Date: Friday 31 January 2003
Subj: Cote d'Ivoire: Peace accord "opens Pandora's box".
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
By Elizabeth Kendal
The details of the Cote d'Ivoire peace deal brokered in Marcoussis on the outskirts of Paris, France, beggar belief. One wonders how anyone could ever have considered it workable.
The peace deal amounts to little more than a humiliating surrender being negotiated by foreign powers and forced upon the democratically elected President of Cote d'Ivoire and the army that has loyally defended him. Five leading Ivorian political parties, as well as traditional chiefs, have joined the army in rejecting the deal. They want a government of national unity, they want peace and reconciliation, but they refuse to share power with rebel militias that have taken up arms against the nation. They want to re-negotiate, something the rebels refuse to consider.
There is more than peace at stake. What is at stake here is the integrity of an ethnically and religiously mixed nation that has upheld complete religious freedom for all its citizens and has been the base of much West African Christian mission. Both Islam and Christianity have grown phenomenally.
Something else at stake is the stability of West Africa. If a reward of power is handed to foreign and network sponsored Muslim rebel militias in Cote d'Ivoire, then what is to prevent similar foreign and network sponsored Muslim rebels uprising in other ethnically / religiously mixed nations such as Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria - pushing the religious fault-line all the way south to the coast?
As influential loyalist youth leader Ble Goude said, "France has disappointed us. They gave power to people who took up arms against Ivory Coast. They have opened Pandora's box."
PEACE DEAL INVOKES RELIGIOUS FIGHTING.
A French-brokered peace accord was signed on 25 January 2003 in Marcoussis on the outskirts of Paris France, that was supposed to end the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire. The result however, has not been peace. While Muslim rebel militias and their supporters in the north and west of Cote d'Ivoire celebrated, Christians, government supporters and all who respect political due process fell into despair. Some government supporters rioted against French interests in the commercial capital, Abidjan.
Eventually on 28 January, Christian / Muslim fighting broke out in Abobo and Agboville. The fighting in Agboville, 80 km north of coastal Abidjan, left 15 dead, more than 40 wounded, churches and mosques razed.
CONTENTIOUS AND UNWORKABLE
At the December 2002 peace talks in Lome, Togo, ECOWAS Co-ordinator, President Eyadema insisted that, "the search for a political settlement should involve, exclusively, the Ivorian major political parties." As the main rebel group, the MPCI, is a rebel militia without a political wing, it was suggested that if the rebels wanted to be given a political voice then they should form or transform the MPCI into a political party. At that point the rebels walked out of the talks.
Under the terms of the French-brokered 25 January Paris agreement, the foreign and network sponsored Muslim rebels who staged the coup and ignited the conflict that has split the nation and left hundreds dead and up to one million displaced, would be legitimised and rewarded with the interior and defence portfolios in a government of national unity. The rebels would therefore have control of the army that has been loyal to democratically elected President Gbagbo. (For details of the peace deal - see link 1)
According to the BBC (22 Jan 2003) Cote d'Ivoire Parliamentary speaker Mamadou Koulibaly, walked out of the Paris peace talks on Monday 20 January accusing the French mediator, Pierre Mazeaud, of "trying to stage a constitutional coup" by trying to do something that "the rebels have failed to achieve militarily". It is important to note that Koulibaly is a northern Muslim.
It must not be forgotten that France has financial interests in a change of government in Cote d'Ivoire. When Alassane Ouattara was Prime Minister, he permitted Cote d'Ivoire's public services to be freely placed in French hands. France has since run a monopoly on Cote d'Ivoire's water, electricity and telecommunications. President Gbagbo is not in favour of renewing those contracts in 2004. France is looking for a leadership in Cote d'Ivoire that will serve French interests, and that is not Gbagbo. As noted by Ivory Coast's first lady, Simone Gbagbo, "France wants him to fall." (Link 2)
As part of the peace deal, Seydou Elimane Diarra has been appointed (chosen by French president Jacques Chirac) to lead a government of national unity. Diarra, a northern Muslim, has worked closely with Gbagbo on national reconciliation in the past. (Profile - link 3)
The China Daily reported from Abidjan (28 Jan), "France further displayed who was boss on = Saturday by announcing Diarra's nomination itself and not letting Gbagbo, who was in Paris for a French-sponsored summit of African leaders on his country's crisis, do the honours. Sources said a meeting between Gbagbo and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac on Saturday (25 Jan) saw the latter take a firm line with the underlying message that Gbagbo had no choice but to accept the treaty." (Link 4)
Reuters reported (28 Jan), "Adding to doubts over the deal from another quarter, former President Henri Konan Bedie of the still strong Democratic Party said government posts were apportioned out during a corridor meeting in Paris by Chirac, his foreign minister, U.N. Secretary-General Koffi Annan and Gabon's President Omar Bongo. 'The Ivorian political parties never got to say a word,' Bedie told Le Parisien."
(Note - Gabon's President El Hadj Omar Bongo was formerly known as President Albert-Bernard Bongo until, under the influence of Libya's Colonel Gadhafi, he converted to Islam and changed his name in 1973. - EK)
SEEKING A JUST PEACE
The army immediately rejected the French-brokered peace deal. By 29 January, the Associated Press was reporting that President Gbagbo's own political party and some members of his Cabinet had joined the outcry. (Link 2)
"'The decision is an act of national humiliation for the president and the national armed forces of Ivory Coast, and we hereby declare that it is null and void,' Interior Minister Paul Yao N'dre said late Tuesday (28 Jan).
"N'dre spoke in Togo, saying he had been sent there by Gbagbo to ask that fellow West African leaders 'help find a lasting, equitable, African solution to the crisis.'
"Gbagbo's governing party joined three other parties in saying the division of ministries was forced on Ivory Coast at the Paris talks. In a statement, the four parties said France, the United Nations and others should help renegotiate a deal that is 'fair and just.'
By 30 January Cote d'Ivoire's leading traditional chiefs had also rejected the deal to give power to the rebels. France is pressuring Gbagbo to uphold the deal and the rebels (MPCI), who say they refuse to re-negotiate, have defiantly heaped scorn on the armed forces, saying they were "not worthy of leading the destinies of the defence and security forces of the new Ivorian nation." (Link 5).
President Gbagbo will address the nation soon - possibly Saturday evening.
1) "Ivory Coast peace plan" BBC 24 January 2003
2) "French Flee Ivory Coast as Deal Falters" By Austin Merrill
Associated Press Writer 29 Jan 2003
3) Profile: Seydou Elimane Diarra. BBC 25 Jan 2003
4)"France goes into bat for Cote d'Ivoire"
China Daily. Agency via Xinhua 28 Jan 2003
5) "Ivory Coast president defers key address as peace deal cracks
up" AFP 30 January 2003