By TANGWE Abraham*
Democracy has been defined variously as government of, for and by the people or simply, the rule of the majority over the minority. In effect, the better option is the exercise of the will of the majority and the respect and upholding of the rights of the minority. It should be borne in mind that the cornerstone of such a mode of governance remains the selection of leaders through free, fair, transparent and very credible elections. Here the people through universal suffrage exercise through secret ballot are allowed the liberty to select from the lot a trusted few to steer their destiny with and for them. This can be so if and only if the field is made level so as to accommodate differing views and opinions that do not need to tie with those of the governing class. The thing is, democracy has to tolerate individual rights and liberties with the individuals owing the state the obligation of being patriotic enough to meet the demands of the supreme laws of the land.
Indeed, the concept called democracy is divided into western and African democratic modes. The western mode is near perfect when it comes to practice with the mode in Africa completely adulterated. It is a curse to Africa than a blessing and remains the Achilles heels that this continent has had to grapple with since the advent of independence. All instability of late on the African continent is elections related or democratically linked.
Africans more than fifty years after independence are continuously eclipsed by the knowledge that they may wake up one morning to be threatened by war, starvation and poverty that continue to recur every other year with no end in sight and the ominous development into repressive dictatorship almost everywhere on the continent. Leaders more than ever before have failed to rise above petty partisan politics to occupy a revere position amongst their peers due to egoism. It’s a continent fraught with leaders who behave more like masters and not public servants thus doing all to keep their fear in abeyance by creating even more fear than learning to doing what is just and fair for the people thereby engaging the people more in democratic experimentation, dialogue, genuine reconciliation akin to “Mandemania” in South Africa and the virtues of peace and tolerance which has engendered a new phenomenon of late known as terrorism.
Cote D’Ivoire has seen its own fair share of most of the above insinuations that is slowly building into falsehood and the Houphouet years of claimed economic prosperity which ended up into the mayhem we just witnessed! You may recall that the late Robert Guei after tasting of the juicy nature of the spoils of power did all to transform his military outfit to a civilian one despite the fact that the popular will at the time was in perfect accord that Prof. Laurent Gbagbo, a history guru and opposition chieftain to take over the mantle of leadership.
This ended up in people power demonstrations on the streets that catapulted Gbagbo to power. Erstwhile leader before Guei, Henri Konan Bedie had earlier on introduced the issue of “Ivoirite” to make sure that his arch political rival, Alassane Dramane Ouattara was prevented from contesting elections despite haven served as Houpouet Boigny’s Prime Minister for a very long time. One begins to wonder how someone could be Prime Minister of a Country without being a citizen. Popular opinion however rejected such machinations which was not heeded and ended up plunging this once purported Island of peace to an area fraught with ethnic and tribal upheavals.
Following the 2010 presidential election, Gbagbo challenged the vote count, alleging fraud. He called for the annulment of results from nine of the country’s regions. Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner and was recognized as such by election observers, the international community, the African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States. However, the Constitutional Council, which according to Article 94 of the Ivorian Constitution both determines disputes in and proclaims the results of Presidential elections, declared that Gbagbo had won. After a short period of civil conflict, Gbagbo was arrested by backers of Alassane Ouattara, supported by French Forces of “Operation UNICORN”. In November 2011, he was extradited to the International Criminal Court, becoming the first head of state to be taken into the court’s custody.
The Force Nouvelles led by henchman Guillaume Soro who had led the Civil war against Gbagbo following the signing of a peace agreement on March 4, 2007, he became Prime Minister. According to Soro, the group has transformed itself from an armed movement into a force that is “responsible, credible and capable of managing the affairs of state. Today, he is President of the Ivorian national Assembly and a purported “Pan Africanist”.
The principles of democracy were thwarted here whether wrongly or rightly by an international community with vested interests. This problem originated from democratic elections and common sense would have warranted the Ivorian political class to use dialogue and Ivorian institutions to cool down the tempers. The biggest error of the present leadership of Alassane Ouattara was to arraign Gbagbo, wife and followers and sending Gbagbo to the International criminal Court (ICJ) to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
Come to think of it; what criteria was used to determine his guilt? Who started the war? Can we sincerely say that the destruction of lives and properties was the sole preserve of the Gbagbo Camp? In modern warfare, we do not look at victors or vanquished but of the number of casualties with the parties involved in the war made to answer for whatever problems emanating from their actions in equal measure. Should Gbagbo therefore be standing trial alone while the rebel leader and warlord, Guillaume Soro is allowed to parade himself as a responsible politician?
Where is the justice in all these? The architect of notion of “Ivoirite” Henri Konan Bedie should also be made to stand trial for inciting ethnic cleansing while Guillaume Soro is also arrested and arraign before the international criminal court for crimes against humanity. If not, no matter how hard the Ivorians try, peace would always elude them. At best, they should withdraw the charges against Gbagbo and bring him home for genuine reconciliation akin to what the icon, Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.
Perhaps, it would be of interest to note that far from being a saint, Laurent Gbagbo’s only crime is his nationalist stance against French neo-colonialist interest in Africa. Of course, he started by boycotting Francophonie summites and demanding a repelling of the French colonial pact and a return of all monies already deposited in the French treasury by dint of that accord. Worst of all, he awarded a multi-billion bridge contract to the Chinese instead of the French. Are you now surprise why the French “UNICORN” aided and abated the Force Nouvelle of Soro to Oust Gbagbo? Are you again surprise that Soro is not on trial like Gbagbo?
Let justice and democracy be allow to prevail in equal measure in Cote D’Ivoire, else the flabby and frantic efforts made at achieving peace there would have a boomerang effect like in the days of Felix Houpouet Boigny.