Displaced people in
Cote d’Ivoire wait for
news of peace.
The international community had thought that the November 2010 presidential runoff would solve the Ivorian leadership crisis. Instead, the runoff drove the crises deeper into a quagmire with dangerous consequences for the ECOWAS subregion.
The international community made the first mistake by overlooking the tribal connection of the leadership crisis; and after the election was held and became knotty, it made the second mistake by hastily recognizing a winner, even while the elections commission and the so-called Constitutional Council were hesitating to declare the winner.
Now there is a dilemma: go back to the basics and lose face, or plunge the country into a war of redemption and risk human catastrophe. Ahead of that dilemma, meanwhile, Liberia has begun to bear the brunt refugee overflow and the Sirleaf Administration is beside itself. The Analyst has been forming a mosaic of latest reports on international wires on Liberia’s border influx and the Cote d’Ivoire crises.
United Nations News Center report quoting UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said work is continuing to complete the first camp for Ivorian refugees in Liberia.
The news of UNHCR’s efforts in northern Liberia comes amidst reports yesterday that Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, has muddle Africa’s position on the use of force in the Ivorian crisis, having questioned the logic of UN’s recognition of Alhassan Ouattara as the winner of the November 2010 presidential runoff.
It comes amidst reports also that the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) have moved to hamstring the Gbagbo government financially.
The United Nations refugee agency has completed the initial stage of setting up a camp in eastern Liberia to shelter people fleeing violence and political uncertainty in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, the report said.
It noted that the construction of the settlement’s main reception centre was under way.
The 80-hectare camp, the report quoted UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic in Geneva as saying, is being built in Bahn. The camp will have 14 shelters with the capacity to hold 500 refugees.
Mahecic said the facilities would include latrines, showers, security posts, registration and distribution sites, kitchens, a canteen, a warehouse, a medical screening clinic, water wells and offices.
“The agency has contracted local builders to help construct the facilities in the camp,” Mr. Mahecic reportedly said.
He said UNHCR estimated that there were now more than 30,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, and that many of them have crossed into Liberia through the forests avoiding busy roads and official border crossings.
“The refugees are being hosted in more than 20 villages scattered around the town of Saclepea in northern Liberia’s Nimba County,” he said.
Displaced people in western Cote d’Ivoire wait for news of peace.
Liberian hosts have been sharing their homes and social amenities, including schools and health centers with the refugees. Many Liberians were themselves refugees in Côte d’Ivoire during their country’s civil wars in the 1990s.
UNHCR has also started distributions of food and relief items to the refugees in the host communities, but deliveries are being hindered by the rainfall, which has made already bad roads impassable, the report said.
The report did not say how it was possible for rainfall to make roads impassable in Liberia in January, which is the third month into the dry season.
Uganda muddles Africa’s position
Meanwhile, a Reuters report said that African states continue to remain at odds on the Ivorian crises. Reuters’ Felix Onuah and Elias Biryabarem reported yesterday that cracks emerged on Tuesday in African efforts to end a power struggle in Ivory Coast.
The Reuters report said Uganda became the latest country to question U.N. recognition of Alassane Ouattara as its president.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he differed with the U.N. line on the crisis, as a delegation of West African states prepared a U.S. trip to lobby President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to back the possible use of force to oust incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.
The split illustrated the potential for disagreement at an African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa this week when the 53-nation group must decide its next steps after the disputed presidential election November 28 in the world’s biggest cocoa producing country.
Major cocoa exporting companies said they had stopped registering beans for export in compliance with a call by Ouattara for a one-month ban on deliveries, the latest attempt to force Gbagbo from office by blocking his access to funds.
Breaking ranks with an AU line, which so far has backed the U.N. in recognizing Ouattara as the election winner, Museveni said the vote had to be investigated.
“Uganda differs with the U.N. and the international community on Ivory Coast,” presidential spokesman Tamale Mirundi told Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper, quoting Museveni.
“There is need for a serious approach that involves investigating the (electoral) process, including registration of voters and who voted,” he said. “There should be investigations, not just declaring who has won.”
South African President Jacob Zuma said last week there were discrepancies in the way the result was announced. Angola is also seen as a potential weak point in AU unity on Ivory Coast. Ghana has said it wants to remain neutral.
That contrasts with the resolve in near neighbours such as Nigeria and Sierra Leone, which see Gbagbo’s defiance of the U.N.-certified result as a risk to regional peace and efforts to nurture democracy.
“If you don’t move firmly, there’s a chance you’ll get more of this year. We don’t want to create a bad precedent,” a spokesman for Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma said, referring to nearly 20 national elections in Africa in 2011.
Threat of Force
The spokesman said Koroma would lead a delegation of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to Washington and the U.N. from Wednesday, aiming to press for a Security Council resolution backing the threat of force to oust Gbagbo.
AU efforts to find a solution have been unsuccessful, with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the AU-designated mediator, leaving empty-handed last week and accusing Gbagbo of repeatedly breaking his word in talks.
Gbagbo’s camp has since accused Odinga of being biased. On Tuesday, Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, current AU president, visited Ivory Coast, saying he wanted to hear all sides before the upcoming summit.
