With prevention of a slide into bloody conflict in the Côte d’Ivoire, once one of the most developed economies in sub-Saharan Africa, becoming more dependent on the determination of the international community, observers might be forgiven for fearing the worst.
Although economic output and internal security even since the deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission, UNOCI in 2004 has been more comparable to that of Zimbabwe (another former strong economy), events have taken a dive since the official rejection earlier this month of the publicized results of the 2010 national elections.
The Rally of the Republicans, lead by former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara was declared by the Ivorian Electoral Commission to have won a narrow majority over the Popular Front, led by the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo. Although then accepted by the bulk of foreign observers, the Supreme Court, headed by a close ally of Gbagbo tipped the balance back to him by nullifying results from seven key constituencies in the northern interior.
Both men have been sworn in as President.
In keeping with ethnic and religious divisions which were one reason for previous conflict, the northern interior is predominately Muslim with fluidity of population movement with adjacent Mali and Upper Volta The southern and littoral areas, in contrast, house the Christian areas.
Ouattra and Gbagbo and hail from the respective areas, with allegations of Ouattra’s Burkinabé nationality having prevented his running in previous elections, and used to effect by Gbagbo during campaigning. Hundreds of thousands of Burkinabé migrants had departed the country during violence around the formation of the Government of National Unity.
Both Ouattra and Gbagbo are accomplished academics, which possibly places the country at a disadvantage to begin with. Ouattra’s background is in economic planning, and Gbagbo – as with Robert Mugabe with his rivals – played on this and associations with the dark, nefarious IMF.
Although not of immediate concern for the potential victims of death squads reported to prowling, global cocoa prices have spiked following the interruption of this mainstay of the Ivorian economy.
No doubt with the intervention of French military during the 2002/4 Civil War(whichever side they were supporting) in mind, Gbagbo has ordered the UNOCI mission from the country: a demand which has been refused.
With reports of uniformed soldiers firing at UNOCI peacekeepers, and of the US State Department ordering all non-essential Embassy staff from the country, the short-term future for Côte d’Ivoire is looking very bleak.