Rebuilding Côte d'Ivoire and Libya

2011-04-12 00:00

THE efforts to remove from power president Laurent Gbagbo, who is refusing to hand over power to his rival in Côte d'Ivoire, and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, who is facing the strongest rebellion since his rise to power through a coup four decades ago, are taking longer than anticipated to produce the expected results.

Even if these goals are accomplished, it is going to take double the international efforts to build viable and democratic states thereafter. But what would constitute such efforts? And who should be responsible? What role should South Africa play?

Gbagbo refused to hand over power to the United Nations-recognised winner of the presidential runoff elections in November, Alassane Ouattara, sparking a post-election crisis. This anti-democratic tendency undermines the very letter and spirit of the new African ethos: the promotion of stability, democracy and good governance through peer review, injunctions against unconstitutional changes of power and the charter on democracy and governance in Africa. It is also a setback for the process of freeing people from the trap of poverty, underdevelopment and oppression through the promotion of comprehensive human rights.

The wave of revolutions by the people of North Africa that began as 2011 dawned sent the strongest signal that even in the most controlled countries ruled by strong dictators, Africans are able to express their democratic will through the force of their numbers on the street. This is perhaps the most important impetus for the long-elusive democratisation process in North Africa to date. Active citizenship is a central tenet of social democracy as it means citizens refuse to be ruled by a clique of elite interests at will, but want to be involved in their governments.

However, the outcomes of the fall of strongmen, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia, are no longer certain as the militaries, which are not known for their democratic credentials, have filled the power vacuums there. Citizens should, therefore, press on until democratic outcomes are realised.

The rebellion in Libya made significant ground, taking city after city in a matter of days in a triumphant march west to Tripoli, but Libyan forces repelled them and triggered a security stalemate. The intervention of Western military powers under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) has been trying to weaken Gaddafi's side in favour of a rebel takeover of the government. This has not been successful and as a result the rebel advance has been reversed to a large measure. Nato intervention has been weakened by a lack of leadership since the United States moved to the back of command order, leaving France exposed for its lack of decisive power and capacity given its involvement in Côte d'Ivoire also.

Gaddafi and Gbagbo remain resolutely committed to winning the war both on the field and in the public mind, especially in Africa and the Middle East. But they are severely weakened having lost significant military capacity, political legitimacy and support from the African Union (AU). In Libya, the AU panel of five presidents, previously blocked by Nato from entering Libya to kick-start a political dialogue to find a political solution to the conflict, has now been allowed to continue and has met both sides. Prospects of a political settlement are ironically bolstered by the civil war and Nato interventions of the recent past. In Côte d'Ivoire, it seems the situation is also ripe for a political solution.

So, to some extent we are back to square one: the original AU position that political solutions are the way to go. Of course, these political settlements are made even more attractive and easier by the impact of military action on both sides. In Côte d'Ivoire, the basis for such a settlement is that Ouattara will lead an inclusive government. In Libya, while there will be a settlement providing space for rebels, it is not that clear what the framework will be.

Whatever the outcomes of these processes, the new leaders will have to rebuild countries ravaged by war, revamp battered economies, integrate combatants and redeem the image of their countries internationally. South Africa and the AU should encourage the international community and the UN to intensify efforts to rebuild these countries once agreements have been reached in order to ensure that there are no reversals.

• Siphamandla Zondi is the executive director of the Institute for Global Dialogue, but writes in his personal capacity.

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