Geopolitics

Fate Of African Democracy At Stake In Ivory Coast

Editorial: Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to cede power sets dangerous African precedent.

Rural poll station in Ghana
Rural poll station in Ghana

Laurent Gbagbo is no Francisco Franco and the Ivory Coast, in 2011, is no Spain in 1936. But what is at stake right now in Abidjan, where civil war has just broken out, is nothing less than the future of democracy as it concerns an entire continent. In that sense there is certainly a parallel to be drawn with the young Spanish Republic at the outset of its bloody civil war.

The crisis that began in December 2010, when incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to recognize Alassane Ouattara's victory, is a battle between two men. But it is above all a battle between two types of legitimacy: one coming from the votes of popular sovereignty and one imposed by armed forces. The latter was on display yet again on March 8 when Gbagbo ordered soldiers to shoot on the crowd.

If force were to win in Ivory Coast, it would mark a triumph of brutality over law. And it would discredit any future elections held on the continent. Why bother voting if the loser stays in power or takes it anyway?

At least 18 elections are planned in Africa in 2011 alone. If Gbagbo were to stay in power, the risk of destabilization and the spread of authoritarianism would be even more dangerous. If, on the other wand, Ouattara were to effectively take power, it would be a strong warning to all Gbagbo-style candidates seeking lifelong presidencies. Ouattara's electoral victory was recognized by both the African Union and United Nations.

Saying this in no way means telling Ivorians what to do. They already expressed themselves clearly in 2010. Nor it is enough to give Ouattara a stamp of democratic approval just yet. It just means that democracy will develop in Africa when men learn to bow down to institutions.

But only Africans can win their democratic future. A president picked by the West, or appearing to be, would loose part of his legitimacy. That is not the case for Ouattara, who was elected in a process supervised by the United Nations, an election Gbagbo himself had agreed to after years of negotiations.

Half a century after gaining its independence, interference by former colonizers or by the United States would only fuel Gbagbo's "anti-imperialist" rhetoric. This is no time, therefore, for talks of western intervention – something that occurred in Spain in 1936.

The process initiated by the AU, which asked a panel of five African presidents to find a solution to the crisis, is a step in the right direction. Helping Africans solve the Ivorian crisis on their own is necessary and urgent, before the civil war divides the Ivory Coast and triggers instability in all of Western Africa.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Erik Kristensen

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Geopolitics

The Train Wreck That Is Poland Right Now

Everything is collapsing: The zloty is sinking, a virus is spreading, diplomacy has disappeared, and so has the rule of law. And the government claims everything is going just fine.

Police forces on the Poland-Belarus border.

Monika Olejnik

-OpEd-

WARSAW — Everywhere we look, there is a disaster.

The zloty is sinking because of inflation, which we owe to the head of Poland's central bank Adam Glapinski, a political ally of ruling PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski since the early 1990s when the pair demonstrated against then President Lech Wałęsa and joined in burning his effigy.

At the same time, we also have a COVID-19 catastrophe. As we've witnessed, 25,000 daily cases and hundreds of deaths are not enough for the government to introduce any kind of restrictions. The Prime Minister is afraid of demonstrations that could lead to deaths from COVID-19, while tens of thousands of people recently attended the National Stadium without masks and nobody checked whether anyone was vaccinated.

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