Remember the Ivorians?
Again we are seeing civilians being held ransom by the ego-fuelled conflicts of their leaders. In the last four months, what could have been a new dawn for the Ivoirians has turned into a familiar nightmare of a civil war. Currently Ouattara’s forces have arrested Gbagbo who is now under house arrest. The question is whether this means that a settlement might be agreed upon. The realist in me highly doubts this, as Gbagbo has not shown any intention of doing so despite the ever increasing death toll of Ivorian civilians .The old adage of power corrupting the mind could be applied here. Images of a captured Gbagbo have an eerie similarity to the condition Saddam Hussein was found when he was captured. Ouattara has been reported to have lost complete belief in diplomatic means as a solution. His forces have literally taken the presidency by force leaving a rising civilian death toll in its wake; of course this has been vigorously denied.
It is all becoming too familiar, the presence of French forces in the country that have seized the airport and mobilised French nationals to begin leaving the country. UN forces are on the ground, and have has also joined ECOWAS, the US and AU in sanctioning Cote D’Ivoire. The utility of such tools are questionable as it seems to harm civilians more than the leader they are directed to. There is evidence indicating that sanctions do not scare but rather embolden leaders with tyrannical tendencies. One only has to think of Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe was sanctioned to the point that the economy collapsed. We all read the news of how much the Zim Dollar lost value, millions of Zimbabweans were plunged into poverty and were forced to migrate to make a living just to be able to send currency back home that will afford basic goods.
The larger concern is what effective tools the international community can come up with to deal with these tyrants. Should the sovereignty of a state still be held in such high regard when it is clear that some leaders use it to their advantage? Furthermore one of the foremost components of a state is its population, without it, it would not be recognised a state. Yet these are the actors that are the least considered. It is left to the humanitarian organisations to raise concerns of civilians’ safety. The death toll is in its thousands, millions of Ivoirians have been displaced, and access to basic goods such as food and fuel are no longer possible. Gbagbo has now being captured, what’s to ensure that in ten years time Ouattara would step down gracefully after two terms? The next couple of weeks and months should be illuminating, what will happen to the economy that has already suffered serious knocks from the sanctions. Are we going to see another failed state? Is there any evidence that Ouattara would be a better leader? When will Cote D’Ivoire become secure again?
The question of the relevance of sovereignty and better measures to ensure the protection of civilians has been thrown around enough times in International Relations discourse. But now more than ever, a serious consideration of these issues should occur considering the proliferation of civil unrest in the last 6 months. There have been many calls for reform in the modus operandi of interventionist measures; today we are seeing a more aggressive approach towards peacekeeping. It remains to be seen what it will all mean for the Ivorians as they begin rebuilding their country.
Image by Javehn