Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo wins (1)

Time to tackle this one.

We have seen this before.

A republic holds presidential elections. Someone wins – someone else loses. If the opposition candidate loses, he’ll shout “fraud” and “rigged” but will, most likely, cut his losses, move on and try again. That’s the Cellou Dalein Diallo approach. He lost last year’s contest in Guinea, declared he was unhappy with the outcome but would accept it. He is busy readying his party for the upcoming legislative elections because he intends to fight the winner, Alpha Condé, from Parliament. (Next week, I will (finally!) be travelling through his home area and catch the prevailing mood.)

If the incumbent loses, there are various scenarios. Some, as in Ghana, Mali and Zambia accept their loss and move on. But there are others who want to perform, what one may term, “a Mugabe” on their countries. There are variations to this plan of action but in essence it means: do absolutely everything to stay in power. After all, you will be safe in the knowledge that at the end of the day, no-one will stop you.

Laurent Gbagbo and his clan are currently in the business of “doing a Mugabe” on their country, Côte d’Ivoire. The parallels are striking. Like its counterpart in Zimbabwe, the Gbagbo clan

…Sits atop a large and well-organised political machine (Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Popular Front) – Front Populaire Ivoirien, even the names are the same), whose express purpose it is…not to contest elections but to win them

…Has considerable popular support but this may not be enough to win elections every single time. After all, political sands do shift from time to time. So the clan…

…Participates in elections but has absolutely no intention of accepting the results if they go against it

…Has a war chest of considerable size, in case things do not go the way of the clan. This war chest permits them to pay those who are keeping them in power (see below). The war chest is filled through looting – principally their own country – and donations from friendly rulers with track records they can relate to and preferably a lot of oil money (Angola, Venezuela, Libya)

…Resorts to asset stripping and seizing profitable economic activity if the war chest shows sings of distress (banks and cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire; diamonds and the 51% indigenous (read: clan) business ownership rule in Zimbabwe)

…Has three essential pillars in place that allows the clan to stay put if it has run out of sufficient political support: propaganda, intimidation and violent repression.

1. State-owned media become relentless propaganda machines. In Zimbabwe, the Herald newspaper and theZBC (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation) can be relied upon to obediently and dutifully copy the output emanating from the president’s office and/or the minister of information; in Côte d’Ivoire that role is played by the television signals and the website of RTI, Radiodiffusion et Télévision Ivoirienne). Invariably, some of the propaganda has xenophobic overtones: in Zimbabwe, the official fingers jab constantly at “The British” and occasionally Indians – in other words: everyone who does not look sufficiently African. In Côte d’Ivoire, the principal targets are the neighbours, mostly Burkinabé (portrayed as “mercenaries” or “rebels”) and sometimes the French. Pogroms are common.

Which brings us to number 2.

Green Bombers

2. Vigilante groups are turned loose on the streets. They have an unspoken but well-understood mandate to harass, brutalise and kill those who are perceived to be on the side of “the enemy” (Zimbabwe had its war veterans and its Green Bombers, young thugs trained (frequently against their will, by the way) to brutalise the people in special camps; Côte d’Ivoire relies on its Jeune Patriotes, led by Street general Charles Blé Goudé, who has recently enjoined the youths to join the army. This, incidentally, ties in very well with a mini-series I ran here, called “Relentless Trends”. It’s simply the latest version of how a society, any society, makes use of a surplus of young men that are idle and without a future: send them to war. And so, on to 3.

Jeune Patriote

3. The army (and if need be praetorian guards and other militias) are used to suppress any popular challenge to clan rule. These troops are there to kill. Unarmed civilians, real soldiers, it makes very little difference.


Anyone inside and outside the country who calls the clan on its behaviour will be called a stooge of the West, a spy, or member of a conspiracy at the behest of the former colonial power. This gives the vigilantes and repression forces the mandate to pursue and preferably kill the owners of the offending opinions. Some publicists who fancy themselves “intellectuals”, or worse, “journalists” are perfectly happy to justify extrajudicial killings and mass violence against unarmed civilians, as long as their right-on anti-imperialist credentials remain intact. Not infrequently they vent their considered opinions from the comfort and safety of homes located in these vile imperialist hellholes.

Alright, so what does all this have to do with the title of this piece? Simple – the method works. Would the other side be any better? Doubtful. More anon.


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One Response to “Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo wins (1)”

  1. Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo wins (2) « Bram Posthumus – Yoff Tales Says:

    […] Bram Posthumus – Yoff Tales from my street in Yoff, Dakar, Senegal and far beyond…. « Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo wins (1) […]

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