View Full Version : “Gbagbocracy”, Never Again Africa

24th July 2011, 09:38 PM
I have followed unfolding events in post November 28 Ivory Coast with keen interest not only because it shares borders with my homeland but also because of my profound admiration for that fresh Abidjan city, once upon a time called the Paris of Africa.

Another promising African nation brought down on its knees. Papa Houphouet Boigny’s beacon of peace and economic prosperity reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. When a learned friend of mine borrowed me the term “Gbagbocracy”, I thought it was an appropriate term for the many power drunk and blood thirsty leaders who have inflicted immeasurable torture to members of this black race.

In writing this piece, I am motivated to make a case for why this continent should rid itself of these blood- thirsty dictators, masquerading as heads of states.

Four months into the New Year, the continent had already deposed three of these; Tunisia’s Zine Al Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Ivory Coast’s democrat turned autocrat, ‘General’ Laurent Gbagbo. As the dust seems to be settling in La Cote D’Ivoire, we can only count our losses.

The past ten years has been the most difficult in the 51 year history of the West African nation. The last five months turning out to be the bloodiest. Post electoral turmoil has led to the death of close to two thousand people and driven over a million others out of their homes.


A democrat turned autocrat

Enter Monsieur Laurent Gbagbo; popularly acclaimed as a Messiah of Ivorian democracy, he led agitations for an end to Felix Houphouet Boigny’s one party state. By 1990, he was able to force Ivory Coast’s first multi party democracy which Houphouet Boigny won. He was declared winner of the disputed 2000 elections, which in itself claimed several lives.

His legally mandated tenure of office was supposed to have ended in 2005; a deadline he reluctantly dragged until November 28 last year. Within this period, that scantly populated country has been sharply divided along the lines of ethnicity, religion and politics. A rebel held north-a Gbagbo controlled south, a Christian dominated south-a Muslim populated north intertwined with other latent undertones which go beyond politics.

Dashed hopes

Ivorians were nursing hopes that the November poll was going to mark an end to bloodshed and close the chapter of “dark days” in Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, that was not the case; Ivory Coast slipped further into chaos. Mr. Gbagbo who had lost the election by a clear margin to Alhassan Ouattara refused to stand down.

Gbagbo’s antagonism towards political opposition was stretched to extremes in these last days. His rep at the Independent electoral commission was seen tearing official electoral results apart on set. His political trajectory is one of a democratic reformist who eventually became a dictator.

In his ten year rule, he adopted draconian tactics to stifle political dissent and manipulated issues of ethnicity and nationality to hold on to power.

Era of sanctions

His continued hold unto power attracted several sanctions from ECOWAS, AU and super powers including Ivory Coast's colonial master France. For over two months ordinary Ivorians could not have access to cash as banks had withdrawn operations. Dear to my heart is the fact that major universities had to shut down in the midst of violence. The world’s largest cocoa producer was constantly in the news for the wrong reasons.

Ivory Coast; Africa’s democracy lesson

It is undoubted Gbagbo’s unrelenting hold onto power ‘illegally’ is the chief cause of post electoral violence in Ivory Coast but I think there are a couple of questions we need not asked ourselves. Perhaps, we may have healed this continent from the perennial killings in the name of elections and democracy if we had considered them in the countless previous instances.

The UN/Electoral commission was mandated to organize elections and declare the country’s next leader; a task they executed almost perfectly. But what if they had not hurriedly gone ahead to swear in Ouattara at his Gulf hotel base. That act was unconstitutional…period!!! And the UN should not have encouraged such illegality.

What about the Gbagbo biased constitutional council? Did they have to void the thousands of votes cast in favour of Mr. Ouattara to declare Gbagbo the winner and subsequently swear him in at the presidential palace? This was at the time when the UN which helped conduct the election had testified that the poll was generally free and fair. Assuming they really had a case of vote rigging against Ouattara in the north as they claim, couldn’t that have been part of negotiations?

I can’t agree more with the BBC’s African political analyst Knox Chitiyo, when he suggests Ivory Coast should establish a higher independent body that will resolve all electoral complaints and have the mandate to put all arguments to rest. I believe this advice should also go to the rest of Africa.

It is true power sharing can resolve some military conflicts, but certainly not a political stalemate; a muddy one at that in Ivory Coast’s case. In Africa, it has been tried in Kenya and Zimbabwe, but I’m still trying to make sense of the reason why we quickly point to a scheme of power sharing in any electoral deadlock. Why should we negotiate before any politician who has clearly lost an election will stand down? We can’t go on like this Africa.

We continue to give these ‘vampires’ false hopes of a continued stay in power even if they lose an election.

In most of these instances they are able to rally some vulnerable citizens and incite them to foment violence.

The fall of Gbagbo would have come at a later date but for the harsh sanctions on his administration by the international community. But have we also considered the immeasurable consequences it has for ordinary Ivorians? For almost two months they had no hold on money as banks had ceased working. I’m not sure Gbagbo or any member of his administration was as much hit by these sanctions as the ordinary Ivorian living in Abidjan or Yamoussoukro. Much as I will credit the world for those sanctions, I think we should also figure out measures that will not negatively affect the lives of the masses, who in many instances are the victims.

For most Ivorians, Gbagbo’s ‘good name’ will be forgotten and that’s a huge lesson for all leaders; you don’t take the people’s trust for granted.vMy heart goes out to all the fallen martyrs in Ivory Coast; especially the 25 women who were shot in the Abobo district of Abidjan.

For all well meaning Ivorians who believe in the building of a new Ivory Coast, I can only say good luck; you succeeded in destroying that beautiful nation with your own ‘folly’. It is not going to be easy, but gladly it is possible.

President Ouattara knows more than I do that he will not succeed ruling a divided nation and I want to trust his instincts to deliver.

To the rest of Africa, our elders say if you see your brother’s beard is set on fire, you fetch water on standby as you may be the next.

Nigeria had a slim scare of violence after the reelection of Goodluck Jonathan last April. Liberia and my own Ghana are set to vote soon and in our case fears of violence has never been this real. In Africa we say prayer works-yes it does and I think a word of prayer for Africa will do, shall we?

Source: Justice Baidoo