Ivory Coast Sends Wrong Message

Ivory Coast, a country along the south coast of West Africa, has faced instability and unrest since the 2010 presidential election, when incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept the victory of his opponent, Alassane Quattara.

The election was monitored by international groups, who have confirmed that it was devoid of any voter fraud. The final count showed Quattara, the candidate from the north, receiving 54% of the vote, and Gbagbo, whose support was from the south, with just 45%. The UN subsequently endorsed Quattara as the winner.

Yet Gbagbo simply ignored the results and declared himself victorious, without any credible evidence to support his claim. He did this in spite of the Ivory Coast constitution that limits presidents to 10 years in office. No matter what the election outcome, it would appear Gbagbo is legally barred by the Ivorian Constitution from continuing, since he came to office in 2000 and has already served for 11 years.

The sad thing about personalities like Gbagbo is not so much what they do to their opponents, but the harm they inflict upon their own people, and the damage they cause to Africa as a whole. Africa needs to project a positive image of political stability, so tourism and international economic development may follow. People like Gbagbo contribute nothing to the advancement of Africa. Instead, they cause economic retreat and disinvestment.

After 117 years of French colonial rule, Ivory Coast started out in 1960 as one of the most successful in West Africa. The country’s first leader, Felix Boigny (1960-93), maintained close economic ties with France and the nation prospered. When their second leader, Henri Bedie (1993-99), faced economic troubles, he was taken out in a coup. Under Gbagbo, the country went through a civil war (2002-07) and now it is experiencing violence again.

Gbagbo tries to portray UN Peacekeepers and the international community as neo-colonial enemies. He accuses them of interfering in internal politics. But his attempt to make the globe a scapegoat is not helpful. Gbagbo must now step down and allow political stability, so global businesses can once again engage in economic development and Ivory Coast may once again prosper.

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