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Coup in Cote d'Ivoire and its implications for democracy in Africa

As the world speaks in terms of the democratic future and digital technologies, why did
Gen. Robert Guei make Africa the laughing stock of the world by closing this year of 1999 with the negative news and event of yet another military coup? As a student of political science and recent history of Africa, I'm not idealistic to the facts and realities of why, when and how military coups happen in Africa. To be sure, Bedie did not represent all the virtues of a true democrat. With the active support of his party, he abused the human rights of some of his political opponents. Hence, the issue is not a debate about why and whether coups happen. The danger and critical issue is this: when coups happen, how should pro-democracy forces confront and overcome the thugs who seize power for many self-serving reasons? Therefore, the challenge for pro-democracy forces is to draw a line in the sand to oppose military interventions. But who will struggle for and return democracy to Cote d'Ivoire? How it is answered, when and how democracy is returned to my beloved Ivorian friends and brethrens (who saved and kept thousands of my kith and kin when it mattered most in 1970), will be a good indicator and measure of where Africa and Africans want to be in the 21st century.


Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston - www.USAfricaonline.com

Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) has taken a backward slide to the barracks; besmirching what had been an immaculate record for the beautiful and French-speaking west African country of almost 20 million people. For decades, since it achieved political independence from France in 1960, the country then led by the legendary Houphouet Boigny was oft cited as a model of calm and stability in Africa. General Robert Guei, who staged the pre-Christmas military coup has began a campaign to "entrench" his seizure of state power even as the international community condemns his junta's action of Friday December 24, 1999.

Amidst the conflict and struggle for supremacy, Guei asserted that "Power is in my hands. I will take care of everybody." Without a doubt, such personalization of power; such arrogation to having the security and interests of all "in my hands" is largely symptomatic of the fatal philosophical flaws of military rule and similar emanations of autocracy. We've seen the results of personalization of authoirty: law and order become apparitions of justice and fairness; accountability become like distant tunes sung in planet Mars for citizens of planet Earth. The Central Bank governors of the countries under military and autocratic rule are transformed into the personal exchequers of the man who, like the late Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha, had state power "in my hands."

Guei's initial pronouncements have returned the spectre of ruling by private wishes and whim of the officer-in-charge. Little wonder that the ousted president Bedie's first reaction to Guei's military coup strongly stated that "The nitwit who has proclaimed himself president of the republic has dissolved the National Assembly. This is unacceptable."

It is important to seek an additional understanding of the context and dynamics of power in recent Cote d'Ivoire. Before then, let's stipulate the fact that scarcity of basic resources for Ivorians and increasing break down in law and order served to make it easier for Guei to make his move in the predominantly Catholic nation.

Second, Bedie's government made substantial effort to move his country to do more business with non-French speaking countries, especially U.S.-based firms. Bedie is reported to be held "for safety" at a military barracks run by France, Cote d'Ivoire's former colonial ruler and neocolonial power. USAfricaonline.com can report that the broadening of economic opportunities and non-French language options in Cote d'Ivoire for other countries have remained a recent point for contention between France and Bedie's government. France, usually, holds a strict control over cultural and economic issues and interests of its former colonies in Africa.

A diplomat in Abidjan told me by telephone that "although Bedie's regime faced economic problems, its relationship with Paris has become increasingly difficult." The West needs to get beyond newspaper headlines to check where the bonds of colonial presumptions would have impinged on the democratic traditions of Cote d'Ivoire? Did the French government, always and unusually informed about military and civilian movements know about Guei's coup and looked the other way? If they did know, when; and why was the legitimate and democratic government of Bedie not saved and backed to survive the economic difficulties which Ivorians are facing?

Third, for all the talk about following international developments and working to promote democracy in Africa, what could the U.S. government do? Did they do enough, strategically, in order to make governing and provision of economic assistance easier and more useful to advance the goals and rewards of democracy in that west African region?

