Motto: Protecting civilians by bombing the side we ‘don’t like’ when they are attacked by the side we ‘like’.

While this is going on:

… the United States is constructing, not in Lagos or in Accra, but in Abidjan, a surveillance centre covering all of sub-Saharan Africa, along with the most significant diplomatic representation in Africa south of the Sahara after South Africa. (Maurice Fahe)

French soldiers are shown patrolling as part of the French Force Licorne in Port Bouet district of Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Saturday.

There is no honest argument that justifies military support to either side in Côte d’Ivoire. Despite the story spread by the French and the Americans that Ouattara won, they call him the “internationally recognized” winner, the only truth in that comes from the constant repetition.

Here is the sequence of events regarding the Ivoirian election as I understand it.

It is not possible to determine who really won the election.

The AU observer mission said the Ivory Coast elections were not credible, and documented why.

European and American observers starting spreading stories that the African observers were not credible.

Youssouf Bakayoko, the President of the Electoral Commission, failed to announce the preliminary results within the constitutionally stipulated 72-hour period.

The French and US ambassadors escorted Youssouf Bakayoko, without the other members of the Electoral Commission, to the hotel that was Ouattara’s headquarters to announce Ouattara had won the election.

This announcement was made to the French media only, no Ivoirian media were present.

According to the Ivoirian constitution the Electoral Commission announces the preliminary results only, the official results are declared by the Constitutional Council.

The Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner.

Mr. Choi, the UN Representative, publicly disowned the results of the Constitutional Council by “certifying” that the winner of the election was Mr. Ouattara.

Then 5 out of 15 ECOWAS heads of state voted for military intervention.

General Hogg from AFRICOM visited Ghana and other countries of West Africa early this year trying to get Ghana involved in a military action in Ivory Coast.

Where Mr. Choi got the authority for that certification remains a mystery. He took it upon himself to override the constitution of a sovereign country. It looks like he was acting on instructions of the French and the US. The supposed win of Ouattara is a creation of the French and US ambassadors. The media have faithfully parroted that message. The AU observer mission said the elections were not credible. The Ivoirian Constitutional Council, the only body, according to the Ivoirian constitution, with authority to declare election results, announced Gbagbo as the winner.

Both leaders enjoy significant support and their supporters genuinely believe that others seek to cheat them out of deserved victory. The imposition of either leader on Ivoirians will escalate the conflict. And we are seeing that happen. Even assuming Gbagbo is ousted in the next day or two, the reprisals will continue.

You can see expanded information on this sequence of events, with sources and links, in my earlier post Côte d’Ivoire – Military Intervention Vs Constitutional Legitimacy

As ThePaper commented at MoA:

And meanwhile the French are still promising a fast outcome out of the Ivory Coast mess. Another UN/French successful peacemaking effort. No neocolonial games being played here either. We are a neutral force, it’s not like both sides and have a proved record of ‘respecting’ human rights and law. We are there to protect civilians … by bombing the side we ‘don’t like’ while they are being attacked by the side we ‘like’. You see if we kill enough people fast enough it will end sooner and less civilians will end dying … at least until the civil war reignites in a couple weeks or months.

That effort is well underway:

France intervenes in Ivory Coast’s civil war
By Ann Talbot
7 April 2011
In the last 24 hours, France has directly intervened in the fighting in Ivory Coast as it seeks to reassert its control over its former colony.

French helicopters bombarded forces loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday afternoon, ground forces loyal to rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara were unleashed in an assault on the presidential residence. Nonetheless, as of late last night, Ouattara’s troops had retreated after a failed assault on the bunkers where Gbagbo is thought to be hiding.

Ivory Coast’s long-standing military standoff between Ouattara’s northern forces and Gbagbo loyalists has flared since the disputed November 28 presidential election. France and the NATO powers recognized Ouattara as the winner of the election.

French representatives negotiated with Gbagbo through Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The talks finally broke down in the afternoon and pro-Ouattara forces launched what they described as the “final assault” on the presidential residence. Their intention, they said, was to “fetch him out” of his bunker. The intensity of the fighting was shown by reports that windows had been blown out of the embassies in the diplomatic district.

A terrified resident speaking over the phone told Reuters, “The fighting is terrible here. The explosions are so heavy my building is shaking. We can hear automatic gunfire and also heavy weapons. There’s shooting all over the place. Cars are speeding in all directions and so are the fighters”.

A military spokesman denied that French armed forces were involved in the fighting. But residents reported seeing French tanks on the streets. UN helicopters were seen flying over the presidential residence as the fighting raged.

Video from several miles away shows huge explosions rocking the city of Abidjan, home to four million people. Missiles can be seeing flying past the camera suggesting that a munitions dump was hit. What the scale of damage was closer to the barracks is still unknown, but one resident reported that a rocket had gone through the roof of a house, killing three people.

The leader of the United Nations team in Ivory Coast (UNOCI), Hamadoun Toure, was already briefed to expect a rapid denouement when he spoke to the BBC’s Today programme on Wednesday morning.

“We hope to find a solution very, very soon, so that it will be the end of the game,” he said.

Edouard Guillaud of the French armed forces expressed a similar view later in the day. He told Europe 1 Radio that Gbagbo would go soon: “I believe it is a matter of hours, possibly during the day”.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told Reuters, “The negotiations which were carried out for hours yesterday between the entourage of Laurent Gbagbo and Ivorian authorities have failed because of Gbagbo’s intransigence”.

Gbagbo had reportedly insisted that he should be allowed to remain in Ivory Coast and that he be given UN protection. Though Gbagbo won almost half the vote in November’s election, according to international observers, these demands were apparently unacceptable to France.

France’s intervention shatters all the French government’s claims that its role in Ivory Coast was that of a bystander seeking to protect the population from harm. Instead, it is acting with the support of the US government to violently assert Western imperialist interests—in Ivory Coast and internationally.

France’s role in Ivory Coast has been praised by Washington. President Barack Obama welcomed the role of the French and UN forces and called on Gbagbo to step down.

“To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former President Gbagbo must stand down immediately, and direct those who are fighting on his behalf to lay down their arms”, Obama said. “I strongly support the role that United Nations peacekeepers are playing as they enforce their mandate to protect civilians, and I welcome the efforts of French forces who are supporting that mission”.

Since the start of the conflict in Ivory Coast, Paris and Washington have turned a blind eye to more substantial massacres of civilians by supporters of Ouattara—including one of up to 1,000 people in a single village. (See, “Civilians massacred by Western-backed forces in Ivory Coast”)

This is part of a broader explosion of French militarism in Africa. President Nicolas Sarkozy also led the way in calling for a no-fly zone in Libya. France was the first to recognize the Transitional National Council based in Benghazi as the rightful government of Libya. This has set a pattern for France in relation to Ivory Coast. France and Nigeria drafted UN resolution 1975, which gives UNOCI a mandate to protect civilians. It was drawn up on the same lines as the resolution that allowed NATO jets to attack military Libyan military positions.

Within days of the Ivory Coast resolution being agreed, France and UNOCI went into action in Abidjan. They bombarded the palace and presidential residence as well as Akueodo and Agban barracks on Tuesday. They justified their action by claiming that pro-Gbagbo forces had used heavy artillery against civilians.

The UN resolution did not authorize the French to attack, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote to Sarkozy to request French help. “It is urgent to launch necessary military operations to put out of action the heavy arms which have been used against the civilian population and the peacekeepers”, Ban Ki-moon said.

Gbagbo has in the past worked closely with Paris. He has whipped up ethnic and communal hostilities in an attempt to remain in power, targeting immigrant labourers who came to Ivory Coast from neighbouring Burkina Faso in the 1960s and 1970s as scapegoats as the economy has declined. This lay the basis for a protracted conflict with Ouattara, a northerner whom he excluded from the 2000 presidential elections, claiming that Ouattara’s parents were not born in Ivory Coast.

Paris recognised Gbagbo’s election at the time, even though he had excluded Ouattara, because he had close connections with then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and France’s Socialist Party.

Gbagbo’s relations with France deteriorated, however, when he blocked French attempts to impose a power-sharing regime that would include northerners to end the civil war. Gbagbo broke a cease-fire in 2004 and launched a military assault on the north, during which a French base was hit. Paris responded by destroying the entire Ivorian air force.

When crowds came out onto the streets of Abidjan to protest this action, French helicopters dropped tear gas and concussion grenades on them, armoured cars took up positions on the bridges and gunboats patrolled the river underneath them.

The arrogant way in which France has asserted its authority in this situation underscores its continuing imperialist oppression of its former colony. Ivory Coast was granted formal independence along with the rest of French West Africa in 1960. However, France has always retained a troop presence in Ivory Coast under the terms of a military agreement signed in 1961.

Neither Gbagbo nor Ouattara appears likely to bring any good to Ivory Coast. But that is not for people outside the Ivory Coast to judge or determine.

Kwesi Pratt maintains that Gbagbo is president according to the Ivoirian constitution. When you look at the sequence of events above, that makes sense. Pratt has recommended negotiation and new elections.

Speaking on Radio Gold, an Accra based radio station, Kwasi Pratt Jnr expressed fears that the attack may be aimed at something more apocalyptic than the surrender of Gbagbo. “The attacks were aimed at killing the legitimate president of Ivory Coast,” he said. “This is an act of barbarism which must be condemned by all citizens of the world. The French have no mandate to assassinate any president anywhere in the world.”

There is no justification for military interference except to further colonial control and imperial ambitions. For those, military invasion works very well.


Added April 15:
From Inner City Press:

UNITED NATIONS, April 13 — French government memos obtained by Inner City Press reflect, as far back as 2005, France and the UN wanted to “put in place a plan of action to destablize Laurent Gbagbo.” See document here, under the rubric “From New York: Departure of Gbagbo.”

The French were monitoring, to say the least, plans for a coup d’etat against Gbagbo, that would result in Gbagbo’s “displacement” outside of Cote d’Ivoire. See document here.

France’s internal reporting on military forces and leaders in Cote d’Ivoire is here.

Also obtained by Inner City Press is the French analysis of the “failure” of African leaders Tandja, Mbeki of South Africa and Obasanjo of Nigeria — later given UN mandates and pay elsewhere. Click here and here for French analyses of the three heres, and here again for a French memo on the intentions of Guillaume Soro, referring to another childhood friend of Gbagbo and his “ethnie Bete” — Bete ethnicity.

After Inner City Press’ publication on April 8 of the first installment in this series, which endeavors to use primary documents as background to recent action in Cote d’Ivoire — as well as to question why a French diplomat, Romain Serman, arrested in New York for attempt purchase of cocaine and resisting arrest, has resurfaced as France’s general consul in San Francisco

Human rights advocate and former ambassador Craig Murray has this to say about Ouattara:
Truth and Ivory Coast

This is the fundamental flaw in liberal interventionism. It inevitably leads to the imposition of governments like the ultra-corrupt coastal elite of Sierra Leone, like Bosnian and Albanian gangster mafias or like Alassane Ouattara. … The essential advice is simple. Follow the money.

Now we must not make the reverse error of glorifying the Gbagbo side. Gbagbo clung to office and postponed elections too long. He played the ethnic card. He indulged in nepotism. His forces killed the innocent. He was one of those noble and longstanding opposition figures who becomes something of a nightmare in power. His side cheated, beat and intimidated just as much as Ouattara’s side in elections which it is farcical to claim were free, fair and properly administered, or were any kind of realistic guide to the will of the people of a deeply riven state. I hope that Gbagbo is decently treated, but do not regret his loss of power.

The massacre of 800 people at Duekoue a fortnight ago is thankfully extremely rare, and was without doubt committed by Ouattara mobilised militias. …

Consider this about Ouattara. He was Prime Minister to a truly dreadful African despot, Houphouet-Boigny, who was dictator of Ivory Coast for 33 years. Houphouet-Boigny moved the capital to his home village and spent US$300 million on building the world’s largest church there. He looted US$9 billion from the people of Ivory Coast. Ouattara was his ally, his finance minister then prime minister, and has never disavowed him. …

But also Houphouet-Boigny and Ouattara’s Ivory Coast was the base for both French military and CIA operations throughout the continent and for promoting the very worst kind of western interests – which is why Africans view with huge suspicion Ouattara’s instalment by Western forces.

Ivory Coast was allied to apartheid South Africa and was the sanctions busting capital of Africa. Vast amounts of goods, including but not limited to oil, were consigned to Ivory Coast on their papers and trans-shipped to the apartheid regime to bust sanctions. Ivory Coast also provided all the logistic back-up to Jonas Savimbi and UNITA and it was in Abidjan that the CIA and apartheid regime worked together to promote the terrible Angolan civil war.

It was also in Abidjan that the CIA organised the coup that overthrew Kwame Nkrumah and planned the death of Patrice Lumumba. …

Ouattara became head of the african department and deputy managing director of the IMF in the 1980s when that organisation was forcing disastrous structural adjustment programmes all over the continent. African nations were forced to liberalise, reduce tariffs and open up their economies when no such constraints were placed on the developing nations with which they were trading. To give just one example of how this worked, which I personally tried but failed to counter: Nigeria was forced by the IMF to reduce tariffs on imported sugar. The EU then flooded Nigeria with millions of tons of sugar, at one third of the cost of its production, with the remaining two thirds paid to European farmers as export subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy. Nigeria’s sugar plantations – which were actually very efficient – collapsed under the unfair subsidised competition from which Nigeria was not allowed to protect them. That was Ouattara. France was very happy with him.

So not only does Ouattara need to heal the deep divisions in his own population, he has to prove to the rest of Africa he is not just a western tool.