As President Laurent Gbagbo heads towards the end of his five year term, it’s possible that violence may flare in Côte d’Ivoire, which has been functionally divided since a flawed election in 2002. Presidential polls have been postponed, and Gbagbo – at the urging of the UN and the AU – is likely to retain control after his term ends Sunday. This is unlikely to go over well with the opposition, who will likely consider his rule illegitimate after October 30th.
Jonathan at Head Heeb is doing a typically excellent job of covering the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. Recent posts have included a link to a very spooky story by Canadian journalist Carol Off, who interviews Charles Blé Goudé, the founder of the Young Patriots, a violent ultra-nationalist youth gang who’ve helped President Laurent Gbagbo retain power in Côte d’Ivoire… and finds herself being recruited to do PR for the group. Given that Goudé is prone to speaking approvingly about Hitler and supports a vision of “iviorité” that denies citizenship to citizens of the north of the country based on their belief in Islam, Off observes, “An army of spin doctors could not save Charles Blé Goudé from himself. But I tell him I will think about his offer.”
In a post today, Jonathan advances the possibility of a two state solution to the ongoing conflict. Perhaps, as in Somalia/Somaliland/Puntland, it’s simply not reasonable to expect the two sides to rejoin any time soon.
Like many enclaves engaged in long-term conflicts, northern Cote d’Ivoire has effectively become an unrecognized state. However, unlike relatively successful entities such as Somaliland or Turkish Cyprus, the rebel-held territory has never developed the social infrastructure to support its de facto status. Northern Cote d’Ivoire is a state without a name and without an effective government, and has keenly felt the absence of economic and administrative institutions.
If international actors working to reintegrate the north and the south of the country focused on building infrastructure and making the north governable as a separate entity, it might be vastly preferable to having the north fail entirely. As we know, instability in West Africa has a terrible history of spreading – long-standing conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have flooded the region with small arms, and young men who’ve never had a job other than “gun for hire”.
Human Rights Watch reports that Gbagbo is, in fact, hiring those young men, trying to beef up army forces in preparation for potential conflict. HRW interviewed a number of recent recruits, who report that Ivoirian army officers are recruiting former Liberian soldiers, including children, and paying them $400 to join the Iviorian armed forces. Unsurprisingly, Gbagbo denies that such recruitment is taking place.
The UN has warned that the troops currently keeping the two sides separated are short on resources. That resource shortage may prove deadly if widespread conflict – as is being anticipated – breaks out in a few days.