Côte d’Ivoire – déjà vu?

by Linda A. O. Darkwa

There are fears of a looming armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, even though the crisis there has slipped from international news headlines. The United Nations has been unable to protect civilians in Côte d’Ivoire. Other agencies have failed to mount the necessary response to the growing humanitarian problems. All of this is beginning to feel like déjà vu. For almost a decade after 1989, the international community oversaw the killing of thousands of civilians in Liberia and Sierra Leone, despite the ominous signs. In 1994, the international community failed to heed the warning signs that led to the slaughter of a million people in Rwanda.

History informs us that the unfolding events in Côte d’Ivoire may yet prove catastrophic if efforts to avert this eventuality do not increase. Current efforts, however, are foundering. Laurent Gbagbo refused to attend an African Union summit, sending instead a representative and subsequently rejecting the summit’s outcome; Alassane Ouattara has rejected the AU’s high representative; ECOWAS’s military option is constrained by UN Charter provisions; and prolonged sanctions are hurting people and businesses amidst fears over the influx of refugees into fragile neighbouring countries.

The UN has neither imposed the requested air and sea blockade nor authorised the use of force, although similar courses of action have been sanctioned in Libya. The maintenance of international peace and security is being predicated on the strategic resource(s) of the countries in crisis. It appears that the international community is waiting for an all-out armed conflict before it acts decisively. For the sake of the Ivorian people, I sincerely hope I am wrong.

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