News / Africa

US Stance on Ivory Coast Gets Mixed Reviews

These pro-Ouattara protesters outside the Ivory Coast embassy in Washington support the current U.S. policy, but others are more reserved.
These pro-Ouattara protesters outside the Ivory Coast embassy in Washington support the current U.S. policy, but others are more reserved.
Nico Colombant

While African regional bodies are taking the lead in trying to convince incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to step down, the U.S. government has also made repeated and forceful statements against the resistant leader. This approach has gotten mixed reviews, and brought warnings it could lead to the breakup of Ivory Coast.

At a recent protest at the Ivory Coast embassy in Washington, Coffi Sosthene was one of a dozen protesters supporting the actions of President Barack Obama's administration, calling for Mr. Gbagbo to give way to Alassane Ouattara, the man whose election as president is recognized by the United Nations, the African Union and West Africa's regional bloc, ECOWAS.

"I think the Obama administration responded at the right time in the beginning of the whole scenario which is very good, and the United States for once has been on the right side, the United States is on the side of the president elected by the people.  The Ivorian people will never forget this," he said.

Sosthene is a U.S. representative of the Ivorian political party for former President Henri Konan Bedie who finished third in the first round of the highly contested Ivorian election and then supported Mr. Ouattara in the November 28 runoff.

The United Nations and the United States say Mr. Ouattara won the election, as counted by the national election commission.  But this result was overturned by the Ivorian constitutional council which threw out votes from the country's rebel-held north and gave victory to Mr. Gbagbo.

U.S.-based anthropologist and West Africa expert Stephen Smith says upholding democratic results is crucial to Mr. Obama's Africa policy.

"I understand from the conversations I had with American officials that President Obama took it as a personal slight that in the country neighboring the place where he spoke out for democracy, on his first trip to Africa in neighboring Ghana, he spoke out for democracy and for the need for Africans to take into their hands their destiny.  And he sees this blatant violation of democratic principles, shredding to pieces electoral results, proclaiming a fantastical result, something that he cannot put up with," he said.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said Mr. Gbagbo must go.  They also announced sanctions against Mr. Gbagbo, his family and key members of his government.  

Mr. Gbagbo has responded by saying the United States is part of a foreign conspiracy against his country's independence. He has refused to speak or have meetings with American officials.

This week, State Department officials said they were still ready to help arrange what they called "a dignified exit" for Mr. Gbagbo, but that this window of opportunity was quickly closing.

A pro-Gbagbo Ivorian political analyst Gervais Gnaka says he believes foreigners often misunderstand the historical context of African countries. "What President Obama should know and what all the people who are talking about Laurent Gbagbo, even though Laurent Gbagbo is an imperfect person, and he made many mistakes but he is the symbol of the resistance of many millions of Ivorians and many Africans, and when you can see people in Congo, in Gabon, in Cameroon, gathering and mobilizing to support Laurent Gbagbo it is not because Laurent Gbagbo is an angel but it is because people are tired of the interference of the west in African domestic affairs," he said.

U.S.-based Africa analyst J. Peter Pham says he never believed an election would reunite Ivory Coast, which remains split between the Gbagbo-run south and the rebel-held north.  Mr. Ouattara has been able to convince international banks to freeze Ivorian accounts, but in the main southern city Abidjan, the internationally-recognized president remains holed up in a luxurious hotel, protected by former rebels and U.N. peacekeepers.

Pham is currently writing a book about Ivory Coast. "The problem in Cote d'Ivoire, Ivory Coast, was that people  were driving toward an election as if that would solve the problem and I have long held the position there are some root causes to the conflict that existed before (Mr.) Gbagbo was even president and certainly will exist after he is off the scene and unless those are addressed you are going to have a society that is essentially divided down the middle," he said.

These include creating a unified army between northerners and southerners, establishing clear land rights in volatile cocoa-rich areas and general acceptance of Mr. Ouattara as an Ivorian.  Mr. Ouattara, a former prime minister, had been excluded from previous polls over doubts concerning his nationality.

Key rebel demands, which were granted in successive internationally-brokered peace deals, were to give Mr. Ouattara the right to run in the latest election and for hundreds of thousands of descendants of migrant workers from neighboring countries the right to become Ivorian and vote.

Pham warns that if world powers like the United States do not move beyond what he calls posturing, and just wanting Mr. Ouattara to be installed as president, to helping find a more sustainable settlement, he warns the result could be heightened violence and eventually the breakup of Ivory Coast.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs