral victory. Soro will be remembered by history for aiding a gentleman claim his stolen democratic ‘gold’ from the jaws of a monster. Without him President Ouattara would perhaps not have been able, like the late Bashorun MKO Abiola of Nigeria, to ‘win’ the war in defense of democracy.
Mention must be made here of the UN secretary General’s Special Representative in Cote d’Ivoire Choi Young-jin. The intrepid South Korean refused to endorse the electoral manipulations of the Gbagbo camp and he was villified day and night by the deposed president’s propaganda machinery in Abidjan. A man of principle, Choi
‘rebelled’ against the entrenched order defying an ‘order’ by Gbagbo for the UN FM radio to cease broadcasting and for the white-painted helicopters to stop flying the Ivorian airspace! Easy-going and unassuming Choi bore all manner of pressure from the dethroned ruling forces and withstood the denigration and physical assaults on some of his men on patrol duties in the streets of Abidjan. He made it clear on few occasions that the democratic choice of Ivorians must be respected and must remain inviolable.
Presidents Obama and Sarkozy deserved commendation for their principled stand against the sit-tight machinations of the Gbagbo clan while the ‘fire’ lasted. Sarkozy always maintained that for France the only legitimate and legal President in Cote d’Ivoire was Alassane Ouattara. For this decision to give recognition to that which is recognised internationally he was marked out as an ‘imperialist’ as Gbagbo tried unsuccessfully to turn a simple electoral matter to attempts by the colonial superpower to re-colonise the country making it look as if France and America were acting like imperialists searching for ‘black’ resources to exploit. When he paid a visit to Ghana few years ago upon his ascendancy to power and glory in America President Obama made it clear that Africa does not need strongmen but strong institutions. He personally offered Gbagbo ’employment’ as a lecturer in America promising him that no harm would ever come his way if he exited power peacefully — all of which Gbagbo rebuffed.
The heroes of democracy include also Henry Konan Bedie and his PDCI party. Without Bedie and his party’s support Ouattara would not have defeated the then incumbent president Gbagbo who went into the election with huge resources of the state under his control. Despite threats and pressures from within and without Bedie maintained his stand calling on the ‘usurper’ to quit as he did when the late Gen. Robert Guei overthrew him in 1999. He fearlessly asked the country’s armed forces (who voted for ADO 65% in the poll) to line behind the true leader of the country produced by the people’s verdict. Gbagbo had sought to ‘break’ the PDCI sponsoring renegades who came live on the state TV to insult Bedie and the ADO RHDP coalition he led. Parallel congresses were sponsored and held if only to split the old party but Bedie stood his ground refusing to yield to nonsense. Now sense has prevailed even though the situation is still precarious and dangerous on the ground.
ECOWAS (especially Presidents Compaore, Goodluck and Wade) deserve praises for standing for the truth and recognising the victor instead of the vanquished — as is always the case in African electoral matters. These men of power in West Africa even threatened to militarily destroy Gbagbo in the event of his continued obstinacy. Though ECOMOG never went to Abidjan to settle matters by force the point had been made in favour of democracy! Gbagbo was using the fact that millions of West Africans are found in Cote d’Ivoire as a sort of blackmail. Bravo his excellencies!! At a time like this it is good to know that democracy still has a chance of survival in Africa.
The Villians of democracy include the disgraced president Gbagbo, his wife Simone Ehivet, Pascal Affi N’guessan, the head of FPI ruling party, Charles Ble Goude of the notorious ‘Jeunes Patriotes’, Gen. Dogbo Ble Bruno of the Republican Guard, the RTI, a state television apparatus used heavily by Gbagbo for his propaganda needs, Brou Amessan Pierre, the head of this TV station, the elite CECOS Commander Gen. Geiu Bi Poin, Gen. Phillipe Mangou the coward, Paul Yao N’dre of the Constitutional Council who allowed his council to be used by Gbagbo to achieve a personal power longevity against the expressed wishes of majority of Ivorians. Many professional journalists for supporting the insupportable and defending the indefensible. While some resigned on account of principles many remained in RTI (radio and TV) where daily they continued to haul verbal insults on ADO and his supporters including France, the US and the UN.
The rivers of blood flowing from Abidjan to other coastal cities in the West African economic miracle must be halted by the President Ouattara now that the ‘dictator of the Lagoon’ has been clinically and militarily defeated and humiliated out of power. The future is now and that great future supervised by a great President must be worked out with great care, patience, justice, reconciliation, truth and fairness to all parties involved in the debacle. A new nation must be built out of the ruins of looted shops, violated women, killed democracy defenders in Abobo and the hopeless legacy of Laurent Gbagbo. Out of the ashes of littered burnt corpses in Duékoué and houses must rise an edifice of grace. Drastic measures are required to tame corruption and bring about qualitative development.
Gbagbo was not defeated for nothing. God must have hardened his heart for the ultimate disgrace. For one cannot understand why and how this wicked man could have rebuffed every peace overture brought to his attention. From ECOWAS to AU, sanctions after sanctions, embargo after embargo, closure of banks and stoppage of exportation of cocoa and coffee, for a man destined for destruction Gbagbo was happy saying no, blowing hot and cold and buying time and more time for more ‘dialogue’ without end. While the international community had wanted a peaceful transfer of power (initiating one negotiation after another for 4-month period) Gbagbo thought otherwise stock-piling arms and ammunitions even in the presidential palace. Even veteran opposition figures had turned out to be bad election losers in Africa.
Long live democracy in Cote d’Ivoire — a beautiful country blessed by God. Never again the likes of Laurent Gbagbo and Simone Gbagbo! The land of birth of the late Felix Houphouet-Boigny can never be the same again however — what with the ‘demystification’ of the gun by rogues and unemployed charlattans! Mister Laurent Gbagbo: Quel Gachis! (What a disaster!)