Posted by: Martin | April 8, 2011

The Franc is mightier than the Kalashnikov

Gbagbo’s remaining forces in Abidjan

In Abidjan there are plenty of disorganised pro-Gbagbo militia armed with kalashnikovs, that seem to do more pillaging than fighting Ouattara’s forces. They are quite nasty, but I’m not excessively worried about them; with no Gbagbo arming and supporting them, Ouattara’s forces should, given some time, be able to stop their activities.

On the other hand, I was beginning to worry about all the seemingly well armed and well organised pro-Gbagbo forces controlling ground outside the encircled bunker/residence area where Gbagbo is holed up.  As long as these forces are active, there won’t be peace, and economic activity will not pick up easily.

Then it struck me that those fighting for Ouattara in the Republican Forces are getting paid (except volunteers), whereas those fighting for Gbagbo are not. And Ouattara’s PM Guillaume Soro just made a call to all members of Gbagbo’s army to join the Republican Forces.  That’s pretty strong economic incentives.

Central Bank vs Army     1 – 0

Before Ouattara’s offensive, I heard reports of Gbagbo’s Young Patriots militia fighting Gbagbo’s regular army over control of roadblocks which they say provided 100,000 CFA Franc per day in bribes/toll.  So that’s an indication of the power of economic incentives.

Actually economic might vs military might is a bit of a theme of this whole conflict.  Gbagbo’s goons could and did take over buildings of financial institutions and threatened bank employees to go to work, but never managed to get the financial system to work. And it looks like Gbagbo’s near-complete demise is much linked to him running out of money.

A Dictator’s miscalculation?

Still I don’t understand why Gbagbo didn’t take some of his most loyal forces from Abidjan and sent them to the frontline.  If they could stop Ouattara’s advance in Abidjan, I reckon they could have stopped it in Toulepleu as well.

Is this a typical dictator’s error due to overconfidence and being surrounded by yes-men, or did Gbagbo have a good reason or valid impediment not to mount a stronger resistance outside Abidjan? I don’t know.

What has come to light now is that UN’s weapons embargo seems to have been quite ineffective. Gbagbo was much better equipped in armament than what was thought, and Ouattara’s forces had a hard time countering Gbagbo’s heavier weapons (before they were destroyed by UN helicopters).

 

UPDATE: Today’s must reads are Venance Konan’s Op-ed in New York Times and Reuter’s Tim Cocks personal experience from staying in a hotel in Abidjan attacked by Gabgbo forces.

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Responses

  1. I actually heard from some sources, that there was real confidence that Tiebissou (between Bouake and Yamoussoukro) was well fortified and could resist an attack. When I went through two weeks ago there were some serious forces there and reportedly mercenaries as well.


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