Published on Saturday, January 1, 2011
Operation We Care for Liberia Statement on the current situation in Ivory Coast
Liberians still live in Ivory Coast
The situation in Ivory Coast is extraordinarily precarious to the People of Grand Gedeh County in Eastern Liberia. Remnants of Liberian refugees from Grand Gedeh, Nimba, and Maryland Counties still live in cities and villages along the borders of that country and their lives are at risk. Also, the lives of Ivorian citizens themselves are at risk.
The role of Ivory Coast in the destruction of Liberia
Ivory Coast played a major role in the destruction of Liberia when it opened its doors to the NPFL rebels under the leadership of Charles Taylor to invade the country then headed by President Samuel K. Doe in 1989. It opened its boarders again for the MODEL rebel faction in 2003 to invade the Liberian government under the dictatorship of President Charles Taylor.
Base on the above reasons, Ivory Coast’s current situation needs a speedy and peaceful resolution if progress already made in Liberia is to be sustained. Should Liberia abstain from bringing peace to Ivory Coast, there is a possible reoccurrence of rebel activities in Liberia given citizens’ dissatisfaction of Liberia’s justice system that favors impunity. While it is true that Ivory Coast is a sovereign nation, Liberia should not sit and watch her neighbor disintegrate into a country of lawlessness and gangsterism. Doing so would mean putting Liberia at more risk given past records of the role played by Ivory Coast in aiding rebels that brought Liberia to its knees for 20 years. As a member of the international community, Liberia must play a proactive role in resolving the Ivorian situation.
Using the expertise of Blaise Compaore
There is credible information that Burkina Faso aided in the training of NPFL rebels. Likewise, there is information they also aided in the smuggling of weapons via the northern part of Ivory Coast to the NPFL rebels in Liberia in the 90s. Given Burkina Faso’s role in creating such an unhealthy situation for Liberia, and Ivory Coast over the years, President Sirleaf of Liberia must insist on President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso to use his influence to help bring the situation under control peacefully and not the other way around. President Blaise Compaore may know how to stop what is happening in Ivory Coast due to his Country’s long time involvement in these kinds of activities. He who starts a machine may as well know how to stop it. And there could be no better person than his Excellency, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso.
Special agreements and the Ivoirians Supreme Court
In all elections there are agreed upon ground rules regarding how election results will be finalized. This can be said of Ivory Coast as well, with parties agreeing that the UN would legitimize the election results. One important rule that Gbagbo is currently relying on to legitimize his claim over the presidency is the Supreme Courts ability, if a dispute arises, to determine the final winner in the presidential election.
The agreement between the UN and the competing parties did not address the role of the Supreme Court, nor did they withhold the Supreme Courts judiciary power over elections, and therefore any decision they make must be respected as they are the highest decision making body within the country.
Conflict of Interest
While the elections in Ivory Coast may have been held under democratic conditions, members of the election commission, as well as the Supreme Court, may have complicated the process due to a conflict of interest stemming from personal loyalty to the parties concerned. This conflict of interest made it impossible for the election process to be transparent. Yet, many within the international community feel the elections were transparent and that the results should be upheld. Ivory Coast’s election results were announced by the Independent Election Commission, and certified by the Special Representative of the UN secretary general, not the Ivorian Supreme Court.
It would have been wise for the UN to work with the Supreme Court and the Election Commission since Gbagbo’s party protested the manner in which votes were collected in the Northern part of the county. The UN ignored Gbabo’s protests as well as the existence of the Ivorian Supreme Court, and immediately sided with Alssane Ouattara , and the Election Commission.
There is speculation that members of the Supreme Court are loyal to President Gbagbo. On the other hand, there is also speculation that the chairman of the Election Commission is loyal to Alassane Ouattara. The Election Commission’s hastiness in announcing the result in the mist of protest from Gbagbo’s camp as well as the hasty recognition of Ouattara by UN secretary general, Mr. Choi, resembles that of serious foul-play.
The international community has also been unanimous in recognizing Alassane Ouattara. ECOWAS and the African Union have been crystal clear in their messages that Mr. Ouattara is the legitimate President of Côte d’Ivoire. The decision of the Supreme Court of Ivory Coast has been trashed by the international community and ECOWAS thus creating a vacuum in the justice system of the country. Questions that must be answered are: What laws could be used to resolve the current problem? Would the international community and ECOWAS use their own laws to solve the problem of a sovereign nation?
Liberia must insist that all political forces in Ivory Coast as well as the international community respect the right of the Ivorian people to decide what they want without excessive external intervention. The necessity for some kind of peace agreement cannot be overstated at this time if peace must come to that region. All parties involved including the United Nations must show some responsibility and refrain from any act of violence. All efforts should now be focused on the achievement of a peaceful Ivory Coast for the Ivorian people.
Liberia must insist that the UN resolution that provides for targeted measures against President Gbagbo and his party must be revisited immediately, and sanctions on Ivory Coast must be abandoned at this time because sanctioning the country will result in the suffering of innocent citizens, mostly of who are women and children.
Liberia must ask the EU to refrain from taking planned measures intended to create more hardships on the people of Ivory Coast using sanctions because Grand Gedeh, Nimba, and Maryland Counties will be affected as a result of mass refugee migration from Ivory Coast.
There are many issues that must be addressed for Ivory Coast to move forward. The first issue is the fact that both Gbagbo and Ouattara have non-legal supporters that have influenced the overall outcome of the elections. Ouattara has rebel support, which forced citizens in the North to vote for Ouattara. Gbagbo is backed by the Supreme Court, perhaps less for their belief in the justice system and more so because many members have personal loyalty toward him. Both Gbagbo and Ouattara have people locally and internationally that have shown loyalty to them throughout the election process, thereby distorting the process.
Another important issue of concern is the loss of credibility by the Supreme Court. They may have brought some of this onto themselves by personal loyalty, but much of the credibility lost is due the UN and the International Community attempting to override the Supreme Court’s final decision.
Developments in Ivory Coast are followed closely by many Liberians and by public opinion, in particular in West Africa. Liberia is still in a post-conflict situation and undergoing a difficult democratic transition. The outcome of the present constitutional crisis in Ivory Coast must be looked at critically but with objectivity. The meaning of democracy must be clearly defined as it relates to the Ivorian situation. After all, members of the democratic institutions in Ivory Coast are all members of the parties in conflict making it very difficult to call the process a fair democratic process.
The response of the Liberian government to this crisis is vital. Liberia must play a major role as a regional champion of democracy. Sitting by and allowing the situation in Ivory Coast to get out of hand will give rise to three million or so refugee entering Liberia. And if that should happen, it would be catastrophic to the country given that Liberia has only 3 million people of which 95% go to bed on a hungry stomach continuously. Liberia has a vital role to play in the resolution of the Ivorian situation in the interest of regional peace.