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PDOIS Statement on Ivory Coast issued By Halifa Sallah

Apr 21, 2011, 2:16 PM

Now that the Government of the Gambia has made its position unequivocally clear on the way forward for Cote D Ívoire, PDOIS would like to put its position in the public domain so that all those interested in the welfare of the sovereign Ivorian people would be able to gauge which way forward is the viable one.

On the 11th April 2011, Laurent Gbagbo was captured and taken to the Golf Hotel, where Alasane Ouatarra has been stationed since he was declared President of Cote D´Ívoire. On that day, what we wrote since 28th December 2010 became evident to all, that is, Gbagbo´s Government has come to a definitive end.

However, despite Guillaume Soro´s claim, after the capture of Bagbo that “the nightmare is over” and Alassane Ouattara´s assertion that the development constitutes “the dawn of a new era of hope,” the truth that is as clear as noonday is that, a new government led by Ouattara is yet to come to definite fruition, one week after Gbagbo´s capture. Ironically, both self declared Presidents of Cote D’Ívoire found themselves at the Golf Hotel instead of an Executive mansion. This should have been sufficient to teach each of them to realise how fragile presidential power is .It is only legitimate and durable if it is connected with, dependent on and determined by the power of the people. What then is the way forward?

In our statement of 28th December 2010, we indicated that, “the situation in Cote D’Ivoire is unique in every respect. Gbagbo´s Government is no more in the true sense of the word and Outtara’s Government is not yet in the true sense of the word. A state of ungovernability now prevails in Cote D’Ivoire.” We indicated that the future of Cote D’Ívoire is hanging on the balance of probabilities .No one would disagree that the future of the country is still hanging on the balance of probabilities a week after Gbagbo´s capture. In our view there are certain fundamental principles that must be adhered to if a practical and principled way forward is to be carved for Cote D’ Ivoire.

First and foremost, those who want a new dawn of hope to emerge in Cote D´ Ívoire must put Gbagbo and Ouattara in their proper places if a new political architecture for the country is to be drawn in order to avert a repetition of the present state of affairs. It is important to draw the fundamental lesson that in a monarchy it is the king or the queen who rules. In a Republic the people rule through their elected representatives. Hence in drawing up a way forward to solve the crisis in Cote DÍvoire, the focus should not be on Gbagbo and Ouatarra, on the contrary, it should be on the sovereign Ivorian people. Who did they select to manage their affairs? How are they to take charge of their destiny in order to safeguard their right to self determination and Independence and become the architects of their own destiny? This is the fundamental task confronting the people of Cote D´Ivoire.

The Gambia Government claims that the situation in Cote D´Ivoire is a by product of foreign Interference in depriving a winner of an election, his right to assume Executive power. Our finding is fundamentally different from that of the Gambia Government. What then is our finding and what is the way out of the current impasse?

In our statement of 28th December 2010 we indicated that, “election, with all the imperfections, is the best tool known to us which is relied on to determine the legitimacy of a Government. Sometimes the gap between victory and defeat is determined by few hundreds or thousands of votes. The corner stone for Government by consent is to have free and fair elections and to have the contestants accept the results.”

We added that “Cote D´Ivoire had its first round of elections on 31st October 2010. All the Candidates ultimately accepted the verdict of the Independent Electoral Commission. It was very clear from the first round that the votes in the second round would be close. Hence both contestants should have been ready to accept the results and further envisage a slim margin of victory that should be accepted in good faith to facilitate a smooth assumption of political office. Now Cote D Ívoire is faced with constitutional and institutional crises. How did these crises came into being and how are they to be solved? Our findings did reveal that “after the coup of 1999 a government of National Unity was formed by General Robert Guei, a new constitution was drafted and elections were scheduled for 2000.  Henry Konan Bedie and Alasane Ouatarra, two leading contenders were disqualified. Hence the election was reduced to a contest between General Guei and Laurent Gbagbo.The trend towards victory by Gbagbo motivated General Guei to disband the electoral commission before the completion of the counting of votes and declared himself winner. This compelled Gbagbo’s supporters to take to the streets and their support by many gendarmes and soldiers forced Guei to flee. Having gained the most votes, Gbagbo was declared President. Bagbo should not forget this history but should draw lessons from it. Ouatarra’s supporters then took to the streets and called for new elections, while denouncing the decision of the Supreme Court which rendered their candidate ineligible to participate in the elections. The youth and the armed forces loyal to Gbagbo suppressed the demonstrators which resulted in hundreds of deaths of Ouatara supporters and immense destruction of property. Civil war was delayed only because Alassane Ouattara decided to concede to the presidency of Gbagbo in the interest of peace. Since then Cote D”Ivoire has been in a state of transition that is marked by periodic rebellions and numerous attempts at reconciliation and reunification.”