Fourth, is it possible that the U.S. State Department and its international intelligence agencies have forgotten that the democracy, especially under economic stress, needs to be watched and nurtured? One of the better, useful maxims I learned as a kid during the days of Biafra (1967-1970) were the Igbo words "Onye ndi iro gba ra gburu gburu n'eche ndu ya nche!" Translation: whoever is surrounded by enemies must be eternally vigilant." Essentially, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Guei is seeped in the military traditions of France. After his firing by Bedie, the ousted president should have been more "vigilant." Alas, the sheep has left the barn. French soldiers and neocolonialists in Cote d'Ivoire knew Guei and his leverage within the local army very well. He is affectionately known as "Le Boss" by his military comrades. He was the former army chief who clashed a few times in the past with President Bedie.

Fifth, like most African countries, what Cote d'Ivoire needs, at this time, is further democratization rather than slouching back to military authoritarianism and its variations of uncouth excesses.

Sixth, how the international community, especially such regional powers such as Nigeria (re)act to the unfortunate sacking of a democratically-elected government will offer some sense of assurance for many African countries that they are not alone on the road of democracy. For example, more attention should be paid to the concerns of the current government in Ghana (see USAfrica The Newspaper December 22, 1999 edition where President Jerry Rawlings said he was not afraid of "coups" and other factors which may further impact the weak economic sub-structure and stability of this country. Although, Rawlings bagged gifts and was friends with late Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha).

More significant, the recent events in Cote d'Ivoire, after 39 years of democratic rule, however imperfect, compels me to raise an issue that I've debated privately with some of my friends: namely, a military coup can occur, anywhere, in sub-Saharan Africa (except South Africa).

For many idealists, when the issue and focus is shifted to Nigeria, many say it is "unthinkable." Pray and work, you masters of the world of political idealism. The canvas of reality and recent events suggest we all need to be soldiers for democracy. The early task for all of us must be to realistically and work harder to keep Nigeria (and other African countries) firm and strong on the road to true democratization. Hence, Nigeria should work closely with South Africa, Ghana and the international community to ensure a very early and functional return to democratic rule in the neighboring Cote d'Ivoire.

One of USAfricaonline.com's contacts in Abidjan indicates that "Guei has started a campaign to entrench his seizure of state power by releasing, appeasing and appointing some key persons who led the opposition against the democratically-elected government of President Konan Bedie into a "National Committee of Public Salvation."
As a student of political science and recent history of Africa, I'm not idealistic to the facts and realities of why, when and how military coups happen in Africa. Again, the issue should not just be whether it can happen; yes, it can. The danger and critical issue, is if it happens, how should pro-democracy forces confront and overcome the thugs who seize power for many self-serving reasons. Therefore, the challenge for pro-democracy forces is to draw a line in the sand to oppose military interventions. But who will struggle for and return democracy to Cote d'Ivoire?

Finally, as the world speaks in terms of the future and technologies, why did Gen. Robert Guei make Africa the laughing stock of the world by the closing 1999 with the negative news and event of yet another military coup? This question will become one of the three most important issues which will face Africans as we enter the new, digital millennium. How it is answered, when and how democracy is returned to my beloved Ivorian friends and brethrens (who saved and kept thousands of my kith and kin when it mattered most in 1970), will be a good indicator of where Africa and Africans want to be in the 21st century.


Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of the first African-owned, U.S-based professsional newspaper published on the internet, USAfricaonline.com, is the recipient of the Journalism Excellence Award, HABJ 1997. He covered U.S president Bill Clinton's visit to parts of Africa, March-April 2, 1998. Also, he publishes USAfrica The Newspaper, The Black Business Journal, BBJonline.com, and NigeriaCentral.com.


