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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs