Urgent Open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan and Prime Minister Raila Odinga: Why Ecomog Should Act Quickly to Remove Ex-President Gbagbo from Power.
By Yacouba Cisse, Ivorian Writer and Human Rights Activist Living and working in Europe
The current crisis in Ivory Coast has the dangerous potential to drag on and may ultimately lead to war with its attendant consequences. In light of the above, there is an urgent imperative for something to be done as soon as possible. In my opinion, I do believe that the military arm of the regional grouping, ECOWAS should as a matter of inexorable urgency send in their military contingent to Cote â€˜ Ivoire to forcefully remove erstwhile President Laurent Gbagbo before he drags the country into a major armed confrontation of unpredictable calamitous proportion. The aim of this article is to give five reasons why Ecomog should act in order to bring a permanent peace to the region. The article underscores the urgency for such a speedy military intervention in Cote D' Ivoire.
Gbagbo has refused to step down despite the fact that it is demonstrably crystal clear that he has lost the election of November 28, 2010. What are we going to do in these unfortunate political circumstances? What would the Ecowas, America, Britain, France, Nigeria, the African Union do to liberate Ivory Coast from his present illegitimate government and consequent dictatorship? I propose to briefly discuss some salient issues regarding the current crisis.
On December 26th 2010 the West African leaders paid visit to Laurent Gbagbo to ask him to leave power peacefully. Gbagbo refused to accept to leave. In the same vein, on January 3rd. 2011 the same leaders again went back and tried to propose a dialogue to resolve the crisis. But he arrogantly refused. Many observers have already warned about a return of civil war in Cote D' Ivoire. If some measures are not taken with expedition.. We must appreciate the fact that time is short. The sufferings of the masses have been great not only for the Ivorian but also for Ecowas citizens living in Cote D' Ivoire . For instance thousands of people have been alleged to have suffered torture and others have been alleged to have been killed by death squads.
Some may say dialogue is still possible. This does not seem feasible and realistic any longer. Further reasons are advanced for my position in this respect. I will examine the reasons seriatim
The massive violations of Humans rights
The past ten years have been a burden for the people of Ivory Coast who have suffered a war in 2002-2003, after a rebellion attempted to overthrow president Gbagbo. Further, one million of Ivorians became displaced in their neighbouring countries. Moreover, thousands of women were raped.
I will not get into details about this for now, but readers can get detailed information regarding the regime's human rights record in reports published by Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations. Between the 16th and 21st December more than one hundred and seventy people were killed by forces loyal to ex-president Gbagbo. There has also been report from the opposition quarters that people who were suspected to be supporters of President elect Alassane Ouattara were also killed. In the past days, the United Nations has reported to have been denied access.
Ivory Coast weighs about 40% in the West African Banking system. Based on this fact, the instability in Ivory Coast will not only affect Ivorians, but West Africans as a whole. Hence, it is very important for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to act swiftly in order to prevent collapse of the regional economic system. If this is not done, the region will suffer economic downturn and it might take decades to rebuild confidence and stability in the region.
Unfortunately, the region has produced a number of ruthless and barbaric leaders in the past. For examples, Charles Taylor, Samuel Doe, Babanginda, Sani Abacha, Sekou Toure, Yahiya Jammeh, Moussa Traore and many more were all ruthless leaders. And today, the region faces dictators such as Laurent Gbagbo. It is very clear that if Laurent Gbagbo is allowed to remain in power, it will create political instability in the region for the coming years. Given the fact that the political instability in Ivory Coast will result in massive displacement of populations, it will create instability in the region. Besides,, if ECOWAS fails to act, it will set a very bad example in the region and Africa as a whole because in 2011, around fifteen elections will take place in the continent.
The Urgent Imperative for Milatary action
All the possible diplomatic avenues have been explored. If ex-president Ggabgo did not resign on Jan. 3rd, 2011 as stated by the West African leaders, military action needs to be taken against him. As for now, military action is most likely the only option left to remove ex-president Gbagbo from hanging onto power to avoid the entire scenario stated above. It is therefore right to use legitimate action to remove Gbagbo in the name of storing democracy. The 20 million Ivoirians and some 300 million West Africans need peace and stability in the region. Moreover, we must build democracy and strong institutions. Consequently, leaders like Gbagbo cannot cling to power. My appeal to you leaders of the Ecowas is to act quickly. Too many people have lost their lives because President Gbagbo and his militia and further delay cannot be justified.
Too many women have been raped and killed. Too many children have lost their lives because they were caught in fire. Too many have been killed because they belonged to the different political or ethnic group. How long do you need in order to decide whether to remove him or not? We, the youth of this country, have dreams to build a country where the rule of law is upheld. Everyday in Abdijan and the interior there are reports of killing. Genocide is certainly in the making.
Let me take the opportunity to share a little story with you: As a 14 year old, I dreamt of Gbagbo becoming the president of the Ivory Coast. I read one of his books and I was convinced he was the "one". I was disappointed when he "stole the election" before the electoral body finished counting. He was contesting against General Guei.
That was in October 2000. Gbagbo sent the troops out in the streets to chant "Down with Guei!" In that heavily charged evening of October 30th 57 bodies were discovered in the outskirts of Abidjan. They all had names from the north of the country. According to local Human Rights organizations and International Human Rights, this was deemed genocide and I will submit that it was a form of ethnic purification. Who was behind it? Many witnesses and survivors said it was Gbagbo or rather forces loyal to Gbagbo. The killings followed police harassment, extra judiciary's killings, and sometimes political killings on both sides. I do not want to dwell on the details. In 2002, a rebellion failed to overthrow Gbagbo. However, we are now saying that enough is enough and that Gbagbo must go and it is my humble opinion that military force is the only solution as it stands now in Ivory Coast.
In my conclusion, permit me to state the fact that although a peaceful solution is the best for all, however the fact remains that this power intoxicated Gbagbo will never go peacefully. . Moreover, Rwalings proposal to resolve this peacefully will not work. I have a deep respect of President Rwalings but Gbagbo's people have had the time to revisit the ballot boxes and change the rules. I am of the opinion that we must stop thinking it is the West to blame for all that goes wrong in our countries. It is true that for many decades countries like France, Britain, Portugal have chosen the rulers in Africa. Having said this Gbagbo has been ruling, not Sarkozy.
Finally, I am of the opinion that only force will resolve the situation. Yes, it might cost lives but we cannot wait. If Gbagbo is not removed we will fail Africa and that will send a wrong message to African dictators.
- President Goodluck Johnattan of Nigeria
President Alassane Ouattara
Prime Minister Raila Odinga
President Jacob Juma of South Africa
Ex-President Jerry Rawlings and Olusegun Obasanjo