Is Obasanjo ordained by God to rule Nigeria? And, other fallacies. By Prof. Sola Adeyeye
RELIGION AND ETHNIC CONFLICT: Sharia-related killings and carnage in Kaduna reenact deadly prologue to Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. By Chido Nwangwu


Impeachment process shows Nigerian democracy "is alive... being tested." Nigeria's president retired Gen. Olusegun
Obasanjo has said that the impeachment process shows that "democracy is alive, is being tested, and being tried.... What they (the legislators) have tried to do in the democratic way, which is not easy, would probably have been done by taking arms or by -- with bullets. So, but with democracy, of course, some people feel that this is the way this should be, and then I have an opportunity to defend myself. There is discussion. There is dialogue. There is a decision. There is fairness." He made these comments when he appeared on Tuesday September 17, 2002 on CNN International to discuss the issues of impeachment facing him, the allegations of corruption, abuse of the constitution and deployment of soldiers ina civilian environment which led to the "massacre of civilians" in Odi (Bayelsa) and Zaki Biam (Benue).

On the charges by international human rights organizations and Nigerian media that his government has been involved in actions which have led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians, the retired General gave a surprising answer.

He was asked that "as many as 10,000 people, it's being reported, have been killed in Nigeria (in) communal rivalries, and the number is believed to be increasing. And people are saying that although President Obasanjo has done a lot of good for Nigeria, you're accused of not -- accused of failing to halt that spiraling violence."

Obasanjo: Let me say this to you, when you put the question of 10,000 -- 10,000 people dying in Nigeria, of course, for a population of over 120 million people...." But USAfricaonline.com Founder and recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997),
Chido Nwangwu, who appeared on the same program as as a CNN International analyst (Africa) pointed out that "when (President Obasanjo) answered that in a country of 100 million that 10,000 people are said to have died, as if that was a small number, that in itself reflects a disconnect with the concerns of Nigerians. The second one is that when the risk is civil disagreement, the police are required to intervene in the country. And the deployment of the armed forces of Nigeria requires at least some consultation, however modest, with the parliament."

Nwangwu, former member of the editorial board of Nigeria's Daily Times continued that "the third factor that is equally important to underscore is that the armed forces of Nigeria moved in for a punitive action rather than just containing a civil disagreement."

He noted in USAfricaonline.com backgrounder "it was revealing and interesting interesting discussing Nigeria's issues with its leader - under the current circumstances of an increasingly out-of-schedule elections and the gathering storm of an impeachment process by a majority of the members of the National Assembly, predominantly by Obasanjo's party members." See rush transcript of the CNN International news program.


Obasanjo facing corruption and ineptitude impeachment charges, again since the parliament, a few weeks ago, passed a motion carrying a majority of the members of Obasanjo's party, the PDP.

It's wrong to stereotype Nigerians as Drug Dealers. By Chido Nwangwu
Nigeria as a Nation of Vulcanizers

Africa suffers the scourge of the virus. This life and pain of Kgomotso Mahlangu, a five-month-old AIDS patient (above) in a hospital in the Kalafong township near Pretoria, South Africa, on October 26, 1999, brings a certain, frightening reality to the sweeping and devastating destruction of human beings who form the core of any definition of a country's future, its national security, actual and potential economic development and internal markets. By Chido Nwangwu


22 million Africans HIV-infected, ill with AIDS
while African leaders ignore disaster-in-waiting

Why Colin
Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.

AFRICA AND THE U.S. ELECTIONS
Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.
Osama bin-Laden's goons threaten Nigeria and Africa's stability
What has Africa to do with September 11 terror?
Africans reported dead in terrorist attack at WTC
September 11 terror and the ghost of things to come....
Will religious conflicts be the time-bomb for Nigeria's latest transition to civilian rule?
Conflicting emotions, feeling of disappointment, timing of revelation that Rev. Jackson fathered a child with former aide lead to charges of "right-wing orchestration."
THE FIRST BLACK POPE? To our Brother Cardinal Arinze: May your pastoral lineage endure!


