Ivory Coast: Sovereignty and the Price of Chocolate



It has been almost a month since the elections in Ivory Coast produced not one – but two presidents – one sworn in ceremoniously, wrapped in a regal sash, gushing in front of cameras at the presidential palace
– the other hunkered down at the Golf Hotel where he took the wise precaution
to retreat days before the election, just in case his adversary was to get any
bright ideas. The French press is calling the latter, President of the Republic
of the Golf Hotel on account of not been able to emerge since the results were
declared that first week of December. The only thing standing between him and
the army are 800 U.N. peacekeepers; each force behind their respective
barricades allowing no one in or out, leaving no choice but to airlift food and
provisions, not to mention a healthy supply of chocolate for the crepe stand in
the lobby of the hotel where the grounds have been transformed into makeshift
ministries and cabinet offices. 


As incumbent President Gbagbo clings to power in Abidjan with the help of the army and state media, President elect Ouattara continues to consolidate his gains in the international community.  The U.S and the French were among the
first to recognize him followed by the European Union, the United Nations and
the West African economic block – ECOWAS.   The IMF and World Bank have withdrawn support and the
EU has placed travel restrictions as well as targeted sanctions on Mr. Gbagbo
and close circle hoping to make a dent perhaps by denying his two wives and
entourage their regular shopping sprees in the left bank boutiques of
Paris.  Just last week as a final
show of no confidence the General Assembly voted 192-0 recognizing Mr. Ouattara
as the rightful head of the Ivorian state and sent the resident ambassadorial
mission of Mr. Gbagbo packing. They left in a huff, taking all the computer and
office equipment as consolation prize. 
Things can be so simple when states have fields of cocoa instead of


Looking for other means of practical resistance, the West African Central Bank has ceded control of the state funds to Mr. Ouattara in an effort to choke the life line of President Gbagbo who will soon be running on
fumes if he does not play ball – preferably in someone else’s country. It will
be interesting to see how loyal his ethnically stacked army will be once he
runs out of money.  History is full
of lessons on the urgent merits of keeping armed young men well paid and well


In further attempts to isolate Mr. Gbagbo, the African Union has suspended his membership and regional allies are now considering use of “legitimate force” to remove him. That sounds a lot like military intervention
to me.


Some of my African friends shake their heads in disgust and say “pitoyable!” -- lamenting the crisis as yet another example of Big Man politics, typical of the sad state of democracy on a continent that has given
us the likes of Taylor, Bashir, Bongo and Mobutu.   Others – echoing the nationalist refrains of Mr.
Gbagbo are denouncing the impasse as yet another proof of foreign meddling in
what they see as a sovereign matter. 
The U.N., the French and all the rest of them should get out, they say
-- Ivorian solutions for Ivorian problems.  How convenient in this case, to be the ones picking and
choosing who is a true Ivorian? Moreover; what exactly is it to be “sovereign”
if not recognized by peer member states, or mandated by your citizens, half of
whom were disqualified in this case.


All this talk of intervention raises the question: in an increasingly global and interdependent world where actions have far reaching consequences often implicating those who had no part in the decisions with
enormous financial and social burden; and world bodies are tasked to pick up
the pieces, is the sovereign nation destined to become a relic of the past, to
be relegated to text books along with medieval walled cities and moat floating
feudal states?


For the world’s largest cocoa producer, accounting for 40% of global supply, if you think that the price of chocolate is the only thing to consider, think again.


In the past month UNHCR has logged almost 20,000 refugees, mostly women and children fleeing the crisis to neighboring Liberia – itself a fragile state newly emerging from conflict and struggling to consolidate its
peace dividends.  Youth militia
loyal to Gbagbo are mobilizing and if the nightly raids, abductions and torture
in the opposition neighborhoods of Abidjan are any indication, the country
could relapse into large scale violence with considerable human and economic
costs spilling into the whole region which relies on this country’s commercial
port.  Fear of a $30 million
interest default has already made the international bond markets jittery.


The last century witnessed the creation of global institutions -- the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the World Trade Organization and the many UN agencies; all supra
national institutions with global mandates, yet subject to sovereign whims of
national or personal interests. 
Consequently -- Omar Bashir remains free in spite of the ICC
indictments; the West Bank is fast becoming an Israeli colony in spite of the
ICJ rulings; the West continues to push for agricultural subsidies that favor
their own to the detriment of the poorer nations; and the U.N. in spite of the
billions it spends in peacekeeping remains handcuffed by the narrow mandate it
is given after the big five settle on the lowest common denominator on the
security council. 


And yet the stakes are higher than ever as the world is shrinking tighter.  Forget the price of chocolate and consider the global financial Tsunami unleashed by the
Sub Prime defaults and financial deregulation in the U.S – events that may not
have come to pass had international institutions had a vote in the matter.        