“I believe the problem of (Ivory Coast) will be solved by the people of (Ivory Coast),” he said.
Political analysts say it could be some time before military intervention is on the cards but Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia said this week Gbagbo should realize he faced “a very real prospect of overwhelming military capability”.
An Abidjan-based diplomat said the ECOWAS visit to New York and Washington was part of a push for political, and possibly logistical and financial support for an intervention, but said maintaining AU unity would be vital to the cause.
Tara O’Connor at Africa Risk Consulting said the stance of some nations on the crisis would be determined by concern over their business interests in Ivory Coast, which before a 2002-2003 civil war was a star economic performer.
“The longer it goes on, the more likely cracks will appear (in AU unity) and for all the wrong reasons,” she forecast.
Allies of Gbagbo, who insists the U.N.-certified results were rigged, have shrugged off the warnings of military force and efforts of the United States, European Union and others to starve him of funds to pay civil servants and the army.
However, there was evidence those measures were biting on Tuesday when industry sources said six cocoa exporting houses, whose purchases amount to most of the annual 1.2-million-tonne crop, had stopped registering beans for export.
Last weekend, Ouattara’s camp appealed for a one-month suspension of cocoa deliveries to world markets to deprive Gbagbo of tax revenues.
Although the crisis has pushed cocoa future prices close to 30-year highs on fears of disruption to supplies, so far the chocolate industry was taking it in its stride.
Hamstringing Gbabo government
In related news on the Ivorian crises, Afrik-News’ Falila Gbadamassi reported that WAEMU has taken steps to hamstring the Gbagbo government.
Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley, Governor of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), was forced to resign over the weekend by the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), which took place in Bamako, Mali.
Dacoury-Tabley has been accused of failing to implement the institution’s decision to recognize only the signature of Alassane Ouattara, president elect of the Ivory Coast.
Last Saturday, the Conference of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) sought and obtained the resignation of Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley, Governor of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), in Mali.
Concerned about the non-implementing of decisions made at the Council of Ministers on December 23, 2010, following the November 28 presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire, a communiqué read by WAEMU Commission President Soumaila Cisse indicated that the conference had “noted” Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley’s “resignation.”
Confirming that he had been given the boot after serving the regional monetary group for 35 years, Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley announced that he was “deeply saddened for the institution.”
“I think,” he said, “that a much better decision than this could have been taken. I remain committed to this institution. I believe in the monetary union and I hope the days ahead will not be dark for our union.”
A Gbagbo accomplice
The departure of the BCEAO governor, a Laurent Gbagbo appointee, does not come as a surprise following the council’s endorsement and recognition of Alassane Ouattara’s signature.
Prior to his departure, Mr. Dacoury-Tabley was accused by Alassane Ouattara for failing to adhere to decisions reached by WAEMU’s Council of Ministers.
And notwithstanding the Bank’s decision, President Laurent Gbagbo’s administration is believed to have received disbursements amounting to more than 80 billion CFA francs, according to several sources within the Union.
Commenting on Mr. Dacoury-Tabley’s resignation, Guillaume Soro, Ivorian Prime Minister and Alassane Ouattara’s representative at the summit, said that “the situation had become untenable” at the BCEAO.
Meanwhile, Jean-Baptiste Compaore, current vice-governor of BCEAO, has been named as the interim Governor of the institution.
He was appointed by Alassane Ouattarra. “We are leaving satisfied that the decision-making power [over who appoints the governor, ed.] remains with Côte d’Ivoire,” said Guillaume Soro.
He also lauded WAEMU for confirming “President Alassane Ouattara’s signature” as being valid for the Ivory Coast.
The sacked BCEAO governor has, however, defended himself. “The decision over the signature (…) was met with major difficulties related to the security situation [of Côte d’Ivoire], and the fact that those in power still run the entire state machinery,” Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley argues. “Under such circumstances, it was highly impossible for the central bank to implement all decisions taken by the Commission in Bissau [Guinea].”
According to Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley, an Ivorian national, he had informed WAEMU of the situation.
“I reported the difficulties encountered by the institution in its implementation of the Bissau decisions on a regular basis […] in the hope that the Commission would give new instructions, guidance and support to help apply the Bissau measures. But that was not the case.”
Dacoury-Tabley also believes that the non-implementation of these measures was misperceived.
“Some of the difficulties we encountered led to many people thinking that the central bank was refusing to implement the Bissau decisions. But our officers worked in a hostile climate that made it impossible to implement those decisions.”
Reports from Côte d’Ivoire say that staff of the Central Bank of West African States are under constant threat from Gbagbo’s supporters.
The former Governor asserts that in Côte d’Ivoire, “the whole administration—treasury, customs, taxes (…)—continues to be in the hands of the [Gbagbo] government,” whilst arguing that his departure is as a result of a “lack of understanding” of the enumerated facts.
Meanwhile, Laurent Gbagbo’s government has rejected the “forced resignation” of Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley, who has also been placed on the European Union sanctions list.
Some elements close to Mr. Gbagbo have evoked a possible pullout from the WAEMU zone.
A few weeks ago, they had talked about introducing a separate currency for the country.