The narrow focus and fixation of the world community on enforcing what it considers the results of free and fair elections in Ivory Coast has led to a clear case of soldiers massacring non-combatant Christian men, women and children in the hundreds. This was predictable. The UN and its leading nations bent on removing incumbent and apparent loser in the elections, Laureant Gbagbo, a Southern Ivorian, issued threats of force against him. At the same time, the UN protects and supports Alassane Ouattara, the Northern Ivorian winner of the elections, and wants to install him in office at all costs. Ouattara’s Northern military recently went on the offensive which has swept the entire Ivory Coast, and one specific reported instance, resulted in a systematic and organized military murder of an entire town in their path and under their control. Gbagbo’s supporters have also been accused of killing civilians; the wholesale massacre of an entire town is the signature of Ouattara’s military supporters.
It is only convenient for the world to think that the ongoing Ivory Coast civil war and genocide is about election and election results, and removing recalcitrant Gbagbo—for whom there is little sympathy—from an office which he lost in the polls. In reality, this is hypocrisy. The UN and the stakeholder-countries involved in Ivory Coast must have intelligence and diplomatic sources, other resources, besides casual observation that clearly indicate that the problem with Ivory Coast is not Gbagbo and Ouattara, or elections. They should know that the primary issue in Ivory Coast is that of “North Vs. South” which is now translating into perhaps Muslim North Vs. Christian South of Ivory Coast. The result of sweeping this fact under the rug and pretending that it is not there is what we have now: civil war, civilian casualties and genocide in Ivory Coast. Yet, the charade continues: “…Gbagbo must go at all costs; Ouattara must be installed by all means necessary…”
For that matter, the world wants very much and tries so hard to forget that most of Africa’s problems issue from the same root: Inter-ethnic national friction which often translates to Muslim Vs. Christian and or ethnic group / region against another ethnic group / region mortal conflicts, wherever these groups are forced to live together as one country as originally vice-gripped together by colonial fiat. Rather, it wants to talk about and run around imposing its concepts of free and fair (and credible) elections in Africa, pretending that such a concept and exercise do not require a fertile ground which Africa does not have, for the same reasons of earlier colonialism and ongoing colonial interference.
Ivory Coast is only the latest casualty of this hypocrisy, but it is not alone today. Nigeria, whose 2 to 3 million casualty figures-genocide against the Igbo-Biafrans in 1967-70 Biafra-Nigeria war, coming after ethnic cleansing and pogrom against the same Igbo-Biafrans by Northern Nigerian Muslims in 1966, and which makes Rwanda look like child’s play, is another example. The world allowed that to happen then; Britain, Russia, Egypt and then Czechoslovakia, to name a few countries, actually supported and even directly helped Nigeria in this crime against humanity. Nigerians celebrated it and never showed any remorse; both the world and Nigeria pretend to “move on” as if all is okay and nothing happened. But, just today, Nigeria (which never recovered from its pyrrhic victory against Biafra), is “hosting” the world who are there to “observe” whether free, fair and credible elections can take place. The last three consecutive times the world did this, it was disappointed—worse each successive time; nonetheless, it very much wants to report, “…see, I told you, free and fair elections can happen here, therefore, in Africa, and that’s the solution for Africa’s problems…” Will the world be able to report that? A lot of election-related bloody and murderous violence has already occurred this time around; Nigeria has proudly announced that it has sealed off her land, sea and air borders, re-armed, re-equipped and redeployed her troops internally, and re-organized the Nigeria Police command and operations—all for the sake of the elections. A cancellation and postponement of the starting of voting at the last minute due to problems unclear and unknown to the public, in the face of everything else, has already placed the last nail in the coffin of this exercise as “free, fair and credible elections.” But, it is predicted that the world will try hard and come up with a way to put a positive spin on this, in order to support its myopic vision of elections being the hope of Africa.