 We did explain in our first statement that “the rebellion led by forces loyal to General Guei which aimed to overthrow Gbagbo’s in September 2002 led to the death of Robert Guei and the beginning of the fragmentation of the country on Southern and Northern frontiers”

Bagbo did not hesitate to sign the Linas-Marcoussis Accord which was brokered by France in January 2003. These negotiations gave rise to the July 30th Accra Agreement of 2004 and the Pretoria Agreement of 6th April 2005 and the postponing of the scheduled election of 30 October 2005.

What the Gambia Government should tell the Gambian people in particular and the people of Africa in general, is that, Gbagbo’s Government could not attain legitimacy after the expiration of his term of office in 2005 without conducting fresh elections. Legitimacy to conduct international relations with other countries or multilateral institutions had to be derived from agreements endorsed by ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations. The Ouagadougou political Agreement of 4th March 2007 is the outcome of such negotiations that gave rise to consensual agreements which enabled Bagbo to govern without going for elections for five years.

We indicated that “a new chapter in the history of Cote D´Ívoire should have started when the people turned out in their large numbers to vote on 31st October 2010. Official results had it that Gbagbo won the first round with 38 percent of the votes, Ouattara had 32 percent and Bédié had 25 percent The Independent Electoral Commission declared the results and  the Constitutional Council announced the official results and confirmed  that Gbagbo’s  won the first round. He had 38 percent of the votes, Ouattara had 32 percent and Bedie had 25 percent. Appeals for recounts by the Bedie and Ouattara camps were not entertained. Eventually, all stakeholders accepted the results of the election.

The UN representative, Y. J. Choi said the electoral process during the first round held on 31 October was peaceful and democratic, fair and transparent. He added that the anomalies, irregularities and errors were minor and did not affect, in a significant way, the overall results of the elections. It is clear from this that a very viable multi party system was emerging in Cote D’Ívoire because of the closeness of the results. This gave legitimacy to the Independent Electoral Commission.

We mentioned in our statement of 28th December 2010 that “the second round was thus slated for 28th November 2010. It started with debates that are considered unique in political circles in Africa. The voters went to the polls on the appointed day

The coalition of parties which supported Ouatarra claimed that he received over 80 percent of the votes of supporters of former president Henri Konan Bedie, who gathered 25 percent in the first round held on Oct. 31, 2010. They concurred with the results announced by the IEC. The headquarters of Gbagbo’s campaign team called for the “cancellation” of some results from the North, claiming that the voting exercise in these areas was not fair.”They refused to concur with the results of the second round.

The Independent Electoral Commission declared Ouatarra the winner, having received 54 percent of the votes cast to Gbagbo’s 45 percent. The Constitutional Council cancelled the results from regions in the North and confirmed that Gbagbo was the winner of the elections. Gbagbo decided to rely on the pronouncement of the Constitutional Council to swear himself in as President. Ouattara also relied on the declaration of the Independent Electoral Commission to declare himself President.” This gave rise to a Constitutional and institutional crisis which was internally motivated and not externally induced as some people would want us to believe.

Our findings therefore confirm that the problem of Cote D´ Ívoire at this moment is not about neocolonialism or interference in the internal affairs of a country by former colonial masters. It is also not about Northerners versus Southerners. All these problems have been overcome during five years of negotiation without a government chosen by the people in Cote D Ívoire. The main problem in Cote D Ívoire is how to establish a government which derives its legitimacy from the consent of the Ivorian people. Ivorians have already passed the stage of the problem of citizenship. They have identified and registered citizens and voters. The question of origin should be a mere technicality for Pan-Africanists who should never question the citizenship of an African in an African country once that citizenship is technically and legally established.”

We added that “ Ivorians have passed the problem of a northern and southern divide. Coalitions are behind both Gbagbo and Ouatarra comprising people from the north and south. The problem is not one of Sovereignty of the Ivorian state. No one is saying that Cote D´ Ívoire should be governed by any one who is not elected by the Ivorian people. The problem of the country is not about France, since the first negotiations to address the Ivorian crisis was brokered by France.

We emphasised that the problem in Cote D’ Ívoire is how to affirm the sovereignty of the people. This can only be done by allowing the people to vote freely and respect the results. This should be made possible by Constitutions and Institutions. The main problem in Cote D’ Ívoire is the contradictory verdicts given by the two main institutions established in Cote D’ Ívoire to confirm and affirm the will of the people to get a government chosen by them. This is the will that all democrats must protect and we must take concerted efforts to protect it so that the people would not be held hostage by those they have not elected to govern them. The existence of two governments in a country constitutes a constitutional crisis. The existence of two institutions giving contradictory verdicts constitutes an institutional crisis How to resolve this constitutional and institutional crises is the task before the Ivorian people in particular and the people of Africa and the world in general.

