Ivory Coast

Jan 2011: My cousin left Ivory Coast in late December and was home with her folks for Christmas. The standoff continues in country, hundreds of people have been killed, and it’s not looking good.

8 Dec: e-mail from cousin.. “Today the Ambassador told us to prepare for the worst, and talk to our local staff about the possibility that expats will be evacuated… it’s quite dramatic.”

6 Dec: updated news HERE. Does not look promising.

4 Dec: My cousin e-mailed today from Abidjan City in the Ivory Coast, Africa. She is country director for a large U.S. government relief program in Cote d’Ivoire. The country held their first free /democratic elections in many years this week. She was part of the massive multi-national election observer team. She had earlier outlined for me some details of their roles as observers. All Cote d’Ivoire polling places (including the key northern and central provinces) were staffed with official multi-national observers who counted and cross-counted every vote on-site, and who then physically accompanied the paper votes as they were transferred from polling places to the capital of Abidjan. The observers remained present while central voting authorities re-counted all votes and tallied results.

I won’t get into the story that followed, but in essence the highly popular challenger (Ouattara) won by a decisive margin (55% – 45%). However, the incumbent administration delayed announcing the results for three days, claiming “vote rigging” and fraud in the northern districts. Yesterday, Cote d’Ivoire’s  “Constitutional Council” (under control of the current government) declared 400,000 northern votes “invalid” and awarded the election to the incumbent (Gbagbo), who was sworn in just hours ago.

My cousin is quite worried about what will follow in Abidjan. Some are predicting widespread civil unrest throughout the country, and perhaps all-out civil war. International reaction has been swift and decisively united: the incumbent must step down and allow the legally elected president to assume power, as reported moments ago by the BBC:

“Mr. Obama said Independent Electoral Commission, credible and accredited observers and the United Nations have all confirmed this result and attested to its credibility.” He congratulated Mr. Ouattara and said the international community would “hold those who act to thwart the democratic process and the will of the electorate accountable for their actions”.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France – the former colonial power in Ivory Coast – told Mr. Gbagbo to “respect the will of the people, abstain from any action that might provoke violence” and to help establish peace.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier called on Mr Gbagbo “to do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition”.

The chairman of regional bloc Ecowas, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said all parties should “respect and fully implement the verdict of the Ivorian people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission”.

The head of the UN mission in Ivory Coast also said it regarded Mr Ouattara as the winner, while the African Union said it was “deeply concerned” by the developments.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said the IMF would only work with an Ivory Coast government recognised by the UN.

“The Constitutional Council has abused its authority, the whole world knows it, and I am sorry for my country’s image,” he said.

Is it just me, or do these people have that look that says “I know what I’m doing is totally wrong, but I don’t want to lose my job.”


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