“Two Ivorian Soldiers Killed At Border . . .”,
By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
According to the New Democrat newspaper some six months ago (New Democrat, June 13, 2014), the UN Security Council predicted that there will be “more cross border attacks between Liberia and the Ivory Coast before the 2015 (presidential) elections” in La Cote d’Ivoire. That prediction was and is based, apparently, on the reality of the prevailing anger and discontent, the result of a decade of deadly rivalry between the northern Moslems and southern Christians for socio-economic, political and ethnic/tribal superiority an control of the nation.
A little more than a week ago, the same newspaper (New Democrat, January 12, 2015) reported that “according to a member of the Ivorian Parliament, unidentified gunmen crossed over (the Cavalla River) from Liberia and launched a pre-dawn attack on an army base in western Ivory Coast . . . killing 2 . . . soldiers . . . The assault on the town of Grabo near the top cocoa growers’ western border, was the third deadly raid in the area in less than a year. The Ivorian government has blamed previous attacks on supporters of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo based in Liberia. ‘They attacked the military base. As always, they came from Liberia’, said Grabo’s parliament representative, Yaya Coulibaly’”.
In response/reaction, the Liberia Government, by and through its spokesman, Information Minister Lewis Browne said, “The government of Liberia is concerned about news reports of recent attacks in border towns and villages of Cote d ‘Ivoire. Consistent with the policies of good neighborliness and a commitment to regional peace and security, the relevant Liberian security agencies are seriously investigating these reports as well as engaging their counterparts in Abidjan’, adding that ‘the (Liberian) government is fully committed to working with and supporting the Ivorian authorities . . . in strengthening border security, regional peace and stability, as well as raiding sub-region of the mutually destabilizing activities of non-state actors’”.
The Critical Issues
In order to do justice to our Argument in response to persistent Allegations against Liberia by the Ivorians; the Ivorians’ Case in preferring charges against Liberia; and Liberia’s response of commitment to Policies of Good Neighborliness, it is necessary to take a brief journey into the recent facts of the history of Ivorian/Liberian relationship.
A. The Ivory Coast (La Cote d’Ivoire), Liberia & Good Neighborliness
As non-diplomats, our understanding of the phrase is that it refers to recognition and respect for the territorial integrity of internationally-recognized, sovereign and independent states. This commitment is expressed, mainly, by non-interference in the domestic or internal affairs of such states.
These two nation-states, Liberia and The Ivory Coast of the west African sub-region, are separated by a porous, north-south boundary-border of villages and towns commencing from the town of Danane’ and villages on the Ivorian side of the border and Mount Nimba, also, with several towns and villages on the Liberian side in Nimba County; thence, to the town of Touleuplay and several villages on the Ivorian side of the border and, also, several towns and villages on the Liberian side of the border; thence, begins the north-south, 300-mile, Cavalla River Boundary into the Atlantic at the city of Tabou on the Ivorian banks of the River and Gborlorbo and several towns on the Liberian banks of the River.
Along these hundreds of miles-border, articulated, mainly, by the Cavalla River, on both sides of which are citizens of both countries, not only of common socio-cultural and ethnic/tribal relations, but also of biological relations. As a matter of fact, the Yacoubas in the Ivory Coast are the Dans (or Gios) of Nimba County and the Gueres of the Ivory Coast are the Krahns of Grand Gedeh County in Liberia. This brief but relevant information is intended to and captures the ethno-linguistic and spiritual ties between Liberia and the Ivorians or La Cote d’Ivoire, in consideration of the modern notion of Good Neighborliness, as required and practiced in international relations.
B. The December 24, 1989 Invasion of Liberia
However, the near-total destruction of Liberia and its socio-cultural, economic and political order, its infrastructure and the profound human suffering and death that resulted from the December 24, 1989, armed invasion of Liberia by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) severely indicted, and indicts today, the political leaders of La Cote d’Ivoire, in terms of Information Minister’s notion of the “policies of good neighborliness”.
For, validated, available, worldwide evidence shows that Mr. Charles McArthur Taylor and several, other Liberian leaders of the insurgency, including the-now Minister of Information, R. L., gathered in Abidjan and environs, The Ivory Coast or La Cote d’Ivoire, organized, planned and launched the military-type invasion of Liberia through the Ivorian/Liberian border town of Logatuo, Nimba County, Liberia. The Ivorian-Liberian border crossing was made possible by the approval and with the permission/knowledge of the Government of the Republic of La Cote d’Ivoire or The Ivory Coast; in other words, the government of La Cote d’Ivoire “aided and abetted” this criminal act of armed aggression against the sister Republic of Liberia. During this period (of December, 1989 and therefter), the Head of state and government of La Cote d’Ivoire was the late Houphouet Boigny, President; Mr. Alassane Ouattara, who was already Prime Minister in reality, behind the scenes, was sworn in and became Prime Minister officially, shortly, in 1990.
