Sunday, April 3, 2011

This is Getting Serious: It’s Time to Write An Open Letter

Ok, this is seriously getting serious. The situation in Côte d’Ivoire has been going on three months now. Some people refer to a longer period of successive crises, but in order to simplify things, it’s easier to focus on the timeframe in which short-term diplomacy has become the main sideshow.

I was going to do a sarky timeline starting with colonization in the 19th century, but that’s crazy-boring. And anyway, this is not about the historical legacies or political fundamentals common to failed states like Côte d’Ivoire – stuff like messy colonization and messier decolonization. This is about the International Community, exploring what its needs are now and, as Obama likes to say almost as much as “let me be clear”, what its needs are ‘moving forward’.

Since my last post at the start of this crisis (see below – the one with the minstrel-meets-chocolate poster pics), the situation has unfolded. And as one report noted, the Ivorian people, not to mention the international community, are getting fed up with this situation.

And it’s not without trying on the part of The Diplomats, who have issued countless communiqués, resolutions, reports, dispatches, and press statements decrying the need for more Diplomacy. Always reluctant to engage prominent politicians and their own Former-Formers, the International Community has brought out some of its Traditional African Diplomats and Legations:

- In October 2010, Côte d’Ivoire double-billed with Mediation Matinee Hosts, President John Atta Mills of Ghana and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia;

- A month and a half later, in early December, former South African President, Thabo Mbeki represented the African Union on a mediation mission. No takers;
(Two weeks later the newly appointed Ivorian Ambassador to the UN, Youssoufou Bamba, cautioned that his country was on the verge of genocide. That means up the ante on Diplomatic Efforts)

- About a month after Mbeki’s stalled efforts, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo met with both Gbagbo and Ouattara in what he described as a "process of exploration". As far as exploration processes go, he was successful in confirming that the situation is intractable and perhaps not worth spending any more of his Politico-Diplomatic Credit;

- A week after Obasanjo AU special envoy and Mediator #3 Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, visited Abidjan and held talks with Ouatarra and Gbagbo. Adopting an unorthodox strategy of telegraphing his intention to remove Gbagbo and effect the peaceful installment of Ouatarra, no one could work out why Odinga’s two-day whirlwind in a teacup made no discernible difference whatsoever to the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire;

- AU chairperson Bingu wa Mutharika has held talks in Côte d’Ivoire with Ouatarra and Gbagbo in the lead up to AU shindigs, but Bingu was smart enough not to use the ‘M-word’ in describing his efforts.

So now it’s time for Double Negative to weigh in and make its own demarche:

Open Letter to The Diplomats on the Situation in Côte d’Ivoire

3 April 2011


The diplomatic situation in Côte d’Ivoire is rapidly deteriorating.

We recall the Open Letters from H.E. President Louise Arbour from the Republic of the International Crisis Group dated 22 and 25 March 2011, and we take note that “civil war in the country has been reignited”. We would submit that re-ignition is not the same as ‘raging’ and that a détente between the main two rivals is not utterly hopeless.

We are dismayed that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its resolution adopted on 24 March 2011 did not use more mild and circumlocutory language.

We urge all parties to lend their support behind the forceful recommendations of ECOWAS, interalia, " to explore all avenues of providing the Government of Mr. Alassane Ouattara all the necessary legal and diplomatic means to exercise its authority, including admitting the Government to all meetings of ECOWAS” and “establishing the joint AU-ECOWAS facilitation team to ensure the immediate transfer of power to Mr. Alassane Ouattara”.

We are concerned that the gentle pressure and ministrations of peacekeepers dispatched by the United Nations Mission in Cote d’Ivoire are being viewed as ineffective and believe that UNOCI should have the opportunity to access state-owned television and radio networks in order to address this perception issue.

We have taken note of the ongoing sensitive electoral process and the unresolved aspects of the peace process.
We are pleased to see that the number of registered and unregistered former combatants has reduced dramatically over the last three months from an estimated 32,777, but we are concerned that this reduction is attributable to the phenomenon of recruitment into militia and irregular armed forces.

We are pretty sure that all of the most brutal and unsavoury former combatants are Pro-Gbagbo.

We expressly reject all notions that because UNOCI was directly involved in supervising and providing logistical support to the Independent Electoral Commission that the UN’s refusal to hold a vote recount or question whether the election was “generally successful” that there are any conflict(s) of interest.

We eagerly await the appointment of the High Representative of the president of the AU Commission and second the assessment of H.E. President Louise Arbour that this is “the best way out of the crisis”.

We underline the need for increased efforts to assist the The Diplomats in the promotion of a climate of stability and trust in order to facilitate the return of Ivorian refugees in neighbouring countries.

We call upon the States neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire to take steps, with the aim of putting an end to factors contributing to the destabilization of Cote d’Ivoire, to ensure that such arms and materiel are not transferred to Ivorian camps within their territories.

We request the Secretary-General to consult the Governments of neighbouring countries on the possibility of holding an International Peace Conference on Cote d’Ivoire.

Artful Aid Worker

Minister Plenipotentiary, Double Negative

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