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Let’s not Begin the New Year with a Civil War in Cote d’Ivoire

Let’s be clear about something: there could be a civil war in Cote d’Ivoire in the very near future. If it happens, it’s because the guy who lost the election, Laurent Gbagbo, refuses to step down. He has been in power for over ten years. Twice his power was extended because the UN deemed Cote d’Ivoire unfit to have an election. Now, that election has come and gone, and Gbagbo has thrown out the results.

On the surface, this might appear to be the story of African politics recycled once more: the big man, clinging to power. But it’s not. Many African leaders have had their power preserved because of foreign meddling, either from within Africa or outside of it, or because a blind eye was turned. In recent years, power sharing agreements have been employed (Zimbabwe and Kenya), because the alternatives seemed too ugly.

But in 2010 in Cote d’Ivoire, the US, EU, UN, and every country in Africa has had an immediate and unified response: Gbagbo needs to go. No power-sharing.

But Gbagbo is saying No. So what happens next? I remain cautiously optimistic that civil war will be averted, that Gbagbo will realize his only sensible option is to take exile in another country, and that the unprecedented unified response of international bodies, Europe, the US, and Africa, will have the intended effect.

But I am also worried. If Gbagbo does not step down, ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, has threatened to use force. As of now, Gbagbo maintains control of the Ivorian military. He is also, as he has done in the past, hiring mercenaries from Liberia and Angola. Charles Ble, Gbagbo’s licensed thug, has been trying to drum up support to take over the hotel that Alassane Ouattara, the rightful winner of the election, currently calls home.

In the above video: Adjame station/market in Abidjan coming back to life after a downpour. What should you take note of? Nothing, really. Just a bunch of people who don’t deserve a civil war.

If you’re in need of a New Year’s wish: peace in Cote d’Ivoire.

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