The Capture of Former President Laurent Gbagbo a lesson to African leaders
By Maurice Amutabi
The capture of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is a lesson to African leaders, and exciting news to all democratic forces on the African continent. It is a victory for the UN and all forces of democracy throughout the world. For the first time, the world did not sit and watch as one of Africa’s nations went to the dogs. It was, in my opinion, positive intervention.
There have always been complaints about the UN inaction in situations where civilians are killed by rogue regimes such as Gbagbo’s. This time round, the UN did not sit by and watch helplessly. The UN protected democratically elected President Alassane Ouattara, even when he was holed up in the hotel which also served as his headquarters. On the other, the African Union should be ashamed for its inaction in the crisis in Ivory Coast as well as the one in Libya.
For a brief period Laurent Gbagbo was a friend of democracy but after eight years in power, it was clear that he had become a dictator. He did not want to hold democratic elections, which he delayed for several years. When he agreed to democratic elections, he rejected the results. He seemed to have supporters, and even received endorsements from not so democratic forces such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, for obvious reasons.
At Gbagbo’s capture, there were celebrations throughout the world, at the fall of another dictator. The news must have been met with great joy and relief among the majority of the people in Cote D’Voire who voted for President Alassane Ouattara. At least their vote mattered, even if four months later.
One can sympathize with former President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters who had good reasons for supporting his refusal to leave office after he lost the elections. Their main argument was that Alassane Ouattara’s supporters rigged elections in the north, where there were no enough representatives of Laurent Gbagbo. Granted, this alleged rigging might be a valid complaint, but the electoral commission must have had sufficient mechanism of ensuring the validity of the whole process, before declaring Alassane Ouattara as validly elected. There were also many international observers who adjudged the exercise as free and fair.
The important lesson to learn from the removal of former President Laurent Gbagbo is that there will be no sharing power with goons and vagabonds who lose elections and turn around to demand a share in government. The cases of Kenya and Zimbabwe were first and last. These cases were becoming a major challenge to students of democracy in Africa, for they provided Gbagbo with possibility, hence his brazen, shameless and vociferous demand for negotiations, and power sharing.
By refusing to leave office after he clearly lost an election, Gbagbo was promoting impunity. There were young students and all kinds of youth carrying around dangerous weapons and promising to protect the illegality that Gbagbo’s regime was. They terrorized residents in Abidjan and affected the economy, especially cocoa farmers who could not export their crop.
Former President Laurent Gbagbo ruled Ivory Coast for ten years, exceeding his democratic mandate by two years. He did not have a democractic good will and that is the reason he did not attract any sympathies from democratic leaders across the world. Only Muamar Gadaffi and Yoweri Museveni were on his side. If one cannot change his country in ten years, he should be removed the way Gbagbo was.
Some pundits have suggested that the capture of Gbagbo is not the end. Well, at least he not posturing around as president and the rest will be taken care of by circumstances. One just hopes that there is no more bloodshed in Ivory Coast.
What is clear is that Gbagbo lost an election and wanted to hang onto power by force and the world said no! Whether it was through the UN forces, or French or American, or ECOWAS ones, Gbagbo had to go. The end justifies the means. Africa does not need the likes of Gbagbo. Ouattara was elected President and Gbagbo wanted to take it away from him. Ouattara is not a Western puppet. He resorted to violence because that is the only language that dictators understand.
Prof. Maurice Amutabi teaches Political Science at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Amutabi@yahoo.com