What the UN Resolution 1975 (2011) is not doing in Côte d’Ivoire

Posted on | april 12, 2011 | No Comments

U.N. peacekeeping director Alain Le Roy

When Laurent Gbagbo’s endgame seemed imminent, the U.N. peacekeeping director Alain Le Roy hastily declared that the “war is over” in the western African nation of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), a headline that was splashed across TV screens, newspapers, news radio stations, and social networks around the world. But it turned out that Laurent Gbagbo, who is now reportedly has been captured by the French special forces and handed over to Alassane Ouattara’s fighters, was playing a lull in an attempt to consolidate power.

Gbagbo’s supposed surrender came after the UN, led by the French (Ivory Coast’s colonial masters), launched air strikes on his residence and military garrisons in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial capital. The mission of this UN resolution is similar to the UN resolution that authorized international military action in Libya to protect civilians by any means necessary.

Well, gone are the days of the sovereignty principle, and no longer are dictators immune from international military sanction! The cases of Ivory Coast and Libya have changed the international diplomatic landscape. This kind of joint international intervention, whether in Ivory Coast or Libya, is in my opinion a step in the right direction because they are sending a clear message to Africa’s strongmen (or any other dictators in the universe) that the world would no longer sit idle while they butcher their own people. For too long African dictators relied on the comfort of knowing that the UN would not act militarily because of a reluctance to meddle in internal affairs of a sovereign nation.

However, seeing the end of war in Ivory Coast only through Gbagbo’s surrendering, as Alain Le Roy declared, is to ignore the local dynamic of the Ivorian conflict. In fact this is my qualm with the international peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions, whether by the UN or AU. In Africa, these missions tend to focus too much on the macro politics to the detriment of the micro-level aspects of the conflicts. Civil war case studies from Rwanda, Somalia and DRC provide us with teachable moments about what happens when an international intervention excludes micro-level politics.

Therefore both the justification and the execution of the UN Resolution 1975 (2011) in Côte d’Ivoire fail to give proper attention to vital factors—bottom up conflict issues-which gave rise to the current standoff in the country. And there is also the credibility issue! By relying on the French, Ivory Coast’s former colonial masters, to implement the UN actions, this UN intervention in Cote d’Ivoire is reinforcing the perception that incoming President Alassane Ouattara is a stooge of the Western Powers.

Predictions are not always good in this complex situation, but limiting the UN intervention to Gbagbo handing power to the internationally recognized Alassane Ouattara is little more than a narrow response with only short-term consequences. The sad but true reality is that war/conflict in Ivory Coast will not end with the removal of Laurent Gbagbo from power because the local dynamics of this crisis may still fuel the conflict. Upholding the outcomes of an election is very important for democracy, but in societies like the Ivory Coast, with deep history of mistrusts, I still think that it was unwise to call for an election in Ivory Coast. Thus why

Therefore this UN mission should not end with the arrest of Gbagbo, but should be broaden in a manner conducive to creating lasting peace. Instead of focusing on forcing Gbagbo to accept the defeat, efforts should be made to devote part of the intervention mission to political reconciliation rather than a military solution.

Why, you might ask, do I believe this, considering I do support the UN intervention in Libya? The difference is that in Libya you have a situation where the regime has declared war on its citizens (although the possibility exists for that conflict to transform into an ethnic/and religious one). Whereas in Côte d’Ivoireit is clear that the country is divided. In fact we are already seeing the manifestation of such divisions through ethnic-driven violence as reports from humanitarian organizations indicate.

AUTHOR: Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah
URL: http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/
E-MAIL: Ndumba.Kamwanyah [at] umb.edu


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