By Dr. Nfor N Susungi
I have followed very closely the unfolding post-electoral drama in Cote d’Ivoire and feel that I have a duty to issue an opinion on this issue, particularly because I have already declared that I am a candidate for the Presidential elections scheduled in Cameroon in October 2011. This automatically places me in a position where I must speak out my mind on this burning issue which I see as being relevant in all other African countries where elections will be taking place soon, including Cameroon.
I have known Cote d’Ivoire ever since I joined the African Development Bank in 1977 at the age of 29. This makes it 33 years since I have known this country. There are three countries of which I can claim to have in-depth political and economic knowledge and they are Cameroon, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.
The Houphouetic Vision
When I first came to Cote d’Ivoire, President Felix Houphouet Boigny was fond of saying that he is determined to create “un ilot de prosperité dans un océan de misère”. That was one of his wise quotations. He led Cote d’Ivoire to make remarkable achievements such as: producing 1.33 million tons of cocoa; 400,000 tons of palm oil; 450,000 tons of coffee; 200,000 tons or rubber; 1.0 million tons of rice etc., etc. etc. These are remarkable achievements compared to a country such as Cameroon.
However, on hindsight I think that President Houphouet Boigny was completely mistaken in this vision because the forces of poverty in neighboring countries are now moving in, like gigantic cockroaches, to destroy the island of prosperity which he thought he was creating. The struggle for political power in Cote d’Ivoire between President Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Dramane Ouattara needs to be understood in the context of this Houphouetic vision because in reality it is an epic and fratricidal struggle between those who want to claim ownership of this Houphouetic inheritance.
On one hand, there is Laurent Gbagbo, a long time opposition leader who started challenging the rule of President Felix Houphouet Boigny when he was still in his 30s. He never liked the Françafrique and Freemasonic network within which the Houphouet government ran the country. His party (FPI) came to power in 2000 on the platform of “Refondation”. Refondation simply means profound change.
On the other hand there is Alassane Dramane Ouattara, a man who is considered by many Ivoirians as an interloper who was brought into their midst by President Houphouet Boigny himself in 1989 when he needed a trained economist to stabilize the Ivorian economy. Alassane had left the IMF in 1984 where he was working as a Voltaique national to become the Deputy Governor of BCEAO, a position which was reserved for Burkina Faso.
But after the death in 1988 of Abdoulaye Fadiga, the Ivorian Governor of BCEAO, President Houphouet Boigny saw nothing wrong with naming Alassane Dramane Ouattara to the position of Governor because his overriding concern was always to find someone who was competent for the job. Moreover, it was an established fact that even though Alassane Dramane Ouattara was a Burkinabe, he had actually been born in Dimbokro, Cote d’Ivoire.
But as “l’appetit vient en mangeant”, President Houphouet Boigny decided in 1989 to appoint Alassane Dramane Ouattara, the Governor of BCEAO to become the Chairman of an interministerial committee to reform and stabilize the floundering Ivorian economy. Houphouet’s choice of Alassane was based on the fact that as the required reforms were inspired by the IMF, it made sense for him to use the former IMF employee, now governor of BCEAO to handle the job.
From there Alassane Dramane Ouattara climbed the next ladder to be named Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire in 1990. When he formed his government, he kept the portfolio of Minister of Finance to himself. Thus Alassane Dramane Ouattara was simultaneously, Governor of BCEAO, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. Throughout this entire period, no one asked any questions about the nationality of Alassane Dramane Ouattara except for a man called Laurent Gbagbo. The response which was given by the PDCI to this question was that the nationality of Alassane Dramane Ouattara was “sans objet”.
Then Houphouet fell ill and was evacuated to France. During the period of his illness until his death, Alassane Dramane Ouattara was simultaneously, Governor of BCEAO, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Acting President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire.
When finally Houphouet died in 1993, Alassane wanted to hang on to the position of Acting President and Head of state and serve out his remaining term, instead of stepping aside for Henri Konan Bedie who was the constitutional successor. Bedie simply went on TV and imposed himself as the constitutional successor and asked everybody to put themselves at his disposal. Recognizing that Bedie was indeed the constitutional successor, the armed forces came together and forced Alassane Dramane Ouattara to vacate his position.
