The country held elections on November 28, 2010 however the situation has deteriorated to the point where war may be likely. The incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refuses to yield power to the officially recognised winner Alassane Ouattara. Just days after the election, Gbagbo had himself sworn in even though the electoral commission declared the challenger, Ouattara had won. Apparently half a million ballots were invalidated from northern regions of the country, where Ouattara enjoys strong support and then Gbagbo declared victory.
Since then, the United Nations has received reports of hundreds being kidnapped and massive violations of human rights. Gbagbo seems to going after power at all costs including pursuing illegitimate means of seizing power. It has been reported that fifty people have been killed over the past three days as strange military garbed gangs have been hauling people away in the middle of the night.
The international community is calling on Gbagbo to concede power and already looking at options to apply pressure on him to do so. However he has retaliated by telling the 9,000 U.N. Peacekeepers and 900 French troops to leave the country accusing them of arming rebels who support his opponent. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has said the U.N. will not leave but will monitor and document any human rights violations and incitement to hatred or violence.
The U.S. has ordered any non-emergency staff to leave the country and warned Americans not to travel to the West African country. While the security problem is obvious, the government also mentioned what seems to be a growing anti-western sentiment in the Ivory Coast.
Britain has followed suit and advised its nationals to leave.
While officials on both sides have said they want to avoid war, there are fears that this power struggle will lead to renewed conflict in Ivory Coast. A 2002 civil war left the country divided into rebel- and government-controlled territories and it was hoped this election would restore stability to the country.
It is important to remember that Gbagbo was president when the 2002 war started between his government led faction and a northern rebel group. Since that time, Gbagbo has held onto power tenuously with the assistance of outside help in the form of both U.N. Peacekeepers and French troops. Maybe for Gbagbo, conceding power to Ouattara, a northerner is almost like conceding power to a group which nearly seized power in 2002. Nevertheless, things change and the international community recognises it as so. Gbagbo must pass the baton to Ouattara.
Click HERE to read more from William Belle.