Africa has spoken – Gbagbo must go

The African continent, in particular the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), has demonstrated rare and much needed leadership in the wake of the political crisis in Ivory Coast.

Laurent Gbagbo is fighting a ­losing battle as the UN, the US and the European Union have all taken active steps to compel him to ­respect his country’s institutions and step aside, in favour of the democratically elected opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara.

Ecowas has even threatened military action, echoing the sentiment publicly expressed by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Progressive Africans all over the world must be saying, it is about time.

Gbagbo’s tactics in delaying elections for the past 10 years in that once-thriving country have come back to haunt him, and he has been undisputably rebuffed by the majority of Ivorians, who have elected a different leader.

Their choice must be respected, upheld and vigorously defended.

In his ongoing attempt to cling to power, Gbagbo has used former coloniser France as a bogeyman and called for some type of international mediation.

As we know, in Africa that means he is prepared to share power after an election contest he lost to someone else. Examples of this arrangement are sadly abundant on this continent, with Zimbabwe and Kenya ahead of the pack.

No one is surprised that Angola’s president-for-life, Eduardo dos Santos, is about the only African leader supporting Gbagbo. He has long been on the wrong side of ­history and there is no hope of ­redemption.

Such arrangements make a mockery of our democratic systems and ideals, and it is encouraging to see the Ivorians are ­determined to have none of it.

Gbagbo has also enlisted the help of American mercenaries in the form of ex-president Bill Clinton’s former staffers, Mike Espy and Lanny Davis, further wasting Ivorians’ hard-earned tax money.

Is it not ironic that US President Barack Obama calls Ecowas chairperson and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to offer the US’s assistance while two prominent lobbyists are all over TV in a foolish attempt to defend the indefensible?

I suppose for $100 000 (about R669 000) a month the lives of Ivorians easily become ­expendable. I doubt if Davis even knows where Africa is, much less how to pronounce Gbagbo’s name.

Perhaps having served on a prominent podium, as member of Clinton’s spinmeisters team, he is qualified to help fan the flames of civil war in an African country desperate for peace and stability.

As for Espy, defending African dictators isn’t exactly how the ­majority of African-Americans and the diaspora view their role in helping Africa out of the ditch.

Can anyone imagine an American lobbyist talking up Saddam Hussein to a White House in the middle of a war against his regime?

Hopefully after Ouattara is successfully installed as the legitimate leader of Ivory Coast, Gbagbo and the potheads around him will be fully held to account for post- election loss of life, hardship and displacement suffered by everyday Ivorians because of the intransigence of one man.

The money wasted needlessly, such as the payment to Espy and Davis, should be recovered from Gbagbo’s personal wealth and returned to the national purse.

It is justice not retribution, and a red light to any leader ever contemplating the privatisation or incorporation of a country and the government because of a selfish and insatiable appetite for eternal power.

And shame on the US justice ­department for granting official permission to American citizens to pillage a struggling African country in order to feed their expensive personal habits.

On the whole, Africa’s response to this crisis, albeit slow and insufficient, must be acknowledged and supported.

It is the right thing to do, for us and by us, and we agree with Obama: “Africa needs strong institutions, not strongmen.”

»? Ngwepe is a businessman and former diplomat

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