As you probably are aware there is a political crisis in Cote D’Ivoire. And it would appear that, as of today, Cote D’Ivoire has begun the transition from political crisis to civil war.
The backstory: Late last month, both candidiates for president –the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and challenger Alassane Ouattara — declared victory in elections monitored by the United Nations. Cote D’Ivoire’s National Election Commission certified Ouatarra as the victor. The African Union, Economic Community of West African States, France, the United States, European Union and United Nations agreed and are backing Ouatarra. That has not stopped Gbango from pulling what Penelope described as a “classic strongman move.” He is refusing to step aside.
Developments today would seem to indicate that Cote D’Ivoire is no longer experiencing a political crisis–but a war.
There has been violence throughout the capital Abidjan since the elections. Gbango controls most of the military, and units from a 9,000 strong UN peacekeeping force are repelling attacks against a hotel where Ouatarra and his inner circle are holed up. This includes, as of today, heavy artillery fire around the hotel.
Elsewhere, Ouattara’s supporters heeded his call and took to the streets to sieze government buildings occupied by Gbango’s forces. It would appear that Ouattara’s supporters are heavily outgunned (most reports suggest, in fact, that they are unarmed protesters) and have been repelled. Reports indicate a steady stream of gunfire can be heard throughout the city today. The U.S. Embassy was even hit by an errent Rocket Propelled Grenade.
Beyond the capital of Abidjan, Reuters is reporting that heavy fighting has broken out along a line that separates the Gbango controlled south and former rebel territory held by forces loyal to Ouattara in the North.
So, it would appear that Cote D’Ivoire has exploded into violence today. As this video from France 24 explains, aside from protect Outarra, there is very little that the 9,000 peacekeepers can do to maintain peace throughout the country.
So what can be done? It seems to me like this is one of the rare occasions in which it may be acceptable for the Security Council to authorize a multinational force to intervene. Presumably Europe would be in the lead, and the force would have a mandate to protect civilians and ensure compliance with the internationally recognized election results.
The humanitarian costs of inaction may too high.