The world must come to grips with the fact that Africa’s problems are all related to structures and practices of colonial construct. “North Vs. South” issues emanate from the forced amalgamation of peoples with nothing in common except perhaps for skin pigmentation. The world—especially Europeans—needs to stop insisting on the silliness and triteness that Africans have to learn to live together in the plantations built to divide and confine them and formalized for them by colonial masters: nowhere else in the world does that happen. Over time, in places where groups had originally been forced to live together unsuccessfully, those groups have learnt to do the practical thing of living apart in order to stay alive; and then share only mutual interests—look at Europe, for example? As configured and constrained, Africans cannot live together in the countries as designed for them without their consent by all-wise colonial masters and no amount of learning or preachment can change that, any more than it did for Europeans.
To preempt any reflexive reference to “decolonization,” it should be clear that decolonization did not work for Africa, but what may not be so obvious is why. Decolonization did not work because it did not throw away and burn colonial constructs and practices; all it did is to place the African in the “colonial director’s chair” to “drive this colonial vehicle built by the colonial lords for the benefit and business of the colonialists, now to be maintained and resupplied by the colonial masters on made-for-colonialists roads—on colonial-divided African soil. Africa is still operating colonial constructs and processes and still operating under such. That’s why decolonization did not and does not work.
As for “Independence,” the reason why it did not and does not work for Africa lies in what colonialism stole from Africa / Africans and did in Africa and to Africans, which Independence never restored, but actually cemented and formalized. The worst things that colonialism did in Africa are: 1) take away the natural sovereignty of individual African ethnic groups; 2) take away the natural and original independence of individual ethnic nations of Africa; 3) forcibly take (or try to take) away the natural ethnic identity of Africans; it replaced it by forcing on the identity and loyalty of Africans to the structure which the colonialists built, without the consent of the Africans; 4) destroy original natural relationships—biological, social, economic, political and other mutual relationships that had served Africans—and replaced them with ones specifically made for the convenience, interest and supremacy of the colonial masters—a form of Balkanization, by the way; 5) take away the human dignity of Africans in all ways, including the belittling and destruction of their indigenous cultures and traditions.
At Independence, none of these issues was addressed or reversed; Independence merely gave diplomatic promotion and recognition and formalized this original systemic and systematic rape of Africa by colonization into States as “Independent African countries.” Independence eternalized and legalized the deprivation of Africans of their natural rights, autonomy, attributes, resources and dignity, and the balkanization of the continent.
But today, the world would like to impose “free, fair and credible elections” on Africa, and is willing to back up such an imposition with force, as if elections, like Decolonization or Independence, addresses any root-cause issues in Africa, or would solve any. In the meantime, genocide, wars, continent-wide ineptitude, and wanton waste of human potential remains the story of Africa, a continent which is unrivalled with respect to natural and human resources. What a (really short-sighted) world!
If there are tears being shed by the world today for Ivory Coast, they have to be merely crocodile tears. The people of Ivory Cost are imperiled, just like they are in other places in Africa, for the mere reason that the world refuses to admit the obvious: Ivory Coast typifies Africa’s main problem structured into existence in the form of a North Vs. South conflict, the veritable legacy of colonization.
If the world—the UN, AU, Africans—anyone—really is interested in a long-lasting solution, it needs to address African problems at the root: the right and exercise of original sovereignty and autonomy (meaning, Independence), must be restored to all African ethnic nations—to the “North’s-and-South’s” of Africa. Fortunately, the world today has learnt or is furiously learning how to achieve this through Self Determination ratified with a Referendum. The world needs to demand a Referendum in Ivory Coast, if anything can be and must be salvaged. The AU must do a serious rethink and adopt Self Determination as the paradigm to address African issues, employing the tool of a Self-deterministic Referendum. African peoples must begin to demand Self Determination and practice it as an abiding and enduring principle.
Ivory Coast was entirely avoidable—had the world only looked beyond its election results-ring on its nose to see a more basic African problem, which a Referendum based on Self Determination would have addressed with a much better process and outcome. Is anything still salvageable? Can other atrocious catastrophes be prevented in Africa? Yes; but only with the institution of Self Determination, and only with the support, determination and commitment of the world to Self Determination as a solution for Africa.
The world should stop fixating on supporting Ouattara who is now as culpable as Gbagbo in crimes against humanity, where even genocide might be included to the former’s charges. The world should demand a ceasefire and a Referendum: let the peoples decide what their respective present and future will be and how it should be.
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD.
A Biafran Citizen
Source: Oguchi Nkwocha, MD.
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