Ivory Coast's Change of the Guards and
West Africa's Political Chemistry

By Tom Kamara

Another African country has joined the coup club at a time when democratization is the international slogan. Reminding deposed President Bedie that "when you have a country and loot a country this is what happens to you", Gen. Robert Guei, has freed political prisoner, promised to form a government of civilians with the military keeping key defense positions, has allowed opposition parties to use state-owned media to express their opinions.

African heads of state, many whom who came to power over heaps of dead bodies and later crowned themselves presidents in so-called elections, are busy condemning the coup and calling, ironically, for democracy. Their real fears are that who could be next? If the likes of Taylor, Eyadema, (and soon Sankoh) can be considered democrats, sorry for Africa.

The Ivorian coup is bound to affect the political chemistry of the sub region which is already disintegrating under the terror of rebel wars led by the worst gangsters Africa has produced in centuries. For decades, the Ivory Coast has backed some of the most brutal political groupings on the continent. It backed Angola's Unita, which amassed about $3.7b in diamonds while the country disintegrated. Late President Boigny had a long personal relationship with Savimbi, encouraging to speed up the destruction of Angola and giving him and his cronies Ivorian passports to facilitate their chaos.

Boigny backed Taylor by providing military bases and diplomatic support for Taylor's rebel faction, National Patriotic Front of Liberia, during the Liberian seven-year civil war. Even when it became clear that Taylor's objective was not political change but the institution of killingfields and mass theft, the Ivorian continued their backing, turning Liberia into a pathetic state while Abidjan prospered.

By extension , the Ivorian fascists turned their attention to the RUF in Sierra Leone, known to have butchered women and children and hacked off the hands of people it disliked. The RUF has smuggled between $300m. to 450m via Liberia for its war efforts and its leader, Foday Sankoh, is now head of the diamonds mines based on the Lome Peace Agreement its signed with the government to end the war. For months, Sankoh was entertained by Ivorian politicians in Abidjan from where he advanced his war efforts.

Ivory Coast backed Ojukwu's breakaway state of Biafra and Jean Bedell Bokassa, the butchering self-styled emperor of the Central African Republic. It also backed Mobutu's corrupt regime accused of many human rights abuses which have ended in the disintegration of the country. It is too early to tell which direction the new regime will take, but the change of the guards will not be regarded with ease in a country like Liberia, whose leaders owe their power to Bedie and his party.

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