Nigeria's Presidential Election: Is it just for the Highest Bidder?
Wong is wrong on Blacks in Houston city 
jobs
Why is 4-year old Onyedika carrying a placard against killings in Nigeria?
How Nigeria's Islamic Sharia crises will affect the U.S.
USAfrica INTERVIEW
"Why African Catholics are concerned about crises, sex abuse issues in our church" - a frank chat with ICCO's Mike Umeorah
Why Bush should focus on dangers facing Nigeria's return to democracy and Obasanjo's slipperyslide
DEMOCRACY'S WARRIOR
Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.

Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post? No
Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu The Economics of Elections in Nigeria
HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY
How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?
Rtd. Gen. Babangida trip as emissary for Nigeria's Obasanjo to Sudan raises curiosity, questions about what next in power play?
COUNTERPOINT
'Why is Bill Maher spreading racist nonsense about HIV/AIDS and Africa on ABC?
USAfricaonline LITERATURE
As Chinua Achebe turned 70, Africa's preeeminent statesman Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, Wole Soyinka, Ali Mazrui, Leon Botstein (president of Bard College), Ojo Maduekwe, Emmanuel Obiechina, Ngugi wa Thinong'o, Micere Mugo, Michael Thelwell, Niyi Osundare, and an army of some of the world's leading writers and arts scholars joined to pay tribute to him at Bard College in New York. (Achebe is in pix with Morrison). Meanwhile, the Nobel committee has, again, chosen a relatively less known (globally-speaking) Chinese novelist, Gao Xingjian, rather than Achebe for the Literature prize. Achebe was seen as a top favorite for the 2000 award. What the Swedish Nobel committee will not give, Achebe has, for well over 30 years, won in the hearts of millions in 53 languages. By Chido Nwangwu
Literary giant Chinua Achebe returns "home" from U.S., to love and adulation of community
Hate groups' spin by Lamar Alexander benefits anti-Blacks, anti-Semites, and racists
Annan, power and burden of the U.N

The Civilianizing of African soldiers into Presidents
At 39, Nigerians still face dishonest stereotypes such as Buckley's, and other self-inflicted wounds.

JFK Jr.: Death of a Good Son

'Why is Bill Maher spreading racist nonsense about HIV/AIDS and Africa on ABC?
National
Summit on Africa, Congresswoman Jackson-Lee hold policy forum in Houston
'100 Black Men are solutions-oriented' says Thomas Dortch, Jr., Richard Johnson and Nick Clayton II as they share perspectives with USAfrica's founder on the national
organization.
ARTS
The Life and Irreverent times of Afrobeat superstar, FELA
TRIBUTE Tanzania's founding president Julius Nyerere

 

 

 


Nnamdi Azikiwe: Statesman, Intellectual and Titan of African politics


SOCCER
FIFA chief promises Africa will host 2010 World Cup, if...
Sepp Blatter, president of the world's soccer governing body, FIFA, has promised to lobby and make possible that the continent hosts the championship for the first time if he is re-elected as FIFA president. Blatter's backers say he has the support of almost 105 of the 204 member associations in FIFA. USAfricaonline.com affirms that the African continent has a huge soccer following and enthusiasts and stars who play for the leading teams all over the world. Also, some of the very exciting teams such as Cameroons, Ghana and Nigeria have made international soccer a more popular sport. By Chido Nwangwu

INSIGHT
A KING FOR ALL TIMES: Why Martin Luther King's legacy and vision are relevant into 21st century. By Chido Nwangwu



INSIGHT: How Obasanjo's self-succession charade at his Ota Farm has turned Nigeria to an 'Animal Farm.' By Prof. Mobolaji Aluko
Obasanjo's 'prayers' and the Abacha path of staying in power. By Nkem Ekeopara
One year after: Reflections on September 11. By Jonathan Elendu


What has Africa to do with September 11 terror? By Chido Nwangwu
Maduekwe, Nwachukwu clash over Obasanjo at World Igbo 2002 convention in Houston. USAfrica Special report
PUBLIC POLICY
Private initiative, free market forces, and more democratization are keys to prosperity in Africa.
The
Civilianizing of African soldiers into Presidents
Why
Dr. Martin Luther King's vision is valid into the 21st century
DIPLOMACY
Walter Carrington: An African-American diplomat puts principles above self for Nigeria  USAfricaonline.com Founder Chido Nwangwu with the U.S. former Ambassador Carrington (right) at the U.S. embassy in Lagos during a courtesy visit.
USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.

