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OPINION: US offer of asylum for Ivory Coast's Gbabgo reveals outdated foreign policy

The Obama administration's efforts to get incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo to step down after a disputed Nov. 28 poll reflects an ossified view of African politics, writes guest blogger G. Pascal Zachary.

By G. Pascal ZacharyGuest blogger / January 2, 2011



The Obama administration’s approach to Ivory Coast's incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, based on reporting from The New York Times, suggests that US officials are caught in a time warp. They’re behaving as if it is the 1990s, and their object is to induce former dictator Joseph Désiré Mobuto from power in the Congo. The proffer of “asylum” in the US – or a plum posting with an international agency — has the ring of lunacy about it, as if the administration was mistaking Mr. Gbagbo for former Liberian Preisdent Charles Taylor, former Zambian President Kenneth Kuanda, or even current Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe.

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Gbagbo may possess many flaws, but he is not in need of asylum or an international job for which he neither suited professionally nor temperamentally. Nor will comical offers of relocating him to the US induce him to leave Ivory Coast. Gbagbo might indeed be wondering who is crazier, him or the US officials assigned to oversee his exit from office.

His defiant response to foreign criticism is thus no crazier than the American conception of his exit. In his address on the eve of 2011, Gbagbo said the pressure for him to quit amounted to “an attempted coup d’etat carried out under the banner of the international community”.

To be sure, Gbagbo must go; not in a coup d’etat, but in a legal, necessary and inevitable transfer of power. But once out of power, Gbagbo should be free to choose where he wishes to live, and even include Ivory Coast on the list of his future domiciles.

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