USAfrica, January 7, 2011: Ghana’s president John Mills has expressed his opposition to any military intervention in Ivory Coast, led by the ECOWAS or the international community, seeking to force controversial incumbent Laurent Gbagbo out of office.
He stated today January 7, 2011 that: “I do not think the military operation will bring peace to the nation.” This was a jolt to many of the leaders of the west African regional bloc, ECOWAS and to the expectations of the U.S administration of President Barack Obama. Two days earlier, on January 5, 2011, the U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs Johnnie Carson had called for increased pressure on Gbagbo with a stronger demand for him to leave and making the point it is broad fight by the region for democracy and should not be left as a domestic issue. President Mills is strongly arguing the opposite position — to the surprise of the U.S and the international community (supporting opposition candidate Outtarra against Gbagbo).
Mills who hosted the Obamas on July 11, 2009 in Accra, said today that “It is not for Ghana to choose a leader for Cote D’ivoire. I have spoken to both Ouattarra and Gbagbo and I cannot
make it public.”
Diplomats, international security experts and interested parties are wondering: what informed Ghana’s blunt and clear position against a forced, military attack against Gbagbo’s outgoing, stalemated presidency?
I understand President Mills’ position as: first, reflecting that west African country’s practical and immediate interests. Ghana is a neighbor of Ivory Coast’s and has business interests in the country.
Second, Ghana is likely to bear the brunt of a chaotic Ivory Coast, from refugees moving into Ghana.
Ivory Coast has 19million citizens with 60 ethnic groups, a mix of Christians and Muslims; the Baoule is the largest sub-group, the Senoufou, the Mande/Dioula, the Krou, the Yacouba, the Akan (some of who draw their links from Ghana).
Third, Ghana seems mindful of the potential retaliation against its citizens and other migrant workers across Ivory Coast. It will not be helpful to it, in the long run. Again, on local interest, Mills said “We have about one million Ghanaians living in Ivory Coast who could be victims of any military intervention. We do not want the influx of Ivorians into Ghana, which obviously comes with its problems.”
A key adviser to Ghana’s President Mills on international affairs informed me/USAfrica that Ghana has also, understandably, “been under some pressure to take a more aggressive position on this issue. But we’re the ones who live next door to Ivory Coast….”
Unlike Ghana, Nigeria has backed the use of military force — as an option — against Gbagbo.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan is the current chairman of the ECOWAS. There are as many Nigerians in Ivory Coast as there Ghanaians.
Ivory Coast has friendly relations with the U.S (one of the biggest importers of it cocoa products) but Gbagbo loyalists argue that the Obama administration are working with France and the UN against the former radical university professor and grassroots mobilizer.
President Mills said his country has about 500 officially-designated troops in Ivory Coast and that his military officers advised him Ghana could not contribute troops to the much spoken military force against Gbagbo. Mills remains optimistic saying: “Ghana is monitoring it very closely and will ensure that peace prevails,” he added.
But a senior member of the African desk of the U.S National Security Council in Washington DC told me/USAfrica that: “it’s obvious Mr. Gbagbo is overplaying his hand. Unfortunately, we think he’s trying to
tie his personal agenda with those of his country at such a critical and sensitive time. The presidential elections are not only disputed but many in the international community say his opponent Mr. Ouattarra won.” When I asked further as to what will be the next move by the U.S., the official simply said: “The U.S supports free and fair results. We support democracy in Ivory Coast.” Outtarra has called for a bloodless military intervention, especially a local coup.
Pierre Kablan, an activist in the capital city of Yamoussoukro informed USAfrica via phone that “Ouattarra is the man for France and U.S and the IMF-World Bank for decades. They can control him but not President Gbagbo. That’s the point.”
Any major slip and dangerous move in Ivory Coast by the typically patient Obama, the usually brash Sarkozy of France and others in the international community in this once peaceful, idyllic former colony of France with 18million people could be expensive for the U.S and other west Africans.
Very telling is the latest warning from Notre Voie (the pro-Gbagbo newspaper) that any military attack from the regional ECOWAS or the international community would “endanger its citizens living here.”
Is there greater wisdom in Ghana’s position? Or is it unreasonable? Or sheer self-interest?
• Chido Nwangwu is the Founder and Publisher of USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; The Black Business Journal, CLASSmagazine, PhotoWorks.TV, AchebeBooks.com, Nigeria360, USAfricaTV and several blogs, assessed by The New York TImes as the largest and arguably most influential multimedia networks for Africans and Americans. He served on the editorial board of the Daily Times of Nigeria in Lagos and worked for the Nigerian Television Authority (news) in the 1980s; served on a publicity committee of the Holocaust Museum, Houston; recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009; adviser on Africa to Houston’s former Mayor Dr. Lee Brown. Chido appears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, CBSNews, ABCNews, FOXNews, NBCNews, etc. Chido@USAfricaonline.com. wireless: 832-45-CHIDO (24436). Office: 713-270-5500.
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