The Capture of Former President Laurent Gbagbo a lesson to African leaders

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.



About African Interdisciplinary Studies Association Website

Prof. Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi is President of African Interdisciplinary Studies Association (AISA), a pioneer professional associaiton bringing together members from all disciplines in Africa and abroad. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who previously worked as Deputy Vice Chancellor at Kisii University and also Director of Research and Professor in Peace and Strategic Studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), 2010-2013. He has previously taught at Central Washington University, USA (2005-2010) in African Studies Programme and Moi University (1992-2000) in the Department of Development Studies and other public universities in Kenya. Prof. Amutabi holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA in History and African Studies. He received his B.A (Hons) in 1989 in Political Science and History and M.A in 1991 from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Maurice Amutabi is co-editor of Regime Change and Succession Politics in Africa: Five Decades of Misrule (with Shadrack Wanjala Nasong’o) – in 2013. Amutabi also co-edited Africa after Fifty Years: Retrospections and Reflections (with Toyin Falola and Sylvester Gundona) in 2012. Amutabi is the author of The NGO Factor in Africa: The Case of Arrested Development in Kenya (New York: Routledge, 2006). Amutabi is co-author of Nationalism and Democracy for People-Centered Development in Africa (Moi University Press, 2000). He has also co-authored Foundations of Adult Education in Africa (Cape Town/Hamburg: Pearson/UNESCO, 2005). He has written two novels, Because of Honor (a novel on Islam in Africa) and These Good People (a novel on corruption in Africa). Amutabi is also the author of Nakhamuma Stories (a collection of short stories from the Abaluyia community of western Kenya). His chapters have appeared in over thirty books. His articles have appeared in several refereed and reputable journals such as African Studies Review, African Contemporary Cultural Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, International Journal of Educational Development; and Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. Amutabi has made presentations at over one hundred national and international conferences. Amutabi is the Vice-President of the Kenya Studies and Scholars’ Association (KESSA), Kenya’s premier research and academic organization. He is the editor-in-chief of Kenya Studies Review and Eastern Africa Journal of Humanities and Sciences. Prof. Amutabi has conducted extensive research on many issues of development. He has taught courses on peace and conflict and gender and development. He teaches in the PhD and Masters Programme in the Institute of Peace and Security Studies at Kisii University. He enjoys blogging and writing and is an avid sports fan, but does not support any of team, preferring to support the team that plays well.
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