So you know, it’s a long one. Not fully-edited either, but happy to share this much with you.
I believe it was on the 2nd of December, sometimes last week, that i heard of Mr. Allasane Ouattara’s win in the elections 2010 of the republic of Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire). I was literally overjoyed. Overjoyed and with a sense of relief that finally my country of birth was settling on the idea of having a president again.
You see for the last eight to ten years, the country had unfortunately succumbed to terror and economic crises like never before seen in its history. Crises brought upon by the outrage of a mainly minority Muslim sector, yet one sector constituting a big percent of the immigrant population of Cote D’Ivoire. Why the outrage one might ask?
They were for the most part, along with all present individuals in the country requested and required by law set, to provide birth certificates and or proofs of birth establishing whether they were born in Ivory Coast or elsewhere. Such a process and step forward in the immigration reform of the country, though next the typical ones we know exist in most affluent and non-affluent more or less industrially-advanced countries, would seem matter-of-factly, was contrarily vehemently and violently protested and repudiated by most of the immigrant population of Ivory Coast; some 2.1 million plus individuals for the most part Muslim sisters and brothers from bordering northern coast countries (Burkina-Faso, Guinee, Mali, etc…) and whose families had immigrated to work in the overwhelmingly agricultural primary sector.
They were upset and felt disrespected and discriminated against; which at the time because of my liberal and progressive eyes on things political made me think “well, they should be respected, their parents, our parents all worked as hard to make this country the #1 Cocoa producer in the world and now with fertile grounds hot and filled with new found, Gold, Diamond, Coal, Oil and who knows what other rich resources”. I thought that, but i also thought “well, if it took me twelve harsh and goal deferring patient years in America to be granted an official immigrant status, why not in Ivory Coast? So let there be law!
2002-2003 saw the biggest and most violent “coup d’etat”, subsequently throwing out of office the president then, initiator of the immigration mandate and successor of RCI’s first president ever, Mr. Felix Houphouet Boigny. That successor, Mr. Henry Konan Bedié of the same political party, the PDCI-RDR (Partie Democratique de la Cote D’Ivoire-Rassemblement Democratique African), who chaired a few years for the IMF and the World Bank and was ambassador of RCI (Republic of Cote D’Ivoire) to Canada and the U.S., finally served in the Ivorian government as Minister of Economy and Finance.
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After Felix Houphouet Boigny passed on in 1993, Bedié immediately announced on national TV that he would succeed him, to the then Prime Minister Allasane Ouattara’s disbelief. Bedié thought it was the right and natural move to make given that he was the “National Assembly’s president” at the time, almost as in “the speaker of the house”, and as he himself said to everyone back then, “Allasane Ouattara” was a foreign national, or naturalized citizen which made him ineligible to accept or take such an oath. They argued and presented their cases to the higher courts in the days that followed until finally Bedié won over Ouattara, leaving him tense and nearly barred to participate in the coming elections.
Comes 1995, Mr. Ouattara, while still willing to fight his way into the elections, is again refused by two of the opposition camps, Gbagbo (FPI) and Robert Guei’s (RDR) Rally of the Republicans. Bedié ends up winning 96% of the votes and easily succeeds Houphouet Boigny.
Four years later in 1999, not only is he accused of theft of public funds, but Bedié is additionally overthrown by retired Army General Robert Guei of the RDR for refusing to set free members of his party he claimed Bedié had imprisoned. Guei later on explained that while he was a faithful member of the PDCI as Bedié was, was made head of the military before Houphouet’s passing , he needed to distance himself from Bedié. He claims that Bedié had approached him earlier in 1995 and asked him to mobilize his troops in order to dissolve tensions between him and Allasane. That demand or perhaps order he claims he refused subsequently got him dismissed from the army and forced into retirement by 1997 by Bedié. Robert Guei claims that Bedie had imprisoned a few of his colleagues then to make him pay and refused to let them out.
By 1999, Bedié was charge with manipulation and theft of public funds and is charged with corruption; a charge pushed by Guei who also used the opportunity to free his ex-colleagues. At that point a military-like coup ensues and Bedié takes off to neighboring Togo and then to France where he finds refuge and protection. Although Guei never denied that he wanted to get back at Bedié, he denied that the coup was perpetuated by him and his forces first. Most say that Allasane Ouattara pushed for it. Meanwhile Guei takes over, and while in France a year later Bedié speaks of coming back at some point to face charges in RCI, charges he said were without merit.