Alassane Dramane Ouattara went back to the IMF where he was appointed Deputy Managing Director by Michel Camdessus. But the fallout from this confrontation between Henri Konan Bedie and Alassane Dramane Ouattara is that Alassane created a new political party called “Le Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR)” as a breakaway party from the PDCI.
Militants of the PDCI never forgave Alassane Dramane Ouattara for creating the RDR because they felt that he was ungrateful to the memory of President Felix Houphouet Boigny by trying to destroy the PDCI, the party which had made him simultaneously, Governor of BCEAO, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Acting President of Cote d’Ivoire, all without bringing up the issue of his nationality. That is partly the reason why President Henri Konan Bedie articulated the doctrine of “Ivoirité” which would lead to his being toppled from power in 1999.
The key point that I want to make is that this is the trajectory which Alassane Dramane Ouattara used to introduce himself to the Ivorian political scene. Questions regarding his eligibility for the position of President dogged him in the run-up to the Presidential elections of 2000 because he could not satisfy the Constitutional Council that both of his parents were of Ivorian nationality. His eligibility for the recent presidential election was settled by President Laurent Gbagbo who used article 48 of the new Ivorian constitution declare all signatories of the Marcoussis Accord to be eligible for the last Presidential elections. Article 48 of the Ivorian constitution empowers the Head of State to sign any decree which is deemed to be in the highest interests of the nation.
Was the Presidential Election in Cote d’Ivoire Free and Fair?
For once, this is the easiest question to answer because the simple answer is NO. It was not possible to conduct free and fair elections in a country which was still cut in half with the rebel Forces Nouvelles (under the direct Command and control of Prime Minister Soro Guillaume) still controlling the northern half, having resisted all attempts to get them to disarm as required by the so-called Accords Politique de Ouagadougou. In spite of the fact that not even ONUCI with nearly 9,000 troops had succeeded in getting the rebels to disarm before the election, pressure was brought by the US and France, through the United Nations, for the elections to proceed.
The exactions that took place during the elections by armed groups in the rebel controlled north were detailed in consistent and concordant reports presented by various observer groups, including that of the African Union led by former Togolese Prime Minister Joseph Koffi KOFFIGOH, who all concluded that the scale of electoral abuses in the northern zone were on such a scale as to discredit the sincerity of the vote in many areas in the North.
Curiously, Curiously, Curiously, we started hearing voices to the effect that the credibility of local (African) observers was questionable. That is because the reports of European and American observers had already given passing marks to the entire election. The racist undertone to the denigrating commentary directed at African observers was absolutely unmistakable. That is when we all began to suspect that there was a grand agenda in this election which was not known to the public.
So who won the last election in Cote d’Ivoire?
Anyone who claims that they know, for sure, that either Alassane Dramane Ouattara or Laurent Gbagbo won the election is fiddling with the truth. Since no one can certify to the satisfaction of everyone that the election was free and fair, the question of the will of the Ivorian people, as expressed through the ballot box, will continue to be “a riddle wrapped in a puzzle inside an enigma”.
The only thing that we know with absolute certainty is that Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko, the President of the CEI, having failed to announce the preliminary results within the stipulated 72-hour period, transmitted the election materials to the Constitutional Council after midnight on Wednesday 1/12/2010. Then on Thursday 2/12/2010 he went to Alassane’s campaign HQ at Golf Hotel to attend a press conference and ended up declaring Alassane the winner in a 3 minute speech. None were more stunned at this development than his fellow members of the CEI who were completely taken unawares.
The second thing that we know for sure is that Youssouf Bakayoko’s announcement at Golf Hotel was carried live on France 24 and other foreign media and that no Ivorian news network was present. The third thing which we know for sure is that the Constitutional Council declared Youssouf Bakayoko’s results invalid for being made after 72-hour deadline and for making it single-handedly in the campaign HQ of one candidate. The Constitutional Council went on to declare on Friday 3/12/2010 Gbagbo the final winner of the election after ruling on the validity petitions which were filed by Gbagbo to the Constitutional Council.
