Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ongoing Crisis in Cote d'Ivoire (UPDATED--Heavy Fighting in Abidjan and West)

Amidst the violence in Libya, the ongoing crisis in Cote d'Ivoire' seems to have been forgotten--or at least ignored since it didn't seem much was happening. This week though, things are taking a turn for the more violent. Yesterday, six pro-Ouattara protesters were killed, along with ten pro-Gbagbo soldiers, right as an African Union delegation visited (again) to try and find a solution. Today, fighting erupted in the west of the country.

UPDATE: the BBC reports that heavy fighting has erupted in Abidjan and continues on the border with Liberia

What's the background to all this?

Basically, the country's internationally-recognized President, Alassane Ouattara, is trying to choke off the resources of his predecessor. While the UN Security Council agreed to send 2,000 extra peacekeepers to the country to help ensure security, Ouattara ordered a suspension of cocoa exports. This matters because cocoa is Cote d'Ivoire's biggest source of income (and the country is the world's largest producer of cocoa, for a look a cocoa futures since the crisis began in November, see here).

Since the November elections, the international community has been trying to choke off aincome to election loser Laurent Gbagbo: the EU and the US have imposed sanctions, Switzerland has frozen Gbago and loyalist assets, the ECOWAS central bank has rescinded Gbagbo's authority to spend money, and big Western banks have ceased operations.

In response, Gbagbo has tried to take control of some of the banks but ECOWAS controls the internet-based system for money transfers and they've shut it down. Gbagbo has also requested cocoa exporters to pay in hard cash but even that isn't working so well since many international companies know their governments recognize Ouattara's government (this week the US accepted the credentials of his ambassador to Washington) and they don't want to be sanctioned for supporting Gbagbo. All this to say, banning cocoa exports is one more way to make the Army and civil servants understand that, eventually, Gbagbo won't have enough money to pay their salaries. This has led to a run on banks--for the reasons you would imagine.

So what does this deadlock mean for Ivorian people: well, the economy is in the dumps, the UN reports that 40,000 Ivorians have fled to Liberia--which in itself is an indication of how bad things could get (who flees to Liberia?), and AU mediation is making the terrible recommendation that the two rivals should share power (a la Zimbabwe). ECOWAS has repeatedly toyed with military intervention which is risky because Gbagbo still has a lot of loyal/competent forces. So the question remains, do we just wait until Gabgbo runs out of money and support or do we do something else? Or does that depend on how much violence spreads and how quickly?

AND UPDATE: At what point do UNOCI and the French Licorne forces start using force to implement their mandate to "protect civilians from imminent threat of violence?"

2 comments:

  1. Any chance Gbagbo might recognize his opponent as the rightful president of the country but then declare independance for the South ... ?

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  2. Positroll--I don't think so or at least those would be very slim odds. Plus, I think the only thing that would do is guarantee civil war.

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