Laurent Gbagbo wins the 2000 elections. Robert Guei refuses to budge and uses violence on many demonstrators and bystanders in order to steal the presidency. A gun attack at Guei’s own home then changes the scene and perception and everyone wonders if indeed he was the one behind the coup. If not him, Allasane then? Most believe that to be true. Streets’ protests and unfortunate deaths quickly convince Guei to hand power back to Gbagbo. Gbagbo then is declared president of Cote D’Ivoire.
As part of a national reunification and reconciliation forum set by Gbagbo he invites Bedié and Guei to join him in 2001 to lead their respective parties forth in the political arena. At that point the country hit a social crisis attributed to Bedié’s Immigration Reform campaign. Feelings of xenophobia and divisiveness fill the air and a civil war begins led by an Army of rebels, for the most part northern immigrants, some naturalized, others from unknown backgrounds said to fight the insults propagated by Bedié and the fight that they did not want to be put through some long and worth-undermining immigration process .
Bedié explained how his intent was to legally and constitutionally redefine the Ivorian Citizenship and naturalization along with the Ivorian identity for the people and the country. Yet, many, especially those in the North viewed his actions as motivated by politics and his rejection of Allasane as a worthwhile and legal candidate.
By September 2002, the northern part of the country’s rebels armed to the teeth, ex-military nationals and trained militias from neighboring Muslim nations, particularly Mali and Burkina Faso, enter a few cities on killing rampages. That same night Robert Guei was found dead, his body laying in the street. A dozen of people in his entourage found killed at his home. As the militias moved southward to finally reach western and southern cities, the national army mobilizes rallies the troops and organizes a counter-attack to safeguard cities they had the time and forces to cover. At that time, Allasane Ouattara had supposedly left his living quarters to find refuge in the French embassy, his home had been burned down to the ground.
The government had managed to fully safeguard and secure Abidjan, the primary city, with the rest of the Southern part of the country. At that time the rebels had moved and taken the north hostage. They had also additionally materialized from military affiliations to General Robert Guei and possibly got rid of him before the war officially started. In the South, another militia group, this one by students activists close in political beliefs with and loyal to the president Gbagbo had set up their minds to fight back as a private reinforcement to the government’s soldiers and special forces.
While still making their move slowly towards the South, the Northern rebels began to established camps in various cities while eliminating southerners along the way. These guys were upset that their parents’ hard work in the northern tending for the Cocoa and Cafe fields had materialized into rejection instead of appreciation and reward.
The French somehow had about 4000 soldiers dispatched to aid in the process, with a 1000 to 2000 U.N. soldiers from other nations also in the mix. Some blamed the French for not doing enough to prevent bloodshed, some blame Gbagbo for refusing to negotiate with the rebels and come up with an agreement of sort as was proposed by the UN and French. He was intent on repressing their military might and progressively pushing them out of the country. Unfortunately many lost their lives within the following weeks, months, and two years of civil war until a cease-fire was set in late 2004. People took to their outrage and frustration to the street, mainly blaming the French for setting up camps in between the lines, South and North and not doing what they were expected to do, which was to destabilize the north by counter-attacking and fighting the mobile belligerent forces moving about.
Anti-French Protests ensued, national televised critical discussions filled with vocal repugnance of the French government then were uttered; with most in people even suspecting that the French government had more to do in the dispute and civil war than met the eyes, because of their indifference and lack of actions and the fact that the president then, Jacques Chirac had personally ordered government Mi-24 helicopters and fighter-bombers to be destroyed as Gbagbo attempted to push the rebels outward.
Around early 2005, as things were somewhat stabilizing, with the country still scrambling to get back to the normal course of things, UN enforced an arms embargo, Mbeki from South Africa organized an Ivorian political leaders’ meeting where all parties agreed to drop the guns so to speak, and work together. Since the elections were due in October, UN Security general Koffi Annan pushed for a delay that upset the opposition parties who were preparing to run against Gbagbo. The African Union also moved to extend Gbagbo’s presidency for an additional year. By 2006, the Ivorian made it to the World Cup finals and that helped mend some hearts and help reconcile some things. The forces up north still there and according to the agreement somewhat controlling and monitoring that part of the country, progressively clearing up the main ways to facilitate commerce and a certain livelihood. Apparently the soccer team had a reconciling part around the end of that one, convincing Gbagbo to revive peace discussions and other agreements as they got both rebel forces to meet up in the north for a match that brought them together.
