…as Gbagbo’s empire crumble
By: Emmanuel Akli
At long last the authorities in Ivory have declared the opposition leader, Allassane Ouattara, as winner of Sunday’s presidential run-off. The decision followed international pressure brought to bear on Laurent Koudou Gbagbo’s government, who was scheming to hold on to power, despite losing the election.
Information reaching The Chronicle at press time last night indicated that there was spontaneous jubilation across the country immediately the final results were announced.
Allassane Ouattara polled 54% of the votes cast beating Gbagbo, who collected 46% of the votes. However, reports suggest that the final results remain in the hands of Cote d’Ivore’s Constitutional Council, which took over the electoral process when the Electoral Commission failed to make a Wednesday deadline to announce the results.
Until December 7, 1993, when its founding father, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, passed away, Ivory Coast was seen as the bastion of peace, and an economic giant in the West African sub-region. But, the power struggle that ensued between Henri Konan Bedie, who eventually took over power from his mentor, and the current opposition leader, Allassane Ouattara, reversed the clock of development of the country, as the ruling party, PDCI, was split into two, with the two protagonists leading each faction.
In December 1999, the late General Robert Gueï took advantage of the crisis to stage the first coup d’etat in Ivory Coast, with Bedie fleeing to France, where he sought refuge, thus further exacerbating political instability in the country.
The military dictator later decided to return the country to constitutional rule, but banned Ouattara and Bedie from contesting the elections. Interestingly, the coup-maker himself also decided to contest the elections, thus leaving him and Laurent Koudou Gbagbo as the main contenders.
Unfortunately, Guei could not live to achieve his dream of metamorphosing himself from a military dictator to a constitutionally elected president, as a counter-coup launched by dissidents in the army led to his assassination.
Gbagbo then took advantage of the situation to declare himself President in 2000, using the volatile atmosphere as his main excuse. Gbagbo postponed the nation’s elections many times until October this year, when he finally agreed for elections to be held.
Prior to this, Gbagbo visited Ghana and promised that he would peacefully hand over power to whoever won the October vote. Unfortunately, the first round of the election could not produce a clear winner, leading to the run-off between him and Allassane Ouattara, who comes from the Muslim-dominated north.
Though the run-off took place on Sunday, the Electoral Commission has failed to release the results as agreed upon. An attempt made by Electoral Commissioner Youssouf Bamba Bakoyoko to declare part of the results, was stopped by a representative of Gbagbo on the Electoral Commission, who seized the papers and tore them into pieces.
The attitude of Laurent Gbagbo, a Historian by profession and former Trade Union activist, is exhibiting signs of power-drunkenness. He and his party supporters are alleging massive fraud in the north. But this stance is not supported by Observer Missions, which insist that voting in the north was especially, free and fair.
A Presidential Aide in Ghana, Nii Lamptey Vanderpuije, alleged that information reaching the Ghanaian authorities indicate that the military was preparing to take over power. Vanderpuije also disclosed during a television discussion yesterday that leaders in the sub-region would be meeting in Abuja-Nigeria, to take a firm decision on developments in the Ivory Coast.
In a related development, Amnesty International has condemned an armed raid, led by a paramilitary force (gendarmerie) on an opposition party headquarters in the city of Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire on December 1, which left at least four people dead, and several wounded.
The raid was at the offices of the Rally of Republicans (RDR), the party of Alassane Ouattara. More than 10 people were arrested during the attack in the Yopougon neighbourhood of Abidjan. The whereabouts of those arrested are unknown.
“If the authorities do not condemn this attack and bring those responsible to justice, it will be a sign that they condone this very serious human rights violation,” said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s West African Researcher.
An eyewitness, wounded during the attack, who did not want to be named, told Amnesty International: “It was around 10:00 p.m. We were watching TV. Some of us were drinking tea when we heard knocking on the door. We did not open because of the curfew, and we were told: ‘Open the door or we’ll climb the walls and kill you all.’ Then we saw gendarmes in uniform and people in plainclothes that climbed the walls and began to shoot at us. Some of the gendarmes were wearing red caps, others were hooded.”
Another eyewitness said: “When I saw the gendarmes, I went to the toilet to hide. They broke the door and asked me to raise my hands and lie on the floor. When I was on the floor, they shot at me and hit me at the leg. They left me for dead.”
According to eyewitness accounts, at least two of those killed were shot by the paramilitary force while trying to flee the headquarters by climbing the fence.
After the attack, the gendarmes left and returned with police officers to take the bodies of the people killed. as well as the wounded. A number of the wounded were transferred to a gendarmerie camp in Abidjan. There has been no news of them since.
An eyewitness confirmed the presence of a gendarmerie vehicle just before and during the attack. “Nothing can justify the fact that the security forces shot people lying on the floor in the back at point blank range,” Salvatore Saguès said.
The attacks come amid further outbursts of violence following the country’s second round of presidential elections on Sunday. The results have not yet been announced.
The Ivorian Popular Front (Front Populaire Ivoirien, FPI), party of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, has demanded that the results be cancelled.
Yesterday, an FPI office in Abidjan was attacked, and the FPI accused Ouattara’s supporters of being responsible. Outbursts of violence also occurred in other parts of the country, ahead of the elections on Sunday.
Dozens were injured in clashes that took place last Friday in Abidjan, between student groups supporting President Laurent Gbagbo, and those backing his election rival, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.
Ivory Cost, which used to be an economic power house, is now a pale shadow of itself. Per capita income which was hovering around $1,700, according to the World Bank estimate in 2008, has now slumped to $1,060, according to the same World Bank estimate in 2009.