The months-long stalemate in Ivory Coast stands as an indictment of the international community’s inability to resolve paralyzing political disputes in sub-Saharan Africa. As in Zimbabwe, Togo and the Congo, in Ivory Coast elaborate attempts at bringing genuine political change — and ousting presidents who’ve essentially become dictators — have failed to accomplish their ultimate goals. In Ivory Coast, a peaceful resoluton seemed possible, especially because the winner of national elections four months ago appeared willing to wait until his country’s usurper, Laurent Gbagbo, ran out of money and enthusiasm for holding his beautful, industrious country hostage to his own petty desires.
Now the Mandela-like resolve of Alassandra Outtara appears to have vanished. Soldiers who appear to be his supporters are moving on Ivory Coast’s capital, and doing battle with Gbagbo’s dwindlng forces and the civilians who support them. Reports of massacres by pro-Outtarra forces see, credible, and have shattered the illusions surrounding the Ivory Coast stalemate. It is still possible that Outtarra still seeks a peaceful resolution to the ousting of Gbagbo, who has been condemned even by U.N. and African councils. Yet increasingly, Outtarra’s silence in the face of a renewed civil war in Ivory Coast suggests that he himself now favors armed conflict as a path to power. The uncertainty thtreatens to ruin Outtarra’s reputation as a potential national healer for an Ivory Coast which has experienced more than a decade of political upheaval. Rather than relying on his aides to speaks to the international community, Outtarra must help himself seize the microphone and clearly communicate his plans for a postwar Ivory Coast — and his position on whether violence is indeed the only way to remove Gbagbo from power. It is not enough for Outtarra to support investigations in violence against civilians by his supporters; he must either endorse or reject such violence as a means to settling the question of political power in the wake of a peaceful election. Otherwise, Outtarra risks losing his international support — and plunging Ivory Coast back into a political limbo in which international agencies must continue to manage the country’s internal affairs.