North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ivory Coast election ends in two swear-ins

The two self-sworn-in Ivory Coast Presidents, Laurent Gbagbo - left, and Alassane Ouattara - right.

In contrast to the recent blog about a small positive step forward in Guinean governance, another West African nation is descending into further chaos from its recent national elections.

The Ivory Coast (Republic of Côte d'Ivoire) was once considered a promising African nation after its independence from France in 1960. Through production of coffee and cocoa, the country was an economic powerhouse during the 1960s and 1970s, but went through an economic crisis in the 1980s, leading to a long period of political and social turmoil and decline. It has experienced two coups d’état (1999 and 2001) and a 5-year long civil war from 2002 to 2007. The country in those years became divided along ethnic lines North and South, with the Northern half of the country controlled by the "New Forces."

The country divided partly along ethnic lines, but often fueled by former colonial patterns of patronage

The incumbent President, and leading candidate in the 2010 election, Laurent Gbagbo, first became the nation's president in 2000, and held the position through the civil war and the post war political arrangement. His main electoral rival then and now, Alassane Ouattara, was disqualified in 2000 by the country's Supreme Court due to his alleged Burkinabé nationality.

According to Wikipedia, Gbagbo's original mandate as president expired on October 30, 2005, but due to the lack of disarmament in the ongoing civil war it was deemed impossible to hold an election, and therefore his term in office was extended for a maximum of one year, according to a plan worked out by the African Union; this plan was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.

A peace accord between the government and the rebels, or New Forces, was signed on March 4, 2007, and an agreement was reached among the rival parties to proceed with elections but were postponed numerous times due to delays in its preparation.

Elections were finally held in 2010. The first round of elections were held peacefully, and widely hailed as free and fair. Runoffs were held late November 28, 2010, with Laurent Gbagbo as president running against Alassane Ouattara, himself a former Prime Minister from 1990 - 1993. On 2 December, the Electoral Commission declared that Ouattara had won the election by a margin of 54% to 46%. In response, the Gbagbo-aligned Constitutional Council rejected the declaration. Gbago's government announced that country's border's had been sealed.

Mr Gbagbo, who has the backing of the head of the country's armed forces, was sworn in for a third term in office at the presidential palace on Friday. But within hours, Mr Ouattara was himself sworn in at his Abidjan hotel. Ouattara immediately re-appointed Guillaume Soro as his prime minister. Mr Soro had tendered his resignation in Mr Gbagbo's administration just hours earlier. Mr Soro - who is the head of the New Forces rebels in the north - has warned that overturning the results threatens to derail attempts to stabilise and reunify the country after the 2002 civil war.

So, two men, each having held the Presidency or Prime Minister position before, are both declaring themselves winners, regardless of the effect on the country's future. While the UN and most Western nations believe Ouattara is the legitimate winner, Gbagbo is not budging. The situation is so serious that South African former leader Thabo Mbeki has arrived in the country to attempt to mediate a way through the standoff.

Mbeki arrives at Bouake airport

Ghosts of the 2002 civil war now loom over this once promising nation, which provided a recent positive image with its soccer team in the World Cup.

The Ivory Coast orange football squad was popular in the World Cup

Cocoa beans have long been an export staple of the Ivory Coast

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