Ivory Coast standoff: Hit Gbagbo where it hurts -- take away the power of the purse
Tensions are escalating in Ivory Coast, where President Laurent Gbagbo refuses to yield power to President-elect Alassane Ouattara. The international community's coordinated economic pressures hold the most hope for peacefully ousting Mr. Gbagbo and prevent mounting violence. Where diplomatic efforts have fallen short, cutting off Gbagbo's funds may turn his allies against him.
Laurent Gbagbo, the self-proclaimed winner of Ivory Coast’s Nov. 2010 presidential election, is known to his countrymen and others as “le boulanger” – the baker – because he emerges as the victor against his many opponents by rolling them in the flour or, to put it another way, by outwitting and outmaneuvering them. Is the international community the next to be rolled?Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Ivory Coast unrest
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Politicians and diplomats the world over are working overtime to craft a peaceful solution to the stand-off between Mr. Gbagbo and the man whom the international community recognizes as the Ivory Coast’s duly elected president, Alassane Ouattara. Much is at stake. Gbagbo (who's held office since 2000) refuses to yield power, a power-sharing deal seems out of the question, tens of thousands are voting with their feet by fleeing the country, and the remnants of democracy in this nation are fast eroding.
Most of the ingredients of the international community’s own recipes for resolution, however, do not appear at the present time to suit Gbagbo’s tastes. Military and political options – either in combination of alone – lack the necessary yeast to lift Gbagbo from power. But if coordinated economic pressures are handled just right, they may comprise the recipe that gets the baker out of the kitchen for good. If successful, this approach also documents a recipe to use on other autocratic power-mongers, unmoved by previous actions or enticement.
Political and military pressures alone won't work
Some recipes applied to the Ivory Coast, such as that solution proffered initially by the US, have emphasized one ingredient – a political one. It involved appointing Gbagbo to a high-level position in an international organization or giving him asylum in the US. However, in keeping with his persona as the baker, Gbagbo will probably not consider the US offer very seriously because he will probably feel that it does not serve his short or long-term interests, and it is not of his own design. To prove the point, Gbagbo has been happy to let the White House’s telephone calls go to voice mail.
Other recipes, however, such as the one developed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), rely on using a blend of key ingredients: political incentives, military threats, and economic and financial penalties. Yet of these, neither the political nor the military option is likely to motivate Gbagbo to step down.