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Côte d’Ivoire: About Gbagbo's Pan-Africanism

This post is part of our special coverage Côte d'Ivoire Unrest 2011.

With the death anniversary of Patrice Lumumba and Gbagbo's Pan-Africanist speech, many started likening both men to the fathers of Pan-Africanism. It happens that Laurent Gbagbo himself ( in an interview with the Figaro on 12/27/2010 [Fr]), compared himself to Robert Mugabe, forgetting nonetheless that before firing the dictator, Robert Mugabe was the hero of the independence of his country Zimbabwe (before him, Rhodesia lived under the rule of Ian Smith's apartheid). Mugabe started by driving out the dictator since the Lancaster agreements he had negotiated stipulated an agrarian reform and Mugabe reckoned that the British had to finance this reform; however the British didn't see things the same way. And it is because of this past that very few Africans risk criticizing Robert Mugabe. Therefore, Pan-Africanism is  a notion with a peculiar historical context and those who call themselves Pan-Africanists like to think that they are positioning themselves against the former colonial powers.

The Ivorian politician Venance Konan responds in an article entitled Dear “Françafrique” (France-Africa)! [Fr] on his blog to his “Pan-Africanists”. :

Cette mentalité anime encore bon nombre d’intellectuels africains et panafricanistes installés bien au chaud (façon de parler en ce moment) en France.Pour toute chose, il faut chercher le coupable ailleurs. Et pour eux, tout ce qui arrive de négatif en Afrique est le fait de la France ou de son excroissance, la Françafrique. C’est elle, notre sorcier. Ainsi, la crise post-électorale qui secoue en ce moment la Côte d’Ivoire serait la faute à la France ou à la Françafrique. Chère Françafrique ! Que serions-nous devenus, nous intellectuels africains et panafricanistes, si tu n’avais pas existé pour nous dédouaner de toute responsabilité dans nos malheurs.

This mentality still busies a good number of African intellectuals and Pan-Africanists installed comfortably in France. At all costs, the culprit must be found elsewhere. And for them, everything negative that happens in Africa is the doing of France or its outgrowth, “Françafrique”. It's her, our sorceress. Thus, the post-electoral crisis that is currently shaking Côte d’Ivoire would be France or “Françafrique”‘s fault. Dear “Françafrique”! what would we have become, we the African intellectuals and Pan-Africanists if you didn't exist to relieve us of all responsibilities as we suffer.

Others on the internet have also reacted to Gbagbo's positioning [Fr- all links]:

  • Côte d’Ivoire: a call to intellectuals against belligerents (http://bit.ly/ho7Nnc)
  • a letter from Calixte Beyala : No, Gbagbo is not alone !(http://t.co/N1U8VMA)
  • Many Africans were shocked by these articles and started wondering if this dichotomy between “Pan-Africanism and former colonial powers” is really the only alternative to this debate.

    Yes, Africa's future is taking place in Ivory Coast but some have become schizophrenic. MBKM wrote in Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire : when France turns Africans into schizophrenics [Fr]

    Cet état de chose fait bizarrement de Laurent Gbagbo, pourtant le fossoyeur de la démocratie ivoirienne, l’incarnation du patriotisme, du nationalisme, de la résistance face à un Ouattara soupçonné d’être le « chouchou » d’une Françafrique que beaucoup d’Africains tiennent en horreur. Reconnaissons-le. Nous naviguons là en plein autisme.

    This state of things has strangely made Laurent Gbagbo, though the grave-digger of Ivorian democracy, the incarnation of patriotism, of nationalism, of the resistance against a Ouattara suspected of being the “protégé” of a “Françafrique” that many Africans abhor. Let's face it. We are navigating here in broad autism.

    As for Côte d’Ivoire coming out of crisis, many think that Africa cannot afford to give “jurisdiction to Gbagbo” [Fr]” and can afford it even less in 2011 since there are scheduled elections in: RCA, Cameroon, Niger, Zimbabwe, Benin, Djibouti, Nigeria, Madagascar, Chad, DRC, and Angola.

    It's not a secret for anyone and especially not for Africans that Africa is courted for its natural resources and lands (comparing a map of ethical conflicts with one of natural resources would be interesting). It's not a secret for anyone and especially not for Africans that the politics and institutions of Washington don't necessarily have raising Africa out of poverty as a first priority.

    Natural resources in Africa via Ray Mikkleson and Cara Wurtz at U. of Omaha

    The Africans whose parents participated in the decolonization, whose parents admired Patrice Lumumba, whose parents supported Sékou Touré before he became insane are disappointed by politicians who use and compare themselves to Patrice Lumumba in order to remain in power.

    Patrice Lumumba wasn't ethnicist (Patrice Lumumba's speech, Prime minister and minister of national security of the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the ceremony of Independance in Leopoldille, June 30th 1960) [Fr]

    Patrice Lumumba didn't stay 10 years in power even though he was only elected for 5. Laurent Gbagbo has neither Thomas Sankara's implacability nor can he be compared to Patrice Lumumba.

    In fact, the debate has slightly evolved as read in this article by Kofi Alouda: Ivorian Crisis: the amalgam with the hypothetical “déjà vu” has blurred the interpretation of facts of some sincere democrats [Fr].

    In the beginning, Laurent Gbagbo could certainly have passed for a revolutionary, for that matter many people went down to the streets to support him. In addition, he was the historical opponent, just like A. Wade of Senegal (apparently, this hasn't really turn out well for them).

    Moreover, “Françafrique” was doing well under Laurent Gbagbo as explains it Thomas Hofnung in this article where he points out that ” Bolloré, Bouygues, Veolia, and Total are very present in Ivory Coast and had bet on Laurent Gbagbo's victory” ; however, just like Sékou Touré and Amin Dada, Laurent Gbagbo is becoming a dictator: no freedom of the press, the national television has become a means to propaganda, and above all he is ethnicist. Sunday night, all the license plates of all the vehicles owned by UN employees were circulated (not to the officials who would recognize their plates but to the others).

    Sékou Touré in all his deadly madness, wasn't ethnicist: rather, he pursued the intellectuals. His plot against the Peulhs was first and foremost directed at one man, Diallo Telli as explained by Maurice Jeanjean [Fr].

    Besides his usual rhetoric, there are many unanswered questions on Laurent Gbagbo's governance. He will eventually have to explain why [Fr- all links]:

    • the revenues from Ivorian petroleum have never made it to the state's budget and why some belligerents such as Charles Blé Goudé were appointed ministers.
    • some of his advisers are from the far right in France.
    • mass graves were found. Laurent Gbagbo had first denied their existence; only to later declare that mass graves are what happens when one strives against a country
    • he chose a French agency as RSCG as a communication adviser when he claims to be Pan-Africanist.
    • there were 500 contentious polling stations during the elections but the Constitutional Council canceled 2,868 of them.

    It now seems clear that Laurent Gbagbo is neither Thomas Sankara nor (even less so) Patrice Lumumba. Claiming to be Pan-Africanist isn’t enough to be one.

    Here are additional articles on the matter [Fr- all links]:

    This post is part of our special coverage Côte d'Ivoire Unrest 2011.

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