Hoisted from comments: Cote d’Ivoire insights

The Cote d’Ivoire open thread drew in excellent comments. Some highlights:

From Joseph Lake and Random African, a rightful pointer to Jeune Afrique (tweeting at @Jeune_Afrique) for deeper reporting on the Françafrique.

Tom Cushman reminds us that other African regimes are watching very closely what transpires, especially Madagascar.

I agree. World, take heed: what Ouattara, ECOWAS and the West do will have ramifications for every election to pass in the next few years (including the shambles that could be the upcoming Sudanese and Nigerian polls).

Meanwhile, recall that I expressed surprise that no one seemed to take Gbagbo’s concerns of northern fraud seriously. From Rebecca Sargent:

While it is no surprise that Ouattara had heavy support there and would have no doubt won a majority in that region; the real issue is that the numbers don’t add up. In some areas there are more voters than population; the number of registered voters far exceeds those who were officially recognized as registered voters by the UN tally. Also, in many of those areas it was next to impossible for anyone (even if less than 30%) voting for Gbagbo to vote. Many voting booths were said to have been not confidential, and intimidation was rampant. It appears fraud and intimidation ran deep from BOTH sides.

We can also not forget that EVERY single monitor in the country cited irregularities, fraud and intimidation; yet there was no call for investigation in the slightest. They simply jumped on the bandwagon of unconditionally supporting Ouattara. Everyone mentioned how the Constitutional Council is pro-Gbagbo, but neglected to mention how the Electoral Commission that they have followed blindly is clearly pro-Ouattara. The real story is lost behind mounds of propaganda at this point.

My sense is that Ouattara is probably a good man and the rightful President, but the press would do well to remember there are no angels in politics. (Remember the love fests for Kabila and Kagame?)

Also, zealous supporters commit nasty acts for even the best regimes. Check out my co-author’s reports of intimidation of southerners by northern troops–something the press has yet to investigate (perhaps because so few have left Abidjan?).

Moving on, if the split in Sudan goes well (possible, but don’t hold your breath), Don Cox suggests a similar solution for Cote d’Ivoire:

The best long run solution would be to split the country into two – a northern, Muslim half and a southern half.

I think the India/Pakistan and Ethiopia/Eritrea suggest these splits are not a fasttrack to peace (though Temaharay reminds us that the Ethiopia/Eritrea divide is not a religious one).

Here the responses were especially thoughtful. From Laura:

the two halves are very intermingled, especially the number of Northerners in the South. Cutting the North off from the sea would also be an economic disaster – unlike South Sudan, which can at least get stuff in via Kenya-Uganda, Northern CDI would have no import-export routes except through Southern CDI. When I lived there, there was a lot of fear of another Biafra if this was tried – I don’t see any reason why this would be different if the same thing was tried now.

From Rebecca Sargent:

The country has been effectively split already for many years, with separate running of things in the north and south. If this split were to become “official”, it would mean that the north would now become a landlocked country full of resources–ensuring the economic disparity in this region is even more solidified and corruption leaks out the sides.

You wouldn’t have two peaceful regions, you’d have two countries at war and tons of refugees in the middle. Nearly half the country is foreigners from neighbouring African nations. If the country were to split these people’s lives would be at stake.

Depressing me further, Jeff suggests that Outtara’s alliance with Bedie (a southern politician leading supporters of the former regime) might not help solve the political crisis as much as we would hope. Read his full comment here.

Meanwhile, an offline comment from a UNHCR colleague: there are suspicions that many of the Ivoirian refugees registered in Liberia are actually Liberians who, in the local parlance, “know refugee business”–how to work the system. Otherwise, why aren’t there more refugees crossing into Guinea or Ghana, and why are all the refugees appearing near the UNHCR border office rather than more evenly distributed. This is all speculation and hearsay, but worth investigating.

Finally, there is musch talk of an ECOWAS military intervention. Rebecca gives some of the most chilling but possibly most prescient warnings:

an intervention would result in massive slaughter and violence in the street, to even genocidal levels. If ECOWAS or another international party were to intervene militarily, THIS is when you would have wholesale slaughter of Jula in the south, along with all other foreigners. You would effectively see machete slaughter all over the streets. You can’t forget that Gbagbo has a lot of supporters who are angry and have extreme hatred for all things French, UN and foreign messing with their country.

Check out her blog for more.

Interventionists take heed: ECOWAS should not expect garlands of flowers for foreign troops, especially in Gbagbo’s strongholds (including Abidjan).

Comments? I would be very interested to hear from Ivoirians in the audience.

(Postscript: The idea of open threads was Brett Keller’s–from my feedback bleg–and I plan to keep it up. Please keep the suggestions coming.)