Three first ladies – what now?

Ok, we have a stalemate situation with two presidents and three first ladies (Gbagbo has two wives).

Gbagbo’s position rests on:

  • Control of the south of the country which harbours the majority of the population. Control of the institutions of the state in the south including the national tv RTI which serves as a propaganda tool for Gbagbo.
  • Support of the regular army. Yesterday the heads of the army showed the allegiance to Gbagbo on national tv.
  • An expectation that the UN will not intervene militarily against Gbagbo’s regime.  China or Russia could block such an intervention, and also offensive action against a de facto ruling president isn’t quite UN’s modus operandi.
  • An expectation that France will not intervene militarily. France knows that Gbagbo can play on anti-French sentiments and get lot of people out in the streets which made make an intervention difficult and problematic from a pr perspective.

Ouattara’s position rests on:

  • Control of the north of the country.
  • Unusually firm support from the international community including the US, the EU,  ECOWAS and the African Union. The only countries expressing direct support to Gbagbo are I believe Angola and Libya.
  • Hope that Gbagbo will be progressively more isolated, including losing support from the army.  On Bedie’s facebook page I read that according to a UN official more than half of the army and security forces voted for Ouattara.  I also read that they’ll try to get Gbagbo to leave peacefully using negotiations, and only call the people to rise up as a last resort.

Thabo Mbeki-Man

Now African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki should have landed in Abidjan. Last time he tried to mediate the rebel side refused to talk to him after a while saying he was pro-Gbagbo. With the AU supporting Ouattara, maybe Mbeki will be a different kind of mediator this time.

Either way, I have a hard time seeing Gbagbo just give up. It depends a bit on how he and his inner circle evaluates their own position, but in the elections they showed that they can over-estimate their strength.  I think Gbagbo’s short term situation is strong, I don’t think the international community will remove Gbagbo by force (would love to know what Sarkozy and Ouattara are saying to each other though), and I don’t see a pro-Ouattara mutiny happening in the army. Gbagbo probably doesn’t either.

On the longer term though, I don’t think Gbagbo is at all happy with becoming an international pariah, doing state visits to Harare instead of Paris, and possibly having sanctions targeting his inner circle. Sooner or later he might lose power and risk prosecution from the International Criminal Court.

So to avoid all that he might accept some sort of Mbeki brokered solution with a unity government with him as president and Ouattara as prime minister, just like in Kenya or Zimbabwe.

My hunch is that Ouattara wouldnt accept letting Gbagbo stay as president though. Ouattara is I think in a stronger position than Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe or Raila Odinga in Kenya under similar circumstances.

So my guess is that the stalemate might last for a while.

Twitter addressing the first lady situation

Comments on the first lady situation from twitter #civ2010:


#CIV2010 trois 1ere Dames : la journée c’est Simone, la nuit c’est Nady et pour Kener c’est Dominique

Ouattara's wife Dominique in Gbagbo's second wife Nadiana's village
All three plus Bedie's wife Henriette

UPDATE: The blog subsaharska has an insightful and funny article about current affairs in the Ivory Coast.

Quotes from subsaharska::

It’s pretty obvious that Gbagbo won’t back down short of someone putting a bullet in him.

Also don’t forget that there is already a very large UN peacekeeping force in the country that for once is having to earn its pay and not just be a “beachkeeping” mission, although those days in Bassamwere indeed nice.

Naturally, the rest of the world recognizes Ouattara as the winner (partially due to Gbagbo pissing off every potential international ally over the years)


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