USAfrica FORUM
IN THE HOUSE OF MANDELA: A SILLY CRY FOR REPARATIONS
By Prof. Chimalum Nwankwo






Steve Jobs and Apple represent the future of digital living. By Chido Nwangwu
Apple announces Titanium
,
"killer apps" and other ground-breaking products. iTunes makes a record 500,000 downloads.


The coup in Cote d'Ivoire and its implications for democracy in Africa. By Chido Nwangwu
(Related commentary) Coup in Cote d'Ivoire has been in the waiting. By Tom Kamara
Nigerian stabbed to death in his bathroom in Houston.
DEMOCRACY'S WARRIOR
Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.
Biafra-Nigeria war and history get fresh, critical look from a survivor. By Alverna Johnson and Vivian Okeke.
  'Biafra: History Without Mercy' - a preliminary note. By Chido Nwangwu
ODUMEGWU EMEKA
OJUKWU:"It was simply a choice between Biafra and enslavement! And, here's why we chose Biafra"
Biafra: From Boys to Men. By Dr. M.O. Ene
Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu
Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post? No
Nelson Mandela, Tribute to the world's political superstar and Lion of Africa 
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's burden mounts with murder charges, trials

CONTINENTAL AGENDA
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents."

These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president.
By Al Johnson


HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY
How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?
Rtd. Gen. Babangida trip as emissary for Nigeria's Obasanjo to Sudan raises curiosity, questions about what next in power play?
110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
Cheryl Mills' first class defense of Clinton and her detractors game 
Seriously, is your web site a Turkey, too? Get Solutions

PetroGasWorks
Shell picks Leslie Mays as VP Global Diversity
EndGame in Kinshasa: U.S must boot Mobutu for own interest, future of Zaire and Africa
Why Powell's mission to the Middle East failed. By Jonathan Elendu
Will the rash of Ethnic Violence disrupt Nigeria's effort at Democracy?

Arafat's duplicity, terrorism at the heart of Israeli-Palestinian crises. By Barry Rubin

Nigerian stabbed to death in his bathroom in Houston.
Nigeria at 40: punish financial thuggery, build domestic infrastructure
Is Obasanjo really up to Nigeria's challenge and crises? By USAfricaonline.com contributing editor Ken Okorie. Commentary appears from NigeriaCentral.com

BULLET Versus BALLOT
The bloody stain of military coup, on Friday December 24, 1999, sullied the once unique history of democratic rule in the beautiful and historically democratic, French-speaking west African country of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) by General Robert Guei (inset). USAfricaonline report and commentary.
COMMUNITY INTEREST
Why the revisionist forces of racist oppression in South Africa should not be allowed to intimidate Ron and Charlayne Gault.
SOUTH AFRICA

Nigeria, Cry My Beloved
Country

Index of Founder's Notes (1)


Index of Founder's Notes (2)

Index of other Viewpoints
USAfricaonline contributors and columnists on the issues


Community Service Awards bring African-American, American policy and business leaders together with African community at Texas Southern University
110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
Cheryl Mills' first class defense of Clinton and her detractors' game 
BUSINESS
Dr. Anaebonam's strategic vision for BREEJ is a model for business excellence and empowerment.
Pope John Paul, Abacha and Nigeria's Christians
TRANSITION
General Tunde Idiagbon:  A nationalist, an iron-surgeon departs
Abiola's sudden death and the ghost of things to come  
Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua's prison death, Nigeria and The Ghost of Things to come ..... 
Soni Egwuatu, Houston businessman, joins his ancestors