As Ivory Coast stalemate worsens, so do the chances of military intervention
Although the West African regional body, ECOWAS, has threatened to use force to remove incumbent President Laurent Gbabgo, nobody wants to ignite a second civil war in Ivory Coast.
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Mr. Wade is a close ally of Alassane Outtara, the former International Monetary Fund economist that nearly every world leader recognizes as the clear winner of the Nov. 28 election. The Senegalese president even financed and twice hosted Outtara during the candidate's run.
Now, his communications adviser says Wade "is looking for an ensemble of countries that can do something about this."
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A crack in Outtara's strategy
Or at least Gbagbo is supposed to be weak: Outtara's masterplan was to fiscally starve Gbagbo out of power by blocking his access to the Dakar-based Central Bank where Ivory Coast's currency reserves are kept.
But that strategy seems to have sprung a leak.
"We have statistics showing daily withdrawals from Ivory Coast's account," Outtara's Development Minister Toikeusse Mabri told reporters in Dakar, Senegal on Friday.
Personal threats and attacks on Central Bank employees in Abidjan have led to unexplained activity on the country's account, Mr. Mabri said. His government – currently barricaded inside an Abidjan hotel that has to helicopter in everything from food to dry cleaning – is requesting a full bank statement, to be delivered today.
"What we have found is that not only has the account seen movement, but some commercial banks are implicated in measures that we could characterize as fraud," he added. "The system has been sidestepped. Checks from Ivoirian accounts have been deposited directly in a commercial bank. There's activity on a treasury bond that the system itself doesn't even recognize. There's been attempts to demand companies to pay their taxes in cash."
How long can it go on?
Under the circumstances, Gbagbo could last three months, Mabri said.
But beyond the ranks of Outtara's hotel government, observers are estimating that, between cocoa taxes, oil revenue, and plain-old extortion, Gbagbo's government might just be breaking even.
For 10 years, rebels and government soldiers alike profited from the cease-fire line, fringed with armed checkpoints that separated its Christian, wealthier south from the rural, poorer, Islamic north.
With ECOWAS's military option crumbling into non-committal statecraft – and Outtara's starve-'em-out strategy oozing money – it's plausible that Ivory Coast's cease-fire partition could continue to serve as another north-south groove in the geopolitical map; a limit, à la South Korea or South Sudan, where the international community's ability to impose democracy met its high watermark, and a stubborn, isolated autocracy found a way to hold on through the worst of times.