Better yet -- Bush Junior may not have been given a carte blanche, averting two disastrous terms and two costly wars that effectively defeated the empire better than Bin Laden could have ever in his wildest dreams
imagined. Palestinians might have had their state long ago; Bashir, Blair and
Cheney would be behind bars and The Eastern Congo would have been taken into
receivership by international trustees long ago under the principles of
Responsibility to Protect. 


So, as the world connects tighter in a knot, sovereignty may be the last sacred cow offered at the altar of the juggernaut of globalization once it is clear that we can’t have our cake and eat it too.  In the meantime – as we witness our first
test case in challenging sovereign identity in Ivory Coast -- for now we may
have to settle for cheese cake instead of chocolate.    



Views: 74

Tags: Africa, Coast, Conflict, Cote, D'Ivoire, Elections, Gbagbo, Ivory, Nations, United


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Comment by YUSSIF SEIDU on January 10, 2011 at 1:49pm

Thanks for your comment, but i want the world to know that it is time for action, We shouldn't sit down for any rat to come do what ever he likes. Africa we is time for us to wake up, we shouldn't sit down for any greediness and business politicians to use their imperfect altitude on us. the continent is dying and what do we need to do? somebody should tell me what is really in government.

Am sorry for this comment but it time to awake, Gbagbo is greedy I dont see him as leader but rather a business politician. He is only ruling for his own interest and not care and concern for the people of Ivory coast. lets bring the cat out of the cage, UN should play justice on Gbagbo.

As African I really pity my fellow youth of Africa, lets the spirit of natural justice flow.

Comment by Mazembo Mavungu on January 5, 2011 at 6:55am
thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Your view point is well argued and convincing. Happy new Year to you.
Comment by Patience kabamba on January 3, 2011 at 3:48pm

Thank you Mazembo for your message and your questions. I will answer them by order as you have put them.

1. The feasibility of an ad hoc tribunal.

There are international tribunals to deal with conflicts about borders. The motivation with a tribunal on post electoral conflicts would be to bring peace and avoid a war at all cost. Since the two leaders couldn't agree on a peaceful settlement a la Kenya, and since there is a conflict between two institutions; an administrative one, the electoral commission and the judicial one the Constitutional Counsel, which legally has the last word in terms of elections in Cote d'Ivoire, for the sake of peace, i think that the ivory cost parliament would autorise the creation of an international institution as an arbitre of the conflct. This would be an ad hoc court, an exceptional one to bring the matter to the close. In Kenya and Zimbabwe people internally accepted to run the country together, but here I think that Ouattara wouldn't  agree to be a vice president, that is why we need a clear winner proclamed by a neutral judicial body. Of course one has to convaince both of them that the decision from this court would be final.

2. Are facts still intact?

I think that the electoral commision and the office of the former Prime Minister Soro and even the UN have kept the archives of votes and results.

What happened in fact was that the electoral commission proclamed the results counted manually. When put on the computers all results with more than 100% were rejected. That is how the Constitutional court based his decision.

3. What are the grounds to believe that Ecowas, AU and other African bodies decided under the influence of France?

There is a general an a-priori principle with all the regional bodies: they all align their decision of the world governance body which is the UN. This is a-priori, i.e. before experience. The UN as we know has veto powers which represent or which have under their influence some blocs of countries. French West Africa and AU are financially supported by France and EU respectivelly. In Eu as far as a former colony is concerned the decision is left to the metropole which supposed to know better the country. Matter on DRC would be left to the Belgium, matters of Equatorial Africa or French West Africa are left to France and finaly the commonwealth countries are under the responsibility of England, etc...

France has a peculiar way of traiting its former colonies. The concept of 'decolonization' has still to take place in French people's mind. It is quite different in English speaking cuntries. There is a concept called "France Afrique," you might have hearf of. Since the 1960s France had played the king maker in most of its former colonies. They keep the one who respect their interests (Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroun, Burkina Faso, Togo, Chad,...) and they chasse from power those who resist French domination (Sekoutoure, Sankara, Hissein Abre, Lisuba, etc...). Gbagbo belong to the second group and he has been a recalcitrant for the French system. In 2003 a rebelion was sent from Burkina to unseat him, but it did not wor because of "young patriots," the ivoirians faced the French army in a deadly stand off in 2004. French army killed 60 people. Since then it was a plan from Chirac to Sarkozi to get rid of Gbagbo. At one point in the UN french sponsored a resolution to cancel Cote d'Ivoire constitution, but the US, China and Ghana opposed the resolution. With this despute French president who had married Ouattara when he was the maire of Neuilly to Mrs Dominique Ouattara from France, has been very active phoning all Afraican Heads of state to involve them in the Cote d'Ivoire dispute. The goal for France is not democracy but to get rid of Gbagbo. France couldn't use force itself because of its 15,000 French living in CI. The option of using African armies is very convenient. These countries would like to find a peaceful agreement in CI but the pressure they are getting from France is pushing them to considere a military adventure. I hope their will ask autorisation from their different parliements. Sorry I have been too long. Happy New Year!