The last thing that we know with absolute certainty is that everyone seems to have taken sides since then and depending on whether you support Laurent Gbagbo or Alassane Dramane Ouattara, each side has been tuning only into the news networks which amplify the information which is favorable to their point of view.
The Football Game Metaphor
The controversy at the moment is around the competence and the role of the CEI and the Constitution Council in the electoral process. The problem is that when irregularities are noticed in the field, candidates who feel aggrieved send their petitions by Huissier de Justice directly to the Constitutional Council, not to the CEI. Consequently, whatever results the CEI announces, we have to face the legal reality that the Constitutional Council will consider the results announced by the CEI and make a final ruling taking into account the petitions which it has received from aggrieved candidates, provided that the petitions are filed within the 72-hours following the closure of voting. But by law, the Constitutional Council is the final authority in the country whose ruling cannot be appealed anywhere in the country.
The reversal by the Constitutional Council of the results announced by the CEI is similar to a situation where a team scores a critical goal in the dying minutes of a football match and while they are busy jubilating, the referee rules that the scoring player was offside. Hence the goal is cancelled.
We even saw a case where England scored a clean goal during the last world cup. But the referee failed to see that the ball had crossed the line and as a result, the goal was not validated. As painful as it is, the team has to accept that the ruling of the referee is final. Any other type of conduct will be unacceptable and outside of the rules of the football game.
Similarly, we have seen a situation where an American athlete won several gold medals in the Olympic Games; but several years later, it turns out that the athlete failed a urine test and was stripped of the gold medals which were then awarded to the previous silver-medalists. Those are the rules of the game. Unless we accept that these are the rules, then there will be anarchy.
The Constitution vs. the United Nations
I am deeply shocked by those who refuse to accept the finality of the ruling of the Constitutional Council either on grounds that this ruling is contrary to the “certification” of the UN Special Representative or because he was reportedly a pro-Gbagbo nominee. This is intellectual dishonesty of the highest order. One cannot deny the right of a sitting president to nominate persons close to their political convictions or affiliations to the Supreme Court, as Barack Obama has done on two occasions since arriving at the White House.
Paul Yao Ndre is a Constitutional Lawyer of impeccable credentials and the ruling of the Constitutional Council under his Presidency cannot be dismissed just because he is reportedly a friend of Laurent Gbagbo. Whatever the case, since his ruling, he has come forward to defend the legal grounds on which he made his rulings whereas, nothing has been heard of Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko since he announced the results at Golf Hotel. The question is where is he and why has he gone into hiding? Who and what is he afraid of?
In all fairness to the camp of Alassane Dramane Ouattara, they may have been inclined to accept fatalistically the decision of the Constitutional Council, based on my football analogy. But unfortunately they were encouraged to engage in dissidence by the belief that there is another jurisdiction above the Constitutional Council when Mr. Choi, the UN Representative publicly disowned the results of the Constitutional Court by “certifying” that the winner of the election was Mr. Alassane Dramane Ouattara.
I listened, live, to the press briefing of Mr. Choi on ONUCI FM at which Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, a well-known Ghanaian journalist asked him, “Are you saying that there are two Presidents in Cote d’Ivoire now?” Mr. Choi replied in the affirmative. From that moment, I knew that Cote d’Ivoire was heading for an abyss and Mr. Choi was a very dangerous international civil servant who had triggered something very sinister which was now unstoppable.
Mr. Choi has behaved like a FIFA or CAF official watching a football game from the grandstand and jumping in to countermand the decision of a referee on a football field. While FIFA and CAF officials are always present in all football games in order to “certify” that the game was played in accordance with governing rules, no FIFA or CAF official is allowed to question, let alone invalidate the decision of a referee on a football field. If on a football field, players are encouraged to believe that the decision of the referee is not final, then that will certainly bring an end to the game of football as we know it.
Role of the Armed Forces
Much has been made of the fact that the Armed Forces are supporting President Laurent Gbagbo. But why should this be surprising? Once the President of the Constitutional Council administered the oath of office to Laurent Gbagbo, the Armed Forces have a constitutional duty to defend the institutions of Republic. Many of the soldiers voted for Alassane Dramane Ouattara, based on their convictions as citizens. But once the Constitutional Council issues its ruling and the President is sworn-in, every solder in uniform must defend the constitutionally anointed President.
