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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Power sharing: An ugly Paradigm shift in African Politics;Gbagbo must be removed by force

Gbagbo must be removed by force

Lord Aikins Adusei
*By Lord Aikins Adusei

Dangerous precedents
The year was 2008. The countries: Kenya and Zimbabwe. The subject matter was presidential elections between the then incumbents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and their challengers Raila Odinga and Morgan Tsvangirai respectively. Both elections had similar things in common. The opposition candidates in the respective countries won the elections but the incumbents refused to go, called on their supporters to inflict harm on their opponents and stole the verdict under the watchful eye of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and East Africa Community, the Africa Union and the international community.

First was Mwai Kibaki who came to power after Arap Moi's two decades of corrupt dictatorship came to an end. Kibaki during the campaign promised to weed corruption and put Kenya back as East Africa's economic powerhouse. After using state machinery including the media (electronic and print) he could not win the people's heart and mind. He failed to deliver on his promises and the people punished him for failing. But he refused to go and made diabolical calculations that earned him the presidency of the country under a sham arrangement called 'power sharing'. His refusal to accept the choice of the people led to a senseless bloodbath which resulted in more than 1200 people losing their life. Raila Odinga who had won the election was given the position of Prime Minister.

Then came Zimbabwe. Mugabe too lost to Morgan Tsvangirai after the first round and went about employing all manner of tactics that finally forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from the election effectively handing over the presidency to Mugabe. Kenya's power sharing was imported and imposed on the people of Zimbabwe against their will.

Thus in both Zimbabwe and Kenya power sharing was considered the solution to the debacle in those countries. The Zimbabwe's power sharing deal sponsored by SADC, retained Mugabe as president, while Tsvangirai got the less important Prime Minister position with Arthur Mutambara as Deputy Prime Minister. To add insults to injury Mugabe and his Zanu-PF were given key portfolios, and sweeping powers that placed them in charge of the country. Meanwhile Mugabe has refused to abide by the terms of their agreement that stipulate that both the Prime Minister and the President must consult each other for major appointments. In October 2010, Tsvangirai wrote to the United Nations protesting at Mugabe's unilateral appointment of officials without consultation as stipulated by the agreement.

Thus in Zimbabwe since the government of unity was sworn in more than eighteen months ago nothing seems to have worked. Mugabe and his supporters have done everything in their power to make sure that the unity government does not work. Mr. Mugabe has totally hijacked the implementation and twisted it in his favour. He and his Zanu-PF agents continue to frustrate the unity government forcing Tsvangirai to threaten to pull out many times. As The Economist magazine put it "Mr Mugabe still treats the agreement and his prime minister with contempt. Mr Tsvangirai recently announced that journalists were now free to report on Zimbabwe without government approval, yet he was promptly contradicted by the information minister, a Zanu-PF man, who said that journalists without proper accreditation could face up to two years in jail. After months of negotiations, Mr Tsvangirai at last secured the release of human-rights activists and MDC sympathisers who had been detained, and many tortured, on treason charges. But a few weeks later they were rearrested."

Although better than Zimbabwe in terms of the implementation of the power sharing agreement, Kenya's power sharing implementation is also beset with the same problems despite the rhetoric by the politicians that they would let it work. The negative impact on the disagreements are manifold but the most serious of them all is that in Zimbabwe as it is in Kenya the people who voted for change continue to suffer under the same leaders they rejected. Their economic, social and political conditions have not improved a bit.

It is clear that the concept of power sharing as it has been practiced in both Kenya and Zimbabwe has been flawed and has been a sham that ought not to have been considered in African politics at all. But this appears to be what Laurent Gbagbo is hopping for when he refused to accept the people's verdict. His call for Mr. Ouattara to meet him to dialogue is intended to ensure that he remained president. Gbagbo appears to be towing the same line as Kibaki and Mugabe hopping that by refusing to relinquish power and using the military to terrorise the population he would be able to force Quattara into a power sharing deal. He was also hopping that the regional leaders will support his move for a possible power sharing arrangement. But it is clear from the outpouring of support for Mr. Quattara that Gbagbo hugely miscalculated and underestimated the intelligence of the West Africa and the AU leadership.

Show of Support for Ouattara
Unlike Zimbabwe and Kenya where regional leaders were divided and could not speak with one voice, thereby allowing the stolen verdicts to stand, the leadership in West Africa is speaking with one voice asking Gbagbo to step down and allow the legitimately elected leader to take the mantle of leadership. The support expressed by the leadership in West Africa has not only isolated Gbagbo regionally and continentally but has also reduced his influence in the region to only his southern controlled part of the country.

