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Cote d'Ivoire's story.

Tom Mbakwe's attempt at telling "The story behind the story" (New African, February) in Cote d'Ivoire frustrates the reader seeking a balanced view on how the country arrived at the North/South divide, and the political stalemate there following the presidential run-off elections. Mbakwe argues that the Colonial Pact, in which France still controls and manipulates Francophone Africa, is the missing factor neglected in the international reportage of the crisis.

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The avante garde challenge of Laurent Gbagbo to the Pact is proffered as the actual reason for his not standing down, and, since the French would not have it, Gbagbo thus becomes the victim of his principled defence of the sovereignty of Cote d'Ivoire, while Alassane Ouattara is the stooge that the French would foist on Ivorians.

Rooted in truth though "the French problem" may be, Mbakwe paints an incomplete picture when he fails to mention the circumstances in which Gbagbo came into power and what he has done, or not done, to heal the wounds and unite the Ivorian people. Gbagbo rose to the presidency in 2000 in the wake of political turmoil fomented by an ideological campaign that suggested some citizens were more Ivorian than others. Ivoirite, as the ideology is known, is Afro-fascism at worst or national chauvinism at best.

Obviously Gbagbo is not the creator of Ivoirite, but neither has he been seen to do anything to end it. Alassane Ouattara--whose father is allegedly Burkinabe--has been tarred and feathered as not having "a true Ivorian identity". For Ivorians, and especially the millions who support Ouattara, this is a rude reminder of those controversial 2000 elections, when Ouattara was barred for not being Ivorian enough. Maybe Gbagbo and his like need to look at neighbouring Ghana--if the United States is too fat away from view--to appreciate that someone can become president of a country even when their father is from another country. If that is not convincing enough, they should remind themselves that the father of the chairperson of the all-important African Union Commission is from a totally different race and continent.

Could it not be that all these claims of electoral fraud are still Gbagbo's inability to come to terms with Ouattara's true Ivorian identity? Colonialism, neocolonialism and outright racism will remain justifiable explanations for the ills of Africa for a long time, and the Colonial Pact makes the culprit more obvious in Francophone countries.

Yet, in the grand design of power relations, the West will continue to exploit or seek to exploit vulnerable countries in Africa and elsewhere for their own ends. To expect otherwise is to live in a fool's paradise and Gbagbo is no fool. The task for Africa and Africans is to rise up and pull together in defence of their own patch, so when Gbagbo challenges French vested interests in his own country and calls for redress of the obnoxious Pact he is doing the tight thing.

What is not the right thing to do is to do nothing about Ivoirite, and worse still to exploit it for self-serving political ends. African judgement will rightly remain harsh on colonialism and neo-colonialism, but the harshest criticism is deserved by Africans, who come in the name of the people only to turn around and pose as some indispensable messiahs with very little respect for the will of the people.

Needless to say, democracy is what is at stake in Cote d'Ivoire right now, and must remain at the centre of public focus and discussion until reason comes to bear on intransigence and self-righteousness.

Samwin John Banienuba

Liverpool, UK
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Title Annotation:Readers' views
Author:Banienuba, Samwin John
Publication:New African
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Apr 1, 2011
Words:597
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