What is Shocking
The reaction of French President Nikolas Sarkozy was perfectly understandable and predictable because the role of France in the rebellion in Cote d’Ivoire has been established and documented. What has shocked Africans is the role and the reaction of President Barack Obama. The information that the US Ambassador in Cote d’Ivoire played a role, alongside his French counterpart, in stealthily conveying Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko to Golf Hotel on Thursday 1/12/2010 so that he can declare Alassane Dramane Ouattara the winner is the type of politics which we in Africa find difficult to identify with the Obama Administration. In the electoral process, such an act is worse than stuffing ballot boxes or carrying them in the boot of one’s car into the night. It has lowered the democratic credentials of the Obama Administration by at least by five notches and damaged the credibility of President Barack Obama in Africa in an irreparable manner.
That is the type of roughish game that France plays and they are well known for it. The reversal of the results of the Presidential elections in Gabon to declare Bongo’s son the winner has been revealed by French officials themselves. The reversal of the results of the Presidential elections in Cameroon in 1992 between Ni John Fru Ndi and Paul Biya is also well known. But the Obama Administration is unworthy of this type of role. If the final outcome of the current crisis is a regional war in West Africa which was threatened at the last ECOWAS Summit in Abuja, this will be Obama’s Third War since coming into office. The First Obama War is the war in Afghanistan and the Second Obama War is the Drone War in Pakistan.
From he who promises nothing, nothing is expected; but from he who promises much, much more is expected. President Barack Obama told us when he visited Ghana that Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men. The people of Cote d’Ivoire are trying to build strong institutions based on their constitution and when a President who has been sworn-in by the Constitutional Council is summoned to the White House like a small “niggerboy”, in order to be told to renounce the oath of office that he took at his swearing-in, it is not Laurent Gbagbo who is being humiliated; it is the Ivorian Constitution and its derivative institutions that are being humiliated. It is the Ivorian people who are being humiliated. It is all Africans that are feeling humiliated.
President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice and Mr. Johnny Carson have to be a little more subtle in the handling of their Africa policy from Washington because Africans are extremely sensitive to the appearance of a new master-slave relationship between the United States and any Africa country particularly when the occupant in the White House is an African-American.
The man called Professor Paul Yao Ndre
The real adversary standing between Alassane Dramane Ouattara and the Presidency of Cote d’Ivoire is not Laurent Gbagbo; it is Professor Paul Yao Ndre, the President of the Constitutional Council. Contrary to what many people seem to think, Paul Yao Ndre is a very able and independent-minded legal thinker who is sure about the legal grounds on which he made his ruling. He has full constitutional powers to make any ruling on the regularity of any aspects of the electoral process including, above all, on the validity of the announcement which was made by Youssouf Bakayoko at Golf Hotel.
On this particular point, his ruling was that the announcement was null and void because it was made after 72-hour foreclosure deadline and in the partisan context of the campaign HQ of one candidate. This is the most important ruling made by Professor Paul Yao Ndre and it is valid and binding. Any one challenging this ruling is attacking an institution, not a person. This is a ruling similar to a court denying the admissibility of evidence simply on the technicality of the manner in which it was obtained. In other words it does not matter whether the results announced by Youssouf Bakayoko were true and accurate or not; the time and space context of their announcement made the results constitutionally inadmissible for the purpose of determining the outcome of the election. Hence, legally and constitutionally, the CEI never announced any results at all!!!!!!
The venom which is being poured prematurely on Professor Paul Yao Ndre at the moment is a serious mistake with which the United States should not be associated because even if an ECOWAS intervention force dislodges Laurent Gbagbo, the Armed Forces of Cote d’Ivoire will never swear their allegiance to defend Alassane as President unless he is sworn-in by Professor Paul Yao Ndre. As things stand at the moment, even if the Presidency became vacant, Alassane cannot claim it automatically because Professor Paul Yao Ndre will have no grounds for swearing-in Alassane to occupy the post of President.
