The Gbagbo Imbroglio – A Lesson for African Dictators
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The events that culminated in the capture and detention of the former president of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo, is no doubt quite a significant episode in the African governance drama.
It is an indication that the continent has now moved from the era of power sharing agreements to the use of force to flush out those who insist on clinging on to power after being voted out of office.
We had, for instance, seen what happened in Kenya in 2007 when President Mwai Kibaki bulldozed his way to a second term when there was clear indication that his party had lost the elections, which eventually led to mayhem and violence, culminating in a power sharing agreement with the opposition.
We had also seen how Uncle Bob in Zimbabwe had to use even more crude methods by employing violence and intimidation to force his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai to abandon the second round after he (Mugabe) knew quite well that he was going to lose the elections. There again, the international community had to settle for a power sharing agreement.
There is no doubt therefore that Laurent Gbagbo was also looking for a similar solution to the Ivorian crisis when he refused to accept defeat.
Therefore, the resolve by the international community this time round, with the significant backing of ECOWAS and eventually the African Union to use all possible means to remove Gbagbo, is no doubt seen by many political analysts as a significant precedence set by the international community.
It is henceforth hard to see how any other African dictator who attempts to use violence and intimidation to thwart the wishes and aspirations of his people in order to cling on to power, would be allowed to get away with it.
Of course, it is possible that one of the players in the Ivorian crisis, France, may have had an ulterior motive for wanting to remove Gbagbo, but there is no doubt that any help to get rid of the menace caused by the Gbagbo intransigence seems to have far outweighed any other negative intentions harboured by France or any other player in the crisis.
Therefore, this Gbagbo episode has quite far reaching implications for governance on the continent, and the next stage should be to tackle those sit-tight dictators who use different tactics like fiddling with the constitution and using their ill-gotten wealth, as well as violence and intimidation to cling indefinitely on to power.
We have, for instance, seen what is going on in Libya where Muammar Gaddafi and his family had virtually treated Libya as their private fiefdom for more than 40 years.
There are indeed several other African leaders such as Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and our own Yahya Jammeh, and a few others who seem to be bent on using all possible means to cling on to power forever. That is certainly no longer acceptable in this day and age, particularly in the aftermath of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.
We can therefore hope and wish that those sit-tight dictators may have learnt some useful lessons from what is going on around them and that they have by now realized that the principle of ‘live and let live’ is sacrosanct and inviolable.
Let us also hope that the African Union and other regional organizations would henceforth assume their full responsibilities in ensuring that their members respect the wishes and aspirations of their peoples rather than continuing to caste a blind eye to the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of national sovereignty.
While regional bodies like ECOWAS, for instance, have recently taken some commendable steps in such places like Niger, Guinea and Ivory Coast, but there are still several other areas that it needs to stamp its authority in defence of the rights and aspirations of the people of the sub-region.
A good case in point is the blatant refusal by the regime of President Jammeh to respect the judgment of the ECOWAS Community Court with regard to the disappearance of Gambian journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, who was alleged to have been abducted by agents of the state and has not been seen since.
If our leaders can still be allowed to get away with such disrespectful attitude towards regional institutions, then the people would wonder whether there is any point in setting them up in the first place.
Therefore, the people of the sub-region expect ECOWAS to do whatever it takes to ensure that its protocols and instruments are respected by all its member states, if it wants to remain relevant in this fast changing world order.