Reacting to calls by Gbagbo to accept defeat the President of ECOWAS James Victor Gbeho said ""There is nothing to negotiate as far as ECOWAS is concerned. From now on, ECOWAS will deal with Ouattara, not Gbagbo." The UN Secretary General also made it clear to Gbagbo that Mr. Ouattara's nominee for the post of UN Ambassador will be recognised. President Khama Ian Khama's government in Botswana also condemned Gbagbo's power grab efforts in Ivory Coast. "The Government of the Republic of Botswana is deeply concerned about African leaders who reject election results that are not in their favour. Such actions not only deny people the right to have leaders of their choice, but also thwart efforts to maintain peace and security on the African continent". Morgan Moseki, Botswana Congress Party's Secretary for International Affairs released statement saying "We urge the AU not to allow the Kenyan and Zimbabwean style Government of National Unity in Ivory Coast as this creates good precedence for losers who remain heads of state with full privileges despite the outcome".

The strongest show of support came from Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga who has called for Gbagbo to be removed by force. Odinga (himself a victim of electoral short-change) said in a news conference in Cancun-Mexico that "Mr Gbagbo must be forced even if it means using military means to get rid of him because he is just now relying on military power not people power to intimidate the people. He thinks that he can basically intimidate the people to submission so that he can continue to rule in undemocratic fashion. This will only spell doom and destruction for Ivory Coast." "What is building up in Ivory Coast now is a tragedy Africa cannot afford this time and one that the international community must not allow at any cost."

The message from West African leaders and the Africa Union leadership has been loud and clear: Africa will not accept such blatant abuse and entrenchment of power. They will no more tolerate or support autocratic regimes that are hell bent on controlling power at all cost.

Meanwhile the Central Bank in West Africa Chaired by Mali's President seem to have pulled the plug denying Gbagbo access to funds that could help him sustain his illegitimate regime. According to the Reuters News Agency a statement issued by the West African Central Bank stated "The council of ministers has taken note of the decisions of the U.N, the African Union, and of (West African regional body) ECOWAS, to recognize Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate elected president of Ivory Coast," and that only appointed members of the "legitimate government" would be allowed to access funds held in the central bank's accounts.

The blow to deny Gbagbo funds was made heavier after the World Bank also announced that it was cutting all financial help (loans and grant) to the country. The European Union led by France, (former colonial power) has been threatening sanctions. The United States has also proposed sanctions threatening to freeze assets of Gbagbo and his key allies held in the US.

Defiance and acts of violence
But so far Gbagbo has stood his grounds and has remained stubbornly defiant urged on by the country's military. At the same time he and his supporters appear to be adopting the crude tactics Mugabe adopted: arrest, torture and killing of those suspected to have voted for his opponent. Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, said "Between 16 and 21 December, human rights officers have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances,". "We have credible reports that almost 200 people may have already been killed, with dozens more tortured or mistreated, and others may have been snatched from their homes in the middle of the night," U.S. ambassador Betty E. King said during the Human Rights Council's meeting in Geneva.

Y. J. Choi, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Ivory Coast, said he was personally prevented from visiting a site suspected to be a mass grave. "I went there and we were about to enter into negotiations then reinforcement came with young men mounted on pick-up trucks […] with rocket launchers directly aiming at us… Finally, because of our rules of engagement we returned but we will continue to try to reach this site to verify the facts." "I met him several times to deliver two messages: that he lost and must accept it; the second message was if his action to change the results of the election results in serious violations of human rights then there would be no turning back. He will be dragging […] people into tragedy."

Gbagbo must be removed by force
The overwhelming support Mr. Ouattara has received internationally suggests that no matter how hard Gbagbo tries to remain in power he will only be doing damage to his reputation as a statesman and ruin his country's economy as Mugabe has done. This will be too obvious if the threats of sanctions against him and his government are implemented. The logic of the sanctions is that it will make it difficult for him to govern his country. The soldiers who are backing him may switch side or may turn and remove him after the sanctions begin to hit them. There is a clear similarity between Gbagbo's cling on power and what happened to Mamadou Tandja of Niger when he took a similar path.

Although the condemnation and isolation and threat of sanctions by the ECOWAS, AU, EU, US and UN is a welcoming development I believe the whole idea to use sanctions to cripple him cannot be a viable option; it cannot bring the change in leadership that Ivorians voted for. It has not worked in Zimbabwe and will not work in Ivory Coast. Gbagbo as stubborn as he is will want to cling on to power at all cost, even if it means totally collapsing the country. Let us not forget that Gbagbo became president by default and has ruled Cote D'Ivoire in the last ten years without the mandate of the people. He deliberately thwarted all effort to hold credible, transparent free and fair elections adopting tactics that enabled him to postpone the elections several times.