That the devastating impact of the armed invasion of the Republic of Liberia, particularly, the destruction of villages, town and cities, human suffering and death, visited upon rural towns and villages and urban towns and cities, by the NPFL invasion is history so well-known and has become part of world history that it needs no recounting or proof. Liberia made no claims nor preferred charges against the Republic of La Cote d’Ivoire.
C. The Endless Civil Conflict in Cote d’Ivoire
The on-going, endless civil conflict in La Cote d’Ivoire is due to the inevitable result of that nation’s deadly north-south, socio-cultural, religious, economic and political rivalry - competition and discontent - compounded, cumulatively, by the controversial results of the elections that brought Mr. Alassane Ouattara to power as President of La Cote d’Ivoire, according to World & Ivorian Press, and African Union reports. The Liberian people were and are not involved and played or play no part.
D. The Ivorian Presidential Elections
The Ivorian National Assembly passed an electoral law which barred candidates, either of whose parents were of a foreign nationality, who had not lived in Côte d'Ivoire for five years preceding the election for which one is candidate and who has served in a high position under nationality different than Ivorian. This was the case of Mr. Alassane Ouattara, who was widely believed to be Burkinabe`, served as Burkina Faso national with the IMF and who, owing to his duties with the IMF, had not resided in the country since 1990. Also, his father was born in Burkina Faso and he, himself, is rumored to be born in Burkina Faso, according to some documents, all of which show the records of his student activities as being Burkina Faso national.
E. The Africa Union (AU) on the Events in La Cote d’Ivoire
According to Former President of the Republic of South Africa, Excellency Thabo Mbeki, African Union (AU) Mediation Envoy to Cote d’Ivoire, reports (“My Turn”, Africa Watch, May 2011) that “The second round of Cote d’Ivoire’s presidential election on November 28 pitted long-standing political opponents, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, against one another. So, it was inevitable that the contest would decide the long-term future of the country. Everyone concerned should have probed very seriously the critical question: Would the election create conditions for the best possible future for the Ivorian people? But this question was not asked. Instead, the International Community insisted that Cote d’Ivoire needed to hold a democratic election to end its civil war crisis, even though conditions were not right for such an election. Ivorians knew that this idea was a mistake, but they allowed the election to happen anyway because they bowed to international pressure by UN Security Council Mission dominated by France, former colonial ruler of La Cote d’Ivoire. It was obvious that the election would only serve to entrench the very conflict it was intended to end. The 2002 rebellion in Cote d’Ivoire had divided the country in two, with the North controlled by the rebel Forces Nouvelles, who supported Alassane Ouattara, and the South in the hands of Laurent Gbagbo’s government. Since then, Cote d’Ivoire has had two governments, administrations, armies, and “national” leaders”. Excellency, Envoy Thabo Mbeki concluded that any election held under these circumstances would, inevitably, entrench the divisions and animosities represented, exacerbated by the 2002 rebellion. “The structural faults” he said, “that lay at the base of the 2002 rebellion included such volatile issues as transnational tensions affecting Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, Ivorian ethnic and religious antagonisms, sharing of political power, and access to economic and social power and opportunities”.
“The International Community”, Envoy Mbeki continued, “demonstrated no appreciation for the various, explosive allegations that have, wrongly or rightly, informed and will continue to inform the views of the Gbagbo-supporting population in southern Cote d’Ivoire and much of Francophone Africa. These allegations include (1), The claim that Alassane Ouattara was born in Burkina Faso and of Burkina nationality, not an Ivorian citizen; (2),That together, with Burkinabe` President, Blaise Compaore`, he (Ouattara) was responsible for the 2002 rebellion in Cote d’Ivoire; (3), That his (Ouattara’s) accession to power would result in the take-over of the country (La Cote d’Ivoire), especially by Burkinabe` foreigners; and (4), That he (Ouattara) has, long, been ready to advance French interests in La Cote d’Ivoire”.
What went Wrong
“Many things went, radically, wrong”, according to the AU. Agreements relating to what needed to be done to create conditions for free and fair elections were, willfully and contemptuously, ignored. The Ivorian Constitutional Council (ICC) is the only body constitutionally empowered to determine the winner in any presidential election and to install the president, with the Ivorian Electoral Commission (CEI) mandated to forward its provisional results to the ICC. “However”, the AU says, “the very people who insist on the sanctity of the rule of law as fundamental to all democratic practice chose, illegally, to recognize the provisional results announced by the chairman of the IEC as the authentic outcome of the election”.
