Friday, April 8, 2011

Côte d'Ivoire, "this conflict is crucial for the future of democracy in Africa"

It is present on the basis of an agreement on defense cooperation that dates back to the country's independence in 1960. The agreement, which is still formally in force, provides that the French army could intervene if the country's institutions are attacked. It is also one of the first elements of the dispute between Laurent Gbagbo and France, since 2002, when the rebellion began in the north, he unsuccessfully sought the intervention of France, which in the time, did not want to mediate the conflict between North and South.

Which conflict in some way had to be set during the presidential election last November. Long, France has been present through the 43rd BIMA (battalion of marines), who left Abidjan in 2008. But the French soldiers, now fully under the umbrella of the UN, continue to be under French command.

It is true that the speed with which forces loyal to Ouattara, the Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI), conquered the entire country in three or four days, suggesting they were very willing to support seriously. It suggests, too, that since Mr. Ouattara is supposedly cut off and helpless at the Hotel du Golf, it was largely prepared this offensive.

From a military standpoint, the support of countries like Burkina Faso and Nigeria is very likely. And one can wonder about the support, at least by means of military advisers, made by France, without being able to confirm this point firmly. In all cases it is difficult to say that there was interference, considering that the intervention takes place by virtue of resolutions adopted by the Security Council, whose members currently three African countries: Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon.

Indeed, UNOCI is composed of 10 000 men from 52 different States nationals. The main contingents were from Bangladesh (2100), Pakistan (1500) and Jordan (1100). But it is a heavy force to maneuver, whose consistency is not evident. Precisely, France does not currently on the same basis as in 2002.

First because in 2002 it was the French soldiers as such were contacted as part of the defense agreement between Paris and Abidjan. And also because it did not exist at the time of the UN resolution. How it will be installed in power clearly weigh heavily on the chairmanship of Mr. Ouattara.

But we must not forget that he was elected by over 54% of Ivorian voters. From our special envoy, Jean-Philippe Remy, the current fighting are not the profile of a civil war, he is not fighting between two factions of the population opposed to political or religious reasons, but Fighting between two factions: one consists army, that of FRCI, and the last four men of Laurent Gbagbo, supported by mercenaries.

The vote of November 2010 took place five years after the legal mandate of Laurent Gbagbo. All those years were required to negotiate with the electoral process and the nature of institutions that would validate it. He validated this process and the UN supervision, and only after the publication of results, which gave the loser, he questioned the process.

It is likely that this kind of hope enters the offensive attitude has adopted the French president. But it is difficult to answer this question at this point. It depends first on how to finish the ongoing fighting and the plight of Mr Gbagbo. First, for obvious historical reasons, but are not necessarily good reasons: it is likely that the former colonial power is not the best position to arbitrate disputes in a country like Côte d'Ivoire.

This is also the view that professed Nicolas Sarkozy very recently. But on the ground, given the extreme violence and humanitarian crisis in Abidjan and throughout the country, it is clear that only France has contacts with all parties and knows all the springs of the conflict. It is all the more think it is time for France to dismantle its military bases that it was almost the official line of Paris until recently.

In February 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy had said in Cape Town, South Africa, that France "did not intend to maintain indefinitely the military in Africa." And he announced the renegotiation of all agreements between France and African countries and their publication. In the wake was announced the partial closure of the French base at Dakar.

Paris did not want to maintain a base in West Africa, in Libreville, Gabon, and another in Djibouti, East Africa. Licorne based in Abidjan is logically designed to disappear. French companies observe the utmost discretion since the conflict began, for obvious reasons: they were installed with the blessing of the Gbagbo regime, and do everything to retain their interests on site in case of regime change.

The debate lies not in morality. This is to give full meaning to the election results and affirming the principle of sovereignty of the voters. This does not prevent France from having a substantial interest in Côte d'Ivoire, further aggravated by the recent discovery of oil resources. Do not forget that for a long Côte d'Ivoire was the economic showcase of France in Africa.

Chat moderated by Caroline Monnot

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