The elections were delayed until 2007. Before that could be set, a peace agreement was signed between the new forces in the South and Gbagbo in Ouagadougou to make the New Forces leader’s prime minister of Ivory Coast, which the U.N. backed up and came to supervise, as well as the rest of Gbagbo’s talks with other rebel leaders in the north and west parts of the country, slowly bringing the middle of the country and parts of the north to complete disarmament. Allasane and the French army were blamed at one point for rockets fired at Guillaume Soro’s plane (the newly nominated prime minister) as he was living the north west side of the country. Soro survived, however four of his staff died. Once a great majority of the disarmament was completed, Gbagbo and Soro declared the war over and proceeded to quickly set up the speed, tone and space for elections scheduled for 2008.
As election times neared, somehow it gets pushed back again, and i am not quite why that time. What becomes apparent though is that election time comes finally in 2010; by the last week of November 2010 a long campaign and twofold elections begin, with more than 10 new candidates and the main opposition leaders Ouattara and Bedié.
By November 28 or so Laurent Gbagbo comes 1st of the group, with Ouattara 2nd and Bedié 3rd. At that time, the first two candidates moved on to the second and final elections to decide on the president. Note that Allasane was allowed to take part in the election only through an agreement with the norther rebels demanding that he be allowed to participate in the elections so they could further release their hold of the last northern parts still held hostage. Allasane campaigns and rallies as many supporters from the Bedié’s PDCI party, Allasane’s party is said to have legitimately won a good chunk of Bedié voters to follow him because of his alliance to the party, but the majority in the more populated South more likely to lean to the FPI’s side for Gbagbo.
The second tour of the elections went well, with the exception of heated arguments that led to violent acts by supporters mainly said to be Allasane’s, in two major Gbagbo supporting South cities, severely harming a total of 10 people with machetes and knives.
While everything else for the most part went well with no major complaints, U.N. Togolese, Senegalese and Malian observers reported one to two major fraudulent incidents in the north were fatigue-wearing individuals were seen carrying away ballots containers away without permission (there are a few videos of reports by these election observers, however in French at: http://www.video225.com/watch_video.php?v=9ead7b8b91f7d5b).
While the UN’s rulings are significant and considerable in dispute resolutions, a nation’s constitution being and its highest court of law are to be validated and recognized in the application of their law. It turns out that while the elections were close, with Allasane having a great chance to win over Gbagbo by a small margin, a good extra hundred of unregistered ballots ended up turning out at the end of the day in northern parts of the country.
Election centers’ workers in the north reported intimidation and suspicious ballots which the president of the Independent electoral commission confirmed apparently on TV by pulling the early unconsolidated results with those ballots of unregistered voters included (some names were names of dead individuals on the ballots, and one of the other reports had a few towns with rigged ballots, filing only 300 registered voters, end ending up counting over thousands of extra voters in one case).
While a non-authorized representative of the electoral commission was gearing up to announce the unconsolidated results, the president of the electoral commission interrupted the results broadcast to inform the journalists present of the illegality of the announcement. The announcer was in the northern part of the country, away from the proper governmental channels, and appeared alone to give the results, which seemed strange to most.
Finally the word apparently got to the government channels and the votes were recounted eliminating votes deemed ones from unregistered and unknown parties to bring the election to a win by Laurent Gbagbo by a small margin still.
The presidency’s site shows about 51.45% win by Laurent Gbagbo next to 48.55% by the 4th of December, after unconsolidated votes were recounted omitting the falsified ballots.
Recently the UN has somehow failed to report on the factors and incidents having influenced the outcome pronounced by the FPI. All they claim is that Ouattara won and that Gbagbo should allow for a swift transfer of power. At this point in the Ivory Coast, there are 2 presidents, one presiding from the presidency, sworn in under oath according to the constitution and with most of the country behind him wishing him well, another also being wish well by the international community and the UN as well as the U.S., that president with his cabinet already established at a hotel currently ready to move into presidency mode.
Gosh this took more time than i thought it would to tell!
Now who do you think or believe won, why?
Do you think that there are other factors at play here, foul play, foreign commercial interests maybe? Fraud? Ethnic preference? France? Socialist Libertarianism vs. Democracy?
Why is the UN not talking about the incidents and fake ballots?
Should a country sovereign constitution be respected and implemented without the UN being present or making any decision but final?
Who do you think is backing up Gbagbo in the West? And who do you think is backing up Allasane in the West?
Just a few random questions I’ve been pondering.
Feel free to answer or add anything you want.
That’s all for me.