A THIRD attempt in 15 years at multi-party elections is running into the same contentions that attended earlier efforts.
Things are slightly different today with Cote d’Ivoire, once a haven on the turbulent west coast, on the brink of war.
For the first time in the country’s history, it has two presidents, both claiming some measure of recognition and none willing to let go of the prize they had pursued with keen anticipation at victory.
Côte d’Ivoire‘s Independent Electoral Commission, announced opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, the official winner of the elections. An internationally composed commission, mandated to ensure the elections complied with internationally acknowledged principles of democracy, said Ouattara won with 54.1 percent of the votes.
The commission held that irregularities were not significant to invalidate the results.
“The secretary-general stresses that the outcome of the presidential election as certified by his special representative, has been recognised by the broad international community, demonstrating the firm resolve and commitment of the international community toward Côte d’Ivoire,” a statement by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson noted. A UN envoy in Abidjan had rated the elections credible.
Côte d’Ivoire‘s Constitutional Council, however, declared incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo the winner after invalidating results from four regions in the north, Quattara’s strong hold.
Tensions are high and the drums of war are beating again. The country has barely recovered from the war of 2003 that devastated its cocoa production that is mostly in the north.
On December 1, government forces raided Ouattara’s Abidjan office. At least four people reportedly died with many others wounded.
International mediation is not making much headway and there are fears that another war might ensue or the military could take over. It will be another setback for democratic governance.
Cote d’Ivoire exhibits the unlearning ways of African leaders. Its neighbour Ghana in 2008 conducted a peaceful transition in which the opposition won the run off with the most minimal of votes. There was no problems.
Ethnicity and religion are key factors in Ivorian politics. The south has little regard for their compatriots from the north who they say are from Burkina Faso . Several laws had been used to stop the north, and Ouattara, in particular, from power. One of them is the requirement that the aspirant must have lived in Cote d’Ivoire for 30 years. Ouattara had to be issued a citizenship certificate.
In 2000, the elections were hotly disputed too. Gbagbo claimed victory. Robert Guéï, who was in power through a coup less than a year before the elections also said he won. Guéï fled the country when the people revolted in support of Gbagbo. A 2002 coup against Gbagbo failed.
The international community can save Cote d’Ivoire and West Africa from another war by persuading Gbagbo to abide by the verdict of the international commission instead of the tilted one the Constitutional Council produced.