8 January 2001

Cote d'Ivoire: The Demons In Cote D'Ivoire


Lagos — Since attaining independence from France in the early 60's, Cote d'Ivoire has undoubtedly been a peace haven in the West African sub-region.

Under the dynamic and visionary leadership of the Late Felix Houphonet- Boigny, one of the founders of the Nation, Cote d'Ivoire waxed stronger and stronger, both economically and politically.

But, regrettably, this French-speaking nation, once regarded as a model of peace and stability in West Africa, has gradually metamorphosed into a theatre of socio-political upheavals, thanks to the greed, egoistic tendencies and culture of non-tolerance being exhibited by its present political class.

After Houphouet died in 1993, Henri Konan Bedie, who was then president of the National Assembly, assumed the presidency by virtue of the Ivorian constitution.

This was to be the beginning of the troubles of Cote d'Ivoire as Bedie's government could not continue to uphold the legacies left behind by the old man.

According to most Ivorians, instead of focusing on issues of National interest, for example, the economy, education, health etc., all his utterances and actions were targeted at no other person than ADO. His government had become corrupt to the extent that he could no longer control his ministers who were having a field day enriching their pockets.

This was the sad state of affairs that led to his ouster in December 1999, on Christmas eve, by General Robert Guei.

Expectedly, Bedie's ouster via a military coup, the first in the annals of the nation's history, was greeted with joy and celebration by Ivorians who had become disillusioned and disenchanted with his autocratic rule.

It was a development that prompted the return of ADO, who was by then staying in Paris.

But, no sooner had the General established his rule than he reverted to the politics of exclusion preached and practiced by the man he overthrew, Bedie. The main target was ADO.

Unflaggingly, President Gbagbo had, since his inauguration on October 26, 2000, made it loud and clear that a timetable for legislative elections has been adopted and that there was no going back on it.

In reality, he kept his word. On December 10, the electorate went to the polls to choose the 225 parliamentarians that will compose the legislature of the second Republic. But the days preceding the election were marked by renewed tension and violence.

Consequently, the election could not be held in most parts of the country as it was boycotted by the opposition RDR - Rally of Republicans led by former Prime Minister, Alhassan Dramane Ouattara, popularly referred to as "ADO."

Thus, this has been the state of the political situation in Cote d'Ivoire by the end of the year 2000.

Again, prior to General Robert Guei's coup on 29th December 1999, Cote d'Ivoire, reputed as a model of stability in West Africa, is now a shadow of its former self. Ivorians are now faced with the harsh realities of living under a state of emergency.

As was the case during the October 22 presidential elections, Ivorians were urged to go and cast their votes on December 10, for the legislative elections while the country was under a curfew and a state of emergency. While the new Head of State had gone on state television to appeal to Ivorians to troop out en masse to exercise their franchise, gendarmes, policemen and soldiers with stern looking faces and well-equipped with arms could be seen patrolling the length and breadth of the country.

The exclusion of RDR leader, Alhassan Ouattara, from the legislative elections, after having suffered a similar fate during the presidential elections, as expected, did not go down well with his supporters. Ouattara draws his support mostly from the predominantly Muslim North.

To the violence unleashed by his supporters as an expression of their indignation over his exclusion, security forces responded with force and extreme brutality.

Today, the situation in Cote d'Ivoire is such that Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, had this to say: "Les hommes politiques Ivoiriens se Sont reveles des diables," meaning, "Ivorian politicians are demons."

It is pertinent to acknowledge that nothing has changed fundamentally since the former number one opponent to the late Felix Houphet-Boigny, the founding father of the PDC I and the nation, came to power.

Here is one illustration, among many, to buttress this view. Before yesterday, Alhassan Ouattara, the only prime minister during Boigny's tenure, was presented as the number one enemy of former president Henri Konan Bedie.

He was also accused of being the mastermind behind the latter's ouster by General Guei.

Today, Ouattara has again been presented as the arch-enemy of president Gbagbo.

Infact, not surprisingly, the President had repeated just few days of his inauguration that "it is immoral for somebody who has been a top public figure in a country (Burkina Faso) to aspire to the presidency if another country (Cote d'Ivoire). This was an apparent reference to ADO. He even went further to state that the Ivorian constitution is clear which provides that whoever has benefitted from another Nationality is not eligible to run for the presidency.

Alhassan Dramane Ouattara (ADO), on the other hand has continued to deny any legitimacy to Gbagbo, who was his ally within the Republican front put in place to challenge the supremacy of the PDCI during the Bedie regime.

"The international community has acted somehow hastily to recognize the results of the presidential elections which were rigged." These were the words of ADO days after the legislative elections. Excluded from both the presidential and legislative elections on the grounds of Nationality, ADO now finds himself virtually marginalised on the Ivorian political scene.

Within the RDR itself, ADO has not been finding things easy as the party is now plagued by internal squabbles and dissensions. While some top notchers of the party, for example, Henrielte Dagoi Diabate, Amadou Gou Conlibaly, Ali Coulibaly, Jean-Jacques Bechio and Vincent Johones, want ADO to continue his leadership role of the RDR, others have expressed preference for his resignation in the interest of the party.

Their contention is that ADO should clarify the issue concerning his nationality once and for all so that the matter would be finally laid to rest. They include Adama Conlibaly, Guede Guina and Hyacinthe Sarassion.

For the sympathisers of ADO, there will be no RDR without him. According to them, "politics entails a lot of financial resources." They also argue that the party is not well organized to generate the financial resources that is required for its operation. "Without ADO's financial support, the RDR would not have become as important as it is today," they finally pointed out.

Basking in the logic that there is no rival in the party match the eminent qualification of ADO for the leadership of the RDR, these pro-ADOists are in a dilemma over whether to support the personal ambitions of their mentor or the party's interest. Hence, the party is, today, paying a heavy price for this battle. The RDR lacks a coherent strategy to capture power as reflected by the actions and orders issued to its supporters during the last twelve months.

This, to some extent, contributed to the gradual isolation of the party on the political scene. It also reduced, if not destroyed its chances of dominating or influencing the political debate.

Identified today as a violent party by some Ivorians, the RDR is now obliged to play, more than necessary, on religious and regional sentiments, with all the dangers they entail, to mobilise crowds and make its voice heard in the streets.

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