Independence Interruptus in the Ivory Coast
By Dr. Gary K. Busch 7/12/07
Dec 8, 2007 – 11:42:00 AM
The high hopes of a lasting peace as a result of the Ouagadougou Agreement have collapsed in the hearts of the Ivorian population. They have not collapsed because there is a danger of fighting breaking out again; they have collapsed because the people have looked at the current situation and realised that this peace will bring them nothing that they already didn’t have. They see that, by any reckoning, the rebels have won. The rebels have achieved their ambitions without the need to fight for them. Their victory has been ushered in by President Gbagbo who has bartered away the hopes and dreams of an independent, non-colonial state, in favour of a return to indirect French rule.
The French companies have returned, en masse, to their businesses in the country. New contracts are given out every day, without tender or competition, to the Bouyugues and their ilk by the government. There is no disarmament. The rebels retain their weapons and occupy their areas. The French company, Sagem, has been given the job of preparing the voting lists for the next election and in conducting the registrations for it. The loyalist army is to be purged as Present Gbagbo prepares to sack Gen Mangou. The Force Licorne (the French occupying force) has just announced that it will not be leaving as planned but will stay on until ‘normalcy’ returns to the Ivory Coast, whose date they will determine.
The thieves, bandits and reprobates who have dominated the cocoa and coffee businesses, the oil and refining businesses, the energy and water businesses, and the transport business can sleep safely in their beds as no one in the government is pursuing them or seeking to change them. The waste disposal business thrives with fake contractors, like the French [Trédi] [ndlr: du groupe Séché Environnement de Joël Séché qui détient la compagnie à 41%, Joël Séché, via le milieu hippique aurait, selon ses dire, accès à « un réseau politique qui s’étend jusqu’au Sénat » ], masquerading as environmentalists while poor people in Akuedo sicken from [Trédi]’s refusal to perform the clean-ups they have been contracted to perform.
This is not a political issue at all. Most of the leadership elite from all the political parties have wallowed in a level of corruption and misrule which has left a very rich country living like beggars in its own land; without decent water supply, intermittent electricity; poor roads; inadequate schools; and worse hospitals. Only in the rich enclaves of Cocody and its like can be found the services the government is bound to deliver to everyone. The Cabinet cannot function as it is made up of members from all the contending parties and any initiative is strangled at birth. The only functioning body has been the National Assembly and now, this is in crisis.
The National Assembly has been marginalised in the transition to the Ouagadougou process. Under the Constitution it is charged with legislating, budget oversight and conforming appointments. Concentrating all power and activity in the Executive branch, contested by both Gbagbo and Soro, and led by Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso on behalf of his French mentors has robbed the National Assembly of its vital role in the democratic process.
The FPI has sought to work around the sudden affection of President Gbagbo for all things French. The head of the FPI, Pascal Affie Nguessan, has worked assiduously to build a platform for the party which will allow it to contest for seats in the Assembly; as has Mamadou Koulibaly, the President of the National Assembly. The FPI has always drawn its support from the working class movements in the country. Now it is these very movements who are engaged in a series of bitter strikes (teachers, policemen, port workers and now the cocoa workers) against their own government.
The civil war which broke out between the North and the South in the Ivory Coast was largely about the efforts of the Gbagbo government seeking to achieve real independence; a breakaway from the colonial dominance of the French which controlled almost every aspect of national life. After all the fighting and suffering by both sides, the current policy of Gbagbo is to restore the status quo ante; French neo-colonialism. It will not work. What it will foster is a level of bitterness and rancour of a people who are watching the yoke placed on their necks again and, despite their current apathy and discouragement after years of fighting and sacrifice, they will realise that, North and South, they have nothing to lose by sweeping the board clean of their black Frenchmen and installing genuine Ivorian patriots in their place.
This will be a troubled time in Ivory Coast politics.