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Ivory Coast: Ex-president Gbagbo’s triumphant return – Part 2

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Supporters of Ivory Coast’s former president wait outside the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) offices for Gbagbo’s arrival on June 17, 2021 in Abidjan. – Gbagbo’s returned to the country after being then acquitted of crimes against humanity over a bloody civil conflict. His long-awaited homecoming is a key test of stability in the world’s biggest cocoa producer and the wealthiest country in francophone West Africa. Thousands of supporters shouted and danced as they celebrated the return of a man they revere as a hero. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

Continued from yesterday

President Gbagbo, following due process, had taken the election dispute case to the ECOWAS Court for adjudication. Sadly, President Goodluck Jonathan, as leader of ECOWAS, became a warmonger and orchestrated an ECOWAS military ouster of President Gbagbo, even getting his Foreign Minister, Odein Ajumogobia, to present a letter in January 2011 at the UN for the military option. In that January 24, 2011 letter to the UN Security Council urging the UN to authorize the use of force by ECOWAS, a belligerent Ajumogobia had thundered, with braggadocio: “Gbagbo must be made to understand that there is a very real prospect of overwhelming military capability bearing down on him and his cohorts”.

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The ‘International Community’ capitalized on the ECOWAS position – on which a divided AU based its support – but rather than ECOWAS forces, it got the Security Council to authorize intervention by UN Forces, led by France, Ivory Coast’s former colonial power. President Jonathan, therefore, played the Judas that threw President Laurent Gbagbo to his political executioners. Not surprisingly, it was French forces that led the UN military assault on Ivorian Presidential palace in Abidjan and the capture of President Gbagbo, a sitting African president on April 11, 2011. I had written an article then titled: ‘Gbagbo’s capture – Africa’s Day of Infamy. It is instructive that the same ‘International Community’ that rejected the verdict of the Constitutional Council on Gbagbo’s victory, returned to the same Council for its verdict of a Quattara win in that disputed election result, for legitimacy!!! Such hypocrisy.

I wrote two other articles at the time including one titled: Nigeria’s war drums on Cote D’Iviore – published in The Guardian of Thursday, February 17, 2011, urging restraint by Nigeria in advocating the military option. But the Jonathan presidency, apparently ill-informed in international power politics, could not be dissuaded from its misadventure. Nigerian journalists and columnists did not fare better. Like a herd, they too were gung-ho about the military option in Ivory Coast in what was largely a local election dispute issue that should have been allowed to go through judicial redress as initiated by Gbagbo.

It is significant that the African Union is proposing a continental Constitutional Council to resolve presidential election disputes. The other article I wrote was titled: ‘ Cote D’Ivoire – Is Gbagbo the villain? – (The Guardian, January 17, 2011) in which I argued that there has to be an understanding of the historical antecedents to the Ivorian crisis to have a better perspective of the situation as against reliance on biased western narratives. For instance, it is important to note that as a gesture of national reconciliation, it was President Gbagbo who restored Quattara’s citizenship of which he had been stripped under the ‘Ivoirite’ (Ivorianness) policies of President Henri Konan Bedie (1993-99 ) and Gen, Robert Geui (1999-2000).

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Now, having realized his ambition, President Quattara postures as someone seeking genuine national reconciliation. Following the verdict of the appeals chamber of ICC acquitting former President Gbagbo, he had extended an invitation to him to return home. He issued Gbagbo a diplomatic passport and made the presidential pavilion at the airport available for his return and promised him the status and rewards reserved for ex-presidents, including pension and personal security. In 2018, President Quattara had granted amnesty to Mrs. Simone Gbagbo who had been sentenced to a 20-year jail term for her alleged role in the crisis.

However, the immediate future in Ivory Coast are dicey days, depending on the role former President Laurent Gbagbo will play or rather, would be allowed to play, and how the two key sticking issues of indigene-settler dichotomy and French control of the Ivorian economy are addressed.
Concluded.

Dr. Olawunmi, lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Adeleke University, Ede is a former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria.

Phone (SMS ONLY) 0803 364 7571. Email: olawunmibii@yahoo.com

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