South African President Thabo Mbeki will lead an African Union mission to Ivory Coast to try to defuse the crisis there. No word yet on the exact date of his arrival.
For an analysis of President Mbeki’s planned trip to Ivory Coast, English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua spoke with Herbert Hanekom, current affairs specialist at the Africa Institute of South Africa. From Cape Town, he spoke about the biggest problems Mr. Mbeki will face.
He says, “The main problem (facing) Thabo Mbeki, who will be accompanied by the presidents of Gabon and Burkina Faso, will be to try and restore a very strong degree of political will, in particular on the side of (President) Gbagbo and the Ivorian government to definitely want a solution to this problem.”
He adds, “Of course, we all know the underlying cause of the problem goes much deeper than what meets the eye. The south of the Ivory Coast is predominately Christian and they have a degree of xenophobic fear of Islam, which is the dominant religion in the north. Along with this is the question of who is an Ivorian and who is not. Now the leader of the strongest opposition party in Ivory Coast (Alassane) Ouattara is the son of an Ivorian father and a Burkinabe mother. And he is not regarded by the south as being a pure Ivorian and therefore is unacceptable to hold the position of president. That was the original cause in September of 2002 that started the rebellion.”
In his weekly letter, South African President Mbeki wrote, “As Africans, we must openly admit the reality that we have failed to help the Ivorians to end the crisis in their country.”
Mr. Hanekom says, “Like all other continents, Africa is not what one will call a one hundred percent, completely successful region…we all make errors, we all make mistakes. But what is heartening is that Thabo Mbeki, to the best of my knowledge, is the second African head of state that has admitted to African failures. The first being Julius Nyerere when he left the presidency in Tanzania a number of years ago. And I see this as a very positive move that African leaders are beginning to realize it is not a perfect continent, leadership is not perfect, systems are not perfect and they must admit to failures in order to find solutions to these failures and solve the problems.”