Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reporting to the International Criminal Court

"They make war on us not because we suppressed the democratic expression of Ivorians, but because they deny the Ivorian people's sovereign right to choose its own leaders, respect its institutions and live in a free country." Laurent Gbagbo
What a string of whoppers. But if you're intent on persuading followers that you're right and the opposition is wrong, appeal to their collective sense of identity in the social order and paint the opposition as of nefarious intent and scornful of that social order, prepared to overturn the freedoms that all hold dear for their own sinister purposes.

True to form another African country steps up to the ballot box and finds itself politically conflicted by a tyrant posing as a democratic leader, because democracy is fashionable and tyranny is not. Although dictatorships in the service of menacing tribal bellicosity comes far more naturally to Africa than any mode of political manoeuvring mirroring the political order of their former colonial masters.

Perhaps Laurent Gbagbo has taken modern-day inspiration from Sudan, from Kenya, from Zimbabwe, from Egypt; even Venezuela, Burma, China and North Korea, in asserting with such audacious confidence that he is the sole legitimate first executive of Ivory Coast. Who is capable of gainsaying him when he has the full support of the Ivorian military? Who are the United Nations, in any event, to declare for his competitor?

Like Sudan, the country is politically divided between its south and its north. And although the presidential vote seemed to fall in favour of Alassane Ouattara, Mr. Gbagbo claims otherwise, and it is he, not Mr. Ouattara, who still holds the winning cards. Mr. Ouattara as a former prime minister and International Monetary Fund bureaucrat, may know what's best for his country, but he is in the unfortunate position of being held incommunicado.

Even Ban Ki-moon has been placed in the position of desperation with forces representing Gbagbo cutting off supplies for his UN peacekeeping mission. The 800 UN peacekeepers who are protecting Mr. Ouattara will themselves require protection, should Mr. Gbagbo's threats realize reality. Civil war may be in the offing, just as it is currently in Sudan where the oil-rich south of the country is threatening secession from the north.

And, as Mr. Gbagbo interprets the current stand-off to his loyal supporters, "The troubles we see today in Ivory Coast are caused by the refusal of my opponent to submit himself to the laws, rules and procedures that apply in our country." The international community at large is also guilty of refusing to recognize and bow to the "laws, rules and procedures" that apply in Ivory Coast, quite evidently.

Mr. Gbagbo is not in search of a safe haven, in exile. He is determined to continue his strongman role in Ivory Coast and the international community can like it or not, and the country can be brought beyond the brink of civil war and the interference of the International Criminal Court in The Hague can warn of consequences, but the perennial president is brutishly determined to prevail.

Of course there are those within the country whose legitimate appeal to the voters may resonate sufficiently for a massive show of civil disobedience to create further violence and victims to finally cause a successful intervention. Even as the incoming prime minister in the newly-elected president's government speaks of national reconciliation, Mr. Gbagbo remains resolute that Ivory Coast is his personal plaything.

"If Laurent Gbagbo puts an end to the killing in the streets of Abidjan ... there will still be a chance for national reconciliation of the type seen in South Africa. But if Laurent Gbagbo is going to keep killing civilians ... it will obviously be his duty to report to the International Criminal Court."

And heaven knows, doing his duty is impressively vital in Mr. Gbagbo's list of to-do things.

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