In case you have not heard, Cote D’Ivoire is in deep crisis. Two men both claim they won the November 28 presidential elections. Alassana Ouattara’s claim is backed by the United Nations, African Union, United States, France, European Union and the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS), among others. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, controls the military and is not giving up power.
Over the past week, the situation inched from mere political crisis to civil war. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says that at least 50 people were killed in clashes since Thursday. A UN Peacekeeping force has repelled numerous attacks against a hotel in Abidjan where Ouattara and his aids are holed up. Gbagbo’s forces seem to be blockading the hotel.
I recently spoke with Rinaldo Depagne, a West Africa expert with the International Crisis Group. I strongly urge people to have a listen to our brief conversation, in which Depagne distills some of the complexities of this crisis. Two of my biggest takeaways: 1) to be biting, sanctions have to target Gbagbo’s ability to pay his soldiers; 2) the UN peacekeeping mission must keep Ouatarra alive. His assassination would surely lead to full scale civil war. Have a listen.
UPDATE: The Security Council issued a presidential statement, read by Susan Rice:
Good afternoon, on behalf of the Security Council, I would like to read the following statement on Cote d’Ivoire:
The members of the Security Council after the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 1962 (2010), remain deeply concerned about the continued violence in Côte d’Ivoire, including armed attacks against the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and multiple civilian fatalities, many more wounded and even more being displaced across Côte d’Ivoire.
The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest terms acts of violence against UNOCI and recall its resolution 1502 (2003) on Protection of United Nations personnel, associated personnel and humanitarian personnel in conflict zones. The members of the Security Council warn all those responsible for attacks against peacekeepers and civilians that they will be held accountable and will be brought to justice, in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law.
The members of the Security Council urge all Ivorians to exercise maximum restraint, remain calm, resist provocative actions, refrain from violence, and work together to restore sustainable peace.
The members of the Security Council reiterate their support for the constructive role of the Secretary-General in Côte d’Ivoire and stress that UNOCI, under the leadership of his Special Representative, continues to fulfill impartially its existing mandate, and to facilitate political dialogue between the Ivorian stakeholders in order to ensure peace in Côte d’Ivoire and respect for the outcome of the Presidential election as recognized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union.
Later, Rice fielded a question from a reporter about reports of Liberian mercenaries being hired by Gbagbo. She said that should the reports be confirmed “It would be a source of grave concern, not only for the United States, but indeed, for the entire Security Council.”