For those who haven’t been keeping up on African affairs lately and specifically, West African affairs, things are not going terribly well in the oft-delayed elections that have finally completed their second round in Côte d’Ivoire. Now that the threat of civil war is again looming, the BBC has actually been placing this news on the front page of their news portal, which is typically unheard of for African affairs. It is the case that it’s not often the case there are two active presidents of a country. Yes, things aren’t going well.
If you’re wondering, “Laurent Gbagbo? Who’s that?” as well as “Alassane Ouattara? Who’s that?”, then amazingly, despite this being a Francophone country, the BBC has a nice primer on what is happening. If you really want the meat of the problem, then read this Wikileaks document that gives tons of details up to and including 2004 which eliaws had found. But, in a nutshell, the elections happened, Ouattara won by 8% points (54-46) in the runoff, the official election body (CEI) declared him the winner, Gbagbo refuted the results, and had the Constitutional Court state that he was the winner. Naturally, the rest of the world recognizes Ouattara as the winner (partially due to Gbagbo pissing off every potential international ally over the years) and here Côte d’Ivoire sits with two presidents now.
I’ve seen a number of lists compiled by English speakers as to the best sources out there to read on the situation and they’re not terribly well-done such as anything parroted by ethanz. I mean, in-the-know does not comprise tweeting an article from the NY Times with any degree of seriousness. I will admit straight out that I have no first hand knowledge of the situation now. I lived in the country for the first half of this year when the election was supposed to happen the last time. Obviously, a small part of me wishes that I was there now, able to give some account to the English-speaking world. Then again, a much larger part of me is very happy that I’m not given the fact there has been a clamp down on international media, the borders have all been closed, and a far-reaching curfew is in effect.
If you want to read up from those that are there, check out: West Africa Always Wins and Hotel Ivory. On Twitter, keep up with the hash tag #civ2010 as well as John James who is the BBC’s liaison there as well as the only Britoirian I know of. Don’t get your hopes up that social media is going to save the day though. It’s just a small outlet to see what’s happening there and to eschew gratuitious pictures like this that show the infamous one street corner youth protest shot. Despite the situation, there has been little violence all things considered.
Otherwise, it’s a matter of wait and see. It’s pretty obvious that Gbagbo won’t back down short of someone putting a bullet in him. The African Union is sending in Thabo Mbeki-Man, superhero African negotiator to try and get some kind of resolution to the conflict. Also don’t forget that there is already a very large UN peacekeeping force in the country that for once is having to earn its pay and not just be a “beachkeeping” mission, although those days in Bassam were indeed nice. In addition to the UN, there is the several thousand-strong, Licorne force (only the French would give a special force the incredibly pansy name, “unicorn”) that may or may not be a good thing.
My friends still in Côte d’Ivoire are obviously concerned. As is typical in these situations, the mobile phone system varies from being offline to completely overloaded. Luckily, they still seem to have internet. I think that when I asked one friend how it was going on Facebook, her succinct answer of “bad” pretty much summed it up though.