This man, Professor Paul Yao Ndre, has anointing powers without which no one can be recognized as the President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire. As long as Alassane Dramane Ouattara is not sworn-in by Professor Paul Yao Ndre, he will never become the accepted President and Head of State of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire.
The Role of Regional Organizations
Equally shocking has been the role of regional organizations which took their decisions without bothering to hear both sides of the story. Alassane Dramane Ouattara has been proclaimed winner by the “International Community” while Laurent Gbagbo has been declared winner by the Constitutional Council of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire. None can ignore the other because each one of them can claim to be standing on solid ground.
Clearly, the Ivorian crisis is breaking new ground in defining a new constitutional jurisdiction transcending the concept of sovereign states as defined and understood under the UN and AU charter. That new and emerging constitutional jurisdiction is known vaguely as “the International Community”. The powers that his new jurisdiction has arrogated to itself include the power to certify elections in a sovereign state and to declare war on a sovereign state. It is not yet clear whether the Ivorian crisis is a one-off situation or whether it is part of an emerging trend.
If it is part of a trend, then it is necessary for the world to get together very quickly and adopt some convention defining who “The International Community” is and what are its powers of intervention in the affairs of sovereign states. Failing that, we should expect that the world, and more particularly Africa, will enter a period of political instability on a scale never known before.
It is regrettable that it is only after the last ECOWAS summit unilaterally declared war on Laurent Gbagbo that they finally decided to send a delegation to deliver the ultimatum to Laurent Gbagbo. This is a watershed event in African history. The damage is already done. If the ECOWAS war does breakout, Africa will face its greatest challenge since the advent of independence in the Gold Coast in 1957. ECOWAS and UEMOA are now in deep trouble. The breakup of ECOWAS is on the cards if war breaks out and the withdrawal of Cote d’Ivoire from the CFA zone is also a possibility.
After studying the Ivorian crisis for the last several weeks, I have drawn a number of lessons which I would like to share with Cameroonians:
1. Mistrust for the Presidential System: The Ivorian crisis has deepened by mistrust for the Presidential system of government. It is a system that is inherently polarizing because in every country at the moment, it is becoming increasingly difficult for any Presidential election to result in a clear-cut winner or loser. I have decided that I shall deal with this issue in the Newcam Prosperity Pact which shall be unveiled soon as part of my campaign platform;
2. The Role of Electoral Commissions: The idea of independent electoral commissions for conducting and or monitoring elections has proven to be an illusion because most African countries have become so polarized that it is impossible to find individuals who are either neutral or independent in the political arena to incorporate into these commissions. In Cameroon much debate has centered on the role and composition of ELECAM. I don’t intend to waste much time talking about the role of ELECAM. I shall simply take ELECAM as it is and concentrate on the content of my message to the Cameroonian people through the Newcam Prosperity Pact and leave the rest to God.
3. The Dangers of Foreign Support: One of the issues which any budding Presidential aspirant must consider is whether or not to go and seek the support of some foreign power for his ambitions. I have concluded that the biggest mistake that any presidential candidate can make is to seek the support of a foreign power. I believe that those who go out of their way to seek such support either have weak or no ideas or they are not sure of their popular support back home. Once the foreign power gives you such support, you have already mortgaged the sovereignty of the country to them in advance. Therefore, whether I sink or swim, I intend to limit my presidential campaign to Cameroon and shall not be visiting any European or American capital to solicit support.
4. Too young to wield global power: There is now an emerging trend in many western countries of young men in their early 40s rising to the pinnacle of political power in their countries. The advent of the internet and other electronic media has made it possible for anyone with communication and technical skills to leverage on the power of the internet to catapult themselves to power. However, it is only when they get to the very top of the political pyramid that they discover the true global reach of the power that their constitution confers on them. My concern is that they have not lived long enough to understand the true implications of the global power at their command and how its exercise affects human life in places that they never thought of when they were seeking power. These highly gifted young politicians that the west is releasing with increasing frequency on the world stage are beginning to scare me to death. This applies to political leaders as well as sudden powerful media giants such as we have seen emerge from Wikileaks.
My advice to the new generation political leaders that are running the world today is this: