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article imageOp-Ed: Meanwhile, Ivory Coast slides unnoticed into civil war

By Michael Cosgrove     Mar 6, 2011 in Politics
The turmoil in Libya has eclipsed events in other African countries, and the further south they are the less attention they are getting. One of those countries is Ivory Coast, where the ongoing Gbagbo-Ouatarra standoff could result in civil war.
It seems that there just isn’t enough space in the press to be able to discuss the many revolts, revolutions and civil wars which have broken out on the African continent and in the Middle East. A commenter on an article I wrote recently on the quality of the press coverage in Libya asked me why I hadn’t discussed the protests in the UAE and the situation in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, which he said deserved more attention.
That's a very good question of course, but the plain fact is that the sheer volume of news reported by Twitter and other social networking sites, not to mention amateur videos of serious events filmed on cell phones and reports filed by journalists, makes it difficult to offer extended coverage to each situation. A kind of unofficial news pecking order has been established, and of all the temporarily forgotten conflicts the one going on in Ivory Coast is perhaps the most dangerous.
The political situation there has hardly changed since Alassane Ouatarra beat Laurent Gbagbo in the presidential election held last November and Gbagbo refused to concede defeat. The United Nations only recognizes Ouattara, who has spent much time holed up in a hotel protected by UN troops since the elections, as president, and Gbagbo continues to dig his heels in.
But the stalemate has led to greatly increased tensions and there has been a dramatic uptick in violence – particularly by Gbagbo supporters - to the point where Ivory Coast UN peacekeeping force commander Alain Leroy recently declared that the country is “on the verge of civil war.”
Seven women were slaughtered by Gbagbo supporters during a peaceful march last Thursday (viewer discretion required from 4:50 in video above), 200,000 people have fled the country, at least 365 people are said to have died in violence since the election, mostly Ouatarra supporters, and over 50 people were killed last week, 26 of them on Thursday.
Also, the rape of women and girls – some of whom are said to be only 5 years old - is increasingly being used as a weapon by both sides, and a recent Amnesty International investigation into it makes for harrowing reading.
Press criticism of Gbagbo has been all but intimidated out of existence, and to make matters worse Gbagbo has cut off both water and electricity supplies in the north of the country, most probably to weaken ethnic opposition to him by Ouattara supporters. Ouattara is from the north of Ivory Coast, where he is very popular.
Ivorian politician Alassane Ouattara
Ivorian politician Alassane Ouattara
Alassane Ouattara
All this does not seem to have moved the international community to intervene however. Initial threats by other African countries and organizations to remove Gbagbo by force if he didn’t leave were not backed up by action, EU sanctions have had almost no effect, and the United Nations is divided on the issue, with Russia, China, India and Brazil being opposed to any military intervention designed to force Gbagbo out.
The world needs to do more to settle this vicious conflict as well as others in Africa if the continent is ever to have the slightest hope of becoming a place where a reasonable amount of democracy could exist, because many of these conflicts are interlinked. Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe is suspected by the UN of supplying Gbagbo with arms in what could be an attempt to bolster him against western and UN pressure, several countries have various interests in the Somalian conflict, and there are many other examples of how corrupt leaders in Africa are trying to keep the fires of conflict burning.
The situation in Ivory Coast needs to be addressed urgently, because without outside help the country may slide into a bloody civil war which may well contaminate the whole of Western Africa before spreading even further afield into what is arguably the world’s most unhappy continent.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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