Ivory Coast, Take Two

Africa's march toward democracy since the cold war has been slow and erratic. Fortunately, the continent's two giants, South Africa and Nigeria, created models for bringing about fairly elected governments.

Last week, Ivory Coast showed a new way for Africans to overthrow authoritarian leaders: a people's uprising.

The uprising was similar to those on other continents, such as the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic. A strongman is forced by domestic and international pressure to hold an election, and when his opponent appears to be winning he hijacks the vote. Protesters storm the government, the military turns, and the strongman flees.

That's how Laurent Gbagbo, a longtime opposition figure, became president of Ivory Coast last Thursday. At least he claims to be president.

Unfortunately, the election was greatly flawed. A politician who might have won, Alassane Ouattara, was banned from running; he's widely backed by the large Muslim minority.

In now saying no to a new election for president, Mr. Gbagbo has raised religious and ethnic tensions and damaged the very democracy he sought to restore. He should seek a new national mandate. Africa needs more models of integrity.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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