French and UN Involvement in Africa

May 09, 11 French and UN Involvement in Africa

Posted by in International

France has recently made headlines for its involvement in Ivory Coast. Involvement some have accepted as correct because of its apparent motivation. France, together with the United Nations (UN), argued that intervention in Ivory Coast was based on the UN and international community’s mandate to maintain international peace and security. The way the intervention was handled, however, questions the same principles of the mandate. The manner in which the UN and France carried out the mandate in Ivory Coast brought even more devastation. The two ordered airstrikes on the Presidential palace in Ivory Coast. This order is disturbing because it was clear that the intention was to kill President Laurent Gbagbo and his ambassadors. However even more disturbing is the French involvement not only in Ivory Coast but in a majority of its former colonies. Scholars have taken interest in this interest, particularly because of France’s involvement in the post-independence era. There are a number of reasons why France is still fully involved in Africa, particularly in its former colonies. The centrality of these explanations is based on protecting France’s interests and maintaining power in the region. The involvement is maintained through institutionalization such as control of the financial institutions in its colonies. France and its former colonies have bilateral agreements of which many are not defined but they exist, they are termed “special relations”. The secrecy of these agreements or relations is the root to the mystery of the French involved in Africa. The special relations were meant to allow continuity of the French rule Africa. The French dominance however was not only contained in its former colonies, former Belgian and Portuguese colonies wanted to join the francophone family. Though Liberia was neither a French, a Belgian nor a Portuguese colony it too was interested in being part of the family. Golan discovered that in fact France did not give independence to its colonies in practice and in theory. Rather De Gaulle made a very vague statement to the French colonies. He promised...

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Remember the Ivorians?

Apr 15, 11 Remember the Ivorians?

Posted by in International, Politics

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...

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Where is ECOWAS?

Apr 08, 11 Where is ECOWAS?

Posted by in International, Politics

Some time ago, I was rather optimistic at the international community’s responsiveness to the Côte D’Ivoire situation: the relative unanimity of support for Ouattara, the invested presence of regional, continental and international authorities and the rather decisive reaction from West African nations, indicating military backing, all seemed a fresh harbinger. Now being able briefly to focus our unipolar attention capacities away from the Middle East and North Africa region, things are certainly a lot messier despite the seeming redeemability of the situation some time ago. The African Union appears typically splintered and indifferent, ECOWAS is merely issuing spineless statements and a revived interventionist France is getting its hands dirty under the banner of the UN, reportedly stretching its ’protection of civilians only’ mandate. While things in the Abidjan seem to point to a near-resolution of the armed conflict, the body count is rising, the humanitarian crisis is deepening, the refugee crisis is swelling in tentative neighbouring areas, and reports of massacres and mass graves are beginning to surface. After years of supporting measures for safe and effective elections in the Ivory Coast, ECOWAS simply slinked off into the background when it mattered, with the consequence of losing credibility further as it watched the country slip into violence. Disturbingly, Gbagbo supporters are expressing concern over ethnic targeting consequent to revived tensions following the violent progress of the political crisis. So while the domestic sources of legitimacy are battered, regional and international sources seem to be the punchline. Gbagbo undoubtedly took a well-calculated gamble to call ECOWAS’ bluff. On the other side, Ouattarra is side-lining the AU’s proposed mediator. And while France is backing Ouattarra’s forces under the auspices of the UN, the UN is simultaneously issuing messages of restraint against Outarra’s ragtag troops as a forewarning of a point that will undoubtedly arise when rumours of civilian targeting and massacres from all sides are officially confirmed. ECOWAS missed a startling opportunity to show its teeth before things got messy. After years of supporting measures for...

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What’s With the Anti-Gbagbo Backbone?

Feb 07, 11 What’s With the Anti-Gbagbo Backbone?

Posted by in International, Politics

The post-election crisis in Cote D’Ivoire has been met with a fairly surprising strength and consistency of response from the International Community calling for Laurent Gbagbo to step down to Allasaine Ouattara. While we can debate the efficacy of diplomatic efforts and sanctions regimes, the rather unambiguous cry (exceptions noted) from the majority of international state opinion (as well as actions taken by organisations such as the World Bank and the West African Central Bank) has been relatively clear and consistent in support of Ouattara. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case in African elections where African states prefer silence or support towards their cronies and the International Community at large continues to tally a record of reluctance and ambiguity to take much decisive action.  It begs the question, why all the fuss with Cote D’Ivoire? It is helpful to recall that the 2010 election occurred after being rescheduled six times since Gbagbo’s term expired in 2005. The regional community has invested much effort and expense during this period to ensure what was widely perceived as a relatively fair electoral process. That the outcome of the election itself was deemed clear enough to justify a solid response also happened to occur in a country where the bigger actors such as the USA have less complicated relationships to threaten by speaking out. It is true that regional actors can ill-afford resumed hostilities in Cote D’Ivoire which has surely been a strong motivating factor to maintain interests in their investment in the elections after the fact. The instability and threat of resumed conflict in Cote D’Ivoire has serious consequences for the regional economy and fragile political peace and stability. Liberia is already suffering setbacks it can hardly afford to handle as hundreds of Ivorian refugees have been crossing into Liberia on a daily basis. The regional reaction has surely provided some legitimated encouragement for more decisive continental support for Ouattarra. Conscious of the many elections scheduled in the continent in 2011, African states must surely be wary...

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Cote d’Ivoire – quo vadis?

Cote d’Ivoire’s post electoral crisis has been a dramatic moving picture, with events in the past three weeks threatening to undo the economic and political progress that has been made. After a decade of civil war, strife and promises of democracy Cote d’Ivoire (CDI) finally held presidential elections on the 31 October. This was followed by a second round, or electoral run-off, between the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and the runner-up Allassaine Ouattarra on the 28 November. Gbagbo lost to Ouattarra, 46% to 54%. The United States, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the West African bloc ECOWAS have all recognised the electoral commission results showing Ouattara as the winner of the election and have called on Gbagbo to step down. Despite this, Gbagbo has not yielded, and instead has tried to contest the results unsuccessfully, and has resorted to clinging to power. In addition to an old rivalry between the two candidates, Gbagbo has a history as a political strongman in his country, and has in the past resorted to various tactics to keep power. This has included intimidating former rivals, playing the ethnicity card, and now using a combination of political maneuvering and blatant violence to stay on as President. In the early days after the results were announced, he attacked the credibility of the Ivorian Electoral Council and he sealed off the country’s borders temporarily. He also has allegedly censored the local media. Recent reports state that he has hired two American lobbyists who worked for the Clinton administration to represent him in the US. He has also threatened to expel UN peacekeepers from the country. Gbagbo does not act with political maturity, and has lost any hope for a legacy as a true statesman, but his strongman tactics have kept him in power thus far. Even if another civil war does not ensue, the damage has been done economically. In September the World Bank granted US $465 million in funding for the next four years to Cote...

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