As was his right under the law, Gbagbo contested the fairness of the elections in certain parts of the country, especially, the North. The ICC, rightly or wrongly, accepted the majority of the complaints made by Gbagbo, identified other “irregularities”, annulled the votes in some districts and declared Gbagbo the winner. But the IEC chairman ignored these irregularities and declared that Ouattara had won.
The United Nations (UN)
The UN Special Representative, Choi Young-jin (of South Korea), Envoy of UN Secretary-General, determined that some of Gbagbo’s complaints were legitimate but, also, that Ouattara had won the election with fewer votes than those announced by the IEC. So, in terms of the votes cast for the two candidates, the IEC & CC, the UN Envoy reached three, different conclusions, but not specified nor announced.
Those who sounded alarms about balloting in the North were election-observing missions of the Africa Union (led by Joseph Kokou Kofigoh, former Prime Minister of Togo); the independent, civil society, Societe` Civile Africaine pour la Democratie et l`Assistance Electoral (led by Seynabou Indieguene of Senegal); and the Coordination of African Election Experts, (CARE) from Cameroon, Senegal, Benin, Mali, Morocco, Gabon and Togo (led by Jean-Marie Ongjibangte of Cameroon. Problems identified included the stealing of ballot boxes, arresting of candidates’ representatives, multiple voting, refusal to admit international observers to witness counting of ballots, and the murders of representatives of candidates.
Failures of the UN Mission
The AU Envoy Mbeki reports that the UN Special Representative made the extraordinary decision by declaring who had won the presidential election, contrary to his mandate from the UN Security Council. This positioned the UN Mission as partisan stakeholder in the conflict, rather than a neutral peacemaker. From this point on, the UN Mission had no choice but to support the installation of Mr. Ouattara as President and the removal of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo. Achieving this goal involved the blatant use of western and UN military personnel (might) in opening a path for the pro-Ouattara Forces Nouvelles to defeat the Gbagbo forces and capture Gbagbo under the shameless pretense that it (UN) was acting to protect civilians. The UN Mission did nothing to stop the Forces Nouvelles from advancing north to south, including into Abidjan. Nor did the UN Mission or French Licorne Forces, as mandated by the UN, act to protect civilians in Due`koue`, where, evidently, the most concentrated killings of civilians took place.
Key Conclusions by Thabo Mbeki, African Union (AU) Envoy, that:
On the basis of the foregoing, we conclude as follows:
1. The election results placed exclusive leadership and control of a deeply-divided nation in the hands of a failed, 2002 rebellious leader with awesome, reasonable responsibility, but questionable will-ability, to heal the wounds, unite the nation and determine the future of united a people, given the critical, objective conditions demanded before and, now demand, on the ground in La Cote d’Ivoire.
2. His Excellency, Alassane Ouattara is widely believed, or perceived, not to be Ivorian citizen, but a Burkinabe` who, it is also reported and widely believed, with Burkinabe` President, Blaise Compoare (who is now on the run), to be responsible for the deadly, failed 2002 rebellion, and that with his (Ouattara’s) accession to power under these controversial conditions, would, inevitably, result in the take-over of Cote d’Ivoire by Burkinabe` foreigners.
3. The seemingly endless, domestic conflict, with its resulting, deep-seated, cumulative discontent and anger, compounded by the results of the controversial elections, is clearly a proven, home-grown phenomenon that requires specialized, political will-ability, enlightened and committed leadership for rational, peaceful resolution.
Ignored or permitted to obtain, over time (as it is now being done by the Ivorians, with endless charges of other countries, mainly, Liberia), the impact is likely to spill over to neighboring or distant countries, invite or attract romantic “soldiers of fortune” for purely financial gain without personal and/or ideological considerations in these days of “conspicuous consumption”, instant travel of carefree, adventurous counter-culture. According to the UN Panel of Experts, “cross-border, ethno-linguistic ties remain strong . . . between Ivorian Yacouba and Liberian Gio . . . in Nimba County, and Ivorian Guere and Liberian Krahn in Grand Gedeh County”. The problem of mercenaries or “soldiers of fortune” is an international phenomenon; therefore, Liberia does not possess monopoly of “soldiers of fortune”.
Our Government of Liberia
Rather than present an aggressive defense/offense response to the allegations against Liberia by the Ivorians, Minister of Information Lewis Browne and associates, who, as members of the NPFL, participated in and are graduates of the near-total destruction of Liberia, aided & abetted by the sisterly Republic of La Cote d’Ivoire (the Ivorians), continue, apparently, to appease the Ivorians in return for the assistance rendered the NPFL; like the Minister of National Defense, Minister Browne and associates should and must tell the Ivorians, in no uncertain terms, to produce proof of Liberian state-actors, cross-border attackers or shut up.