The United Nations has made a brave decision in choosing to back the moral victor in the recent failed election in this economically-important West African country, moving the candidate who is resorting to guns and violence and who is increasingly behaving like he aspires to be a military dictator.
Strictly speaking, the United Nations General Assembly late Thursday unanimously accepted the envoy sent to New York by Alassane Ouattara, amounting to diplomatic recognition for the internationally accepted winner of Ivory Coast’s presidential election. In practical terms, he 192-country General Assembly recognized Youssouf Bamba as Ivory Coast’s UN ambassador, while withdrawing the UN accreditation of the country’s previous ambassador, who was appointed by previous president Laurent Gbagbo.
The U.N.’s action is hardly a declaration of war against Gbagbo, but the decision is brave nonetheless because for the first time — after years of dithering — the U.N. has called for an end to Gbagbo’s political career. This retrograde petty politician has tried for years to escape the reality on the ground: that Ivory Coast is too diverse geographically, ethnically, religiously and economically to be held hostage by a small urban elite.
Ouattara is untested and clearly unprepared for a military struggle. He seems to have ceded the force option to his international benefactors. His reinforced his low-profile style the other day by failing to even meet with a gang of journalists flowing by copter into his hotel compound by the U.N. Press-shy Ouattara sent his “prime minister” to address the press instead. Now will the U.N. authorize force against Gbabgo and his cronies? Will France move? The U.S?
The actors in the next act are not yet selected but the stage is now set for Gbagbo’s final scene. All Africans, and their faraway friends, await the outcome. If the international community cannot act against outlaws in Ivory Coast, where many years have been spent trying to placate them, and where the country is easily reachable by sea and air, can any African outlaw be held accountable? If not in Abijdan, then where?