Comment by Mazembo Mavungu on January 3, 2011 at 12:41pm
Patience, I like your restitution of the facts in this crisis. I like your idea of an international tribunal. But how feasible is it? Will it not still appear as superior to the constitutional court of CIV and pose sovereignty problem. Are facts still intact to make possible independant arbitration? What are your grounds to believe that ECOWAS, AU, and other african bodies that have recognised Ouattara as president have done so under the influence of France?
Comment by Sethabile E.J. Mdluli (Ms) on January 3, 2011 at 7:37am
Thank you Firouzeh for the indepth analysis of this sad situation in Ivory Coast. It is very unfortunate that the 'super powers' seem to be spoiling for war instead of encouraging the two opponents to negotiate and reach an amicable compromise. Taking sides only leads to more conflict . Its common knowlegde that when there is conflict the under privileged, especially women and children, suffer the most. Lets hope a peaceful solution will be found very soon.
Comment by GOPI KANTA GHOSH on January 3, 2011 at 7:36am
Cocoa is commodity of profit for MNC's so this situation
Comment by Felix Monsia on January 2, 2011 at 8:35pm
Thank you Firouzeh, we know that your opinion will not be different for what the superpower have now in this Ivorian Crisis. Don't forget that US had fought for their sovereignty when the former colonizer England wanted to control it.what happening to Ivory coast need to be analysed in an objectively.
are you sure that if what happen in the area controlled by rebels was in US and France or your country will they accept the results? please help ivory coast to resolve his crisis and stop telling what not true .
we are suffering because greedy nation want our oil and other resouces , that all the problem
Comment by Patience kabamba on January 2, 2011 at 6:43pm
Thank you Firouzeh for your message. I have written an article in Anthropological Theory Vol 10 (3), pp. 265-301. The title is Heart of Darkness: Images of DRC and their Theoretical Underpinning. I talked about the concept of 'sovereignty' using Giogio Agamben.
I think that there will always be a tension between the westphalian sovereignty, the anthropological sovereignty (Agamben) and the globalized sense of sovereignty. The global reshapes the local without destroying it. There is a dialectic and movement across these different levels of powers. I always think that the future will be made of "trans-nationality"; that is why multilateral institutions such as UN or IMF, World bank are in urgent need of reform. Anyway, read the article and let me know your impressions.
Comment by Maji on January 2, 2011 at 5:02pm


Happy New Year to all.

I strongly believe globalisation will help promote the concept of and respect for Human Rights most especially the dignity of the Human Person person, which is the most important thing to me at this point in time.


Globalisation should not in any stance wish away Sovereignty but what is Sovereignty when the Dignity of the Human Person is at stake. Sometimes i am compelled to believe that people can really behave themselves and act well even without government if our conciense is giving the rightful place but no government can survive without people.


The "Two' presidents in CIV at the moment are living like royals despite the confusion and disagreement but what about the ordinary Ivoriens? They are more vulnerable; Women and children are more exposed. The use of force will only make ordinary Ivoriens more vulnerable and there is no West African Nation ready for a harvest of refugees. Liberia can't contain it, not even my Giant Nigeria can... We all have our challenges; Is it the feeble peace in Liberia or the pressure of Nigeria's election that will agree to be threatened?


In all the suggestion and negotiation Ivoriens are not carried along. Why should UN,EU,AU,ECOWAS be the institutions to discuss the survival of CIV? The people are supreme, they should have a voice, what are they thinking and what do they want should matter.


No matter what is concluded. Use of force will not help, it will only lead to the death of innocent Ivoriens and if the nation breaks into a civil war Both presidents will still be standing at the end of the debacle but thousand of innocent Ivoriens will have closed their page.


Finally, "CONSESOCRACY" the latest system of government that has come out of Africa shouldn't be an option in this case. where they will tell them to form a government of National Unity with both persons at the head of oposition having a joint ticket. The wish of Ivoriens most be sought and respected as the Voice of the majority is what matters in a Democracy.


Maji Peterx


Comment by Firouzeh Afsharnia on January 2, 2011 at 3:05pm

@Patience: thanks for taking the time for the response.  I am trying to make a bigger point here.   In fact, using this forum I am putting out a question to all of you about old concepts like "sovereignty". 

question 1:   How viable is it for any state to claim sovereignty and to remain in power if isolated and voted down by all the members of the GA - including its own regional allies ( ECOWAS - AFRICAN UNION)

question 2: Considering the rate of globalization,  the interdependence of decisions and the trend towards supra-national institutions, how realistic is it to think we can cling to idea of the sovereign state in the future if we indeed expect these institutions to operate effectively for the good of the whole planet? 

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