I must admit that I am not a big fun of military intervention and I have spoken against it in some quarters especially when Paul Collier suggested it as way of getting failed states like Somalia back on their feet. But when a leader like Laurent Gbagbo fails to do what is reasonably acceptable in human society and tries to plunge his country into a senseless blood bath and deny Ivorians the hope of a better future then the only hope to restore that hope is to use force. This is why I strongly agree with Raila Odinga that all options must remain on the table as dialogue continues. However, it must also be made loud and clear to Gbagbo that Africa and the international community will only accept Ouattara leadership as president and nothing less. The message must be made loud and clear to Gbagbo that Africa and the international community will use force to bring about the change that Ivorians hope for should the need arises. That message must also include the warning that he Gbagbo and his backers will join Charles Taylor in The Hague to answer for any crime they commit in the country. We cannot be serious about regional security, stability and development if we cannot implement military intervention to bring about that security and stability. It is the actions of persons like Gbagbo that continue to insulate Africa from the global economy and force investors to go elsewhere despite the huge resources found on the continent. Africa should not accept Kenya and Zimbabwe style power-sharing arrangement that so far has not delivered any tangible results to the ordinary people living in those countries. Gbagbo must not be allowed to ruin his country as Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe. It must be understood that Gbagbo does not command the support of the people as the election results indicate; neither does he have any valuable options. The only option available to him is to accept defeat.

If the wish of Gbagbo and the military leaders in the country is to plunge Ivory Coast into another senseless bloodbath, then that wish must be denied of them. Therefore any attempt to legitimise Gbagbo's rule through power sharing arrangement will set a dangerous precedent in West Africa, a region already noted for its instability and political upheavals. Those who want to take Africa back to the Stone Age like Gbagbo must be stopped at all cost.

Part of the Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights states that "Colonized or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognized by the international community." This article enjoins Ivorians to resist any form of domination by any entity including their own leaders who want to rule them without their mandate. In this instance it is clear that the people of Cote D'Ivoire are under Gbagbo's bonds of domination and must be helped to free themselves from his oppressive regime. We will do a great injustice to the people of Ivory Coast if Gbagbo is allowed to rule as president.

Therefore if he refuses to accept defeat and allow Ouattara to govern then he must be removed by force. The removal of Gbagbo by force will send a powerful message to current and would be tyrants that their corrupt and autocratic style of governance will no more be tolerated on the continent. Therefore, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Malawi and all countries in Africa that believe in democracy and freedom of the people to choose who should lead them should get prepared to contribute soldiers to unseat Gbagbo should the current efforts to persuade him to go peacefully fail.

West Africa and Africa military planners must begin to put a force together. The peace, stability and hope that ECOMOG brought to Liberia must also be brought to Cote D'Ivoire. The campaign must be shock and awe and decisive. Securing the airport and the harbour in Abidjan as well security and energy installations and borders must be a priority so at to cut Gbagbo's supply line and force him and his backers to capitulate. If the shock and awe strategy fails to bring him down then he must be fought to the end captured dead or alive. That means ECOMOG must be prepared to dig in for a long battle and be prepared to take casualties for it is only when they are prepared to take casualties can they also bring the illegitimate government down. The UN 10,000 strong peacekeeping force in the country must be given the mandate to fight along side ECOMOG because as the situation stands today there is no peace for them to keep in the country.

To get the support needed the campaign must be African led; and civilian casualties must be avoided as much as possible. Neighbouring countries must secure their borders and also get ready to accept people fleeing the country and provide them with food and shelter until such a time that peace returns to the troubled country.

The precedents set by Mugabe and Kibaki and encouraged by regional power brokers seem to have informed Gbagbo that he too could have his way. Perhaps if EAC and SADC regional leaders and Thabo Mbeki in particular had been more vocal and supportive of Morgan Tsvangirai and Odinga as the West Africans are doing the debacle and the dysfunctional unity governments in Zimbabwe and Kenya as we have them today would have been averted including the dangerous precedents set by Kibaki and Mugabe and being followed by Laurent Gbagbo.

The actions of West African leaders, as well as those of AU, UN, EU and the US in the coming days and perhaps weeks will be crucial to what happens to the change and hope that Ivorians voted for. For now the options for Gbagbo is to admit defeat, leave office peacefully or be prepared to be removed by force.

*The author is an anti-corruption campaigner and the author of "Switzerland: A parasite feeding on the economies of poor African and Third World Countries?"

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