We gave concrete recommendations on how to address the constitutional and Institutional crises

We concluded our statement of 28 December 2010 with the following counsel, “every country has internal and external sovereignty. Gbagbo cannot defend the external sovereignty of Cote D’Ívoire. The youth leaders who are calling for the young people to rise to defend Ivorian sovereignty are in fact showing their gross ignorance of what sovereignty is. The best way to defend the sovereignty of Cote D’ Ívoire is ensure that the government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the people. In the absence of that Gbagbo cannot defend the interest of the Ivorian people.  This is why his foreign envoys are being replaced and Ivorian wealth and properties are being transferred against his will. On the other hand, Ouatarra cannot govern Cote D’ Ivoire from an air conditioned tent in a hotel. ´This would constitute an exercise in mediocrity.

Neither the Fanning of Narrow Nationalist and National Chauvinist sentiments nor the perpetuation of ethno linguistic prejudices could enable Gbagbo to have the capacity to defend the external sovereignty of Cote D’Ivoire. The truth and only the truth could be relied on to save both Ouattara and Gbagbo, and by extension, their supporters. No African leader could defend the sovereignty of a country by presiding over the affairs of a divided people. Gbagbo should dissociate himself from all extremists, focus on the gains made in establishing a multi ethno linguistic democratic nation and accept the truth. When extremists perpetrate violence against innocent people it is their leaders who become victims of surgical military strikes. The sovereignty of each African country could only be defended by a sovereign people whose consent determines their manner of government. The nurturing of such a sovereign people is the task of every genuine Pan Africanist.”

Four months after we gave our advice Gbagbo did become the victim of a surgical military strike which we predicted  would happen if he failed to negotiate his way out of the political impasse.

 The UN; African Union and ECOWAS did not look at the Constitutional and Institutional crises in Cote D’ Ívoire with the view to restore them to normalcy on the contrary they focused on the personalities. Eventually violence has removed Gbagbo from the Executive mansion but has not installed Ouattara in the Executive Mansion.

Now Ouatarra is in a position of strength and Gbagbo is in the position weakness. How is Cote D’ Ivoire to get a government which is considered legitimate by all her citizenry, one which could govern to promote their liberty and prosperity? This is the fundamental question which has to be addressed.

First and foremost, it has to be recognised that Outtarra has two options. He must either come to office by relying on the Ivorian Constitution and Institutions or overthrow them and set up a transitional government that works towards restoring the Ivorian Constitution and its institutions.

In our view a credible election has already taken place in Cote DÍvoire.  What has gone wrong is the contradictory verdict of the Independent Electoral Commission and The Constitutional Council.  If Ouattara wants legitimacy based on the Ivorian Constitution all parties would agree to a recount and the acceptance of the results derived from a recount. Ouattara would then  revoke his declaration , invite ECOWAS, AU and the UN to send observers to witness the recounting of votes, take matters to the ECOWAS court which could give a final verdict that is recognized by the Ivorian state In case of any dispute. The Constitution Council would then uphold the verdict He could then be sworn in as President and constitute his government as mandated by the Ivorian Constitution.

On the other hand he may consider himself to have overthrown Gbagbo and could therefore run a transitional government for a period of five years during which he will operate under the same consensus principles which kept Gbagbo in office for the past five years. During his five years in office he would operate a coalition government of National reconciliation. Since Gbagbo had 45 percent he would allow his party to select the Prime Minister and Soro will go to defence and be charged with the responsibility or integrating all forces in the Republican army and the Republican security forces and abolish and disarm all militia group.. Other parties would also be involved in selecting Ministers so that a national consensus would prevail. The transitional Government would be responsible for national healing, Constitutional and legal reform, civic education to eradicate ethno-linguistic prejudices and consolidate the sovereignty of the people. A national debate should be initiated on the best mechanism for facilitating justice and reconciliation. Protection of fundamental rights, especially freedom of expression and political association would be given prominence. The way forward Is clear.

The choice is his. Ouattara must however realise that a sovereign people must not be reduced into fractions and percentages. Cote D’ Ivoire belongs to the people as a whole. The votes he had yesterday could have already been lost because of all the atrocities.  In politics legitimacy is not earned once and for all. It is sustained if people’s expectations are fulfilled. It is lost within minutes if one betrays their expectation. History will have its say. What it would say depends on the deeds of men and women in positions of pubic trust. There is no victory in having power to do wrong with impunity. There is only victory if the sovereign people enjoy greater liberty and prosperity. No leader could claim victory by presiding over a divided and war torn nation. This is the verdict of history and common sense and it is incontrovertible.