>Ivory Coast: Election, Cocoa, and More Drama

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By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA
Ivory Coast…a country that just had a ray of hope flash before them is now waiting for the drama to end.  We can recall the chaos that sparked during the 2002 failed coup attempt. Now after the November 2010 election, the country has been slammed with even more drama as incumbent President Gbagbo refuses to step aside so President-elect Alassane Ouattara can assume the position. There are two Presidents trying to run a country, one who refuses to leave, and one who polls show won the election by a narrow 8 percentage points (according to the UN and the Independent Electoral Commission)- and in turn should by all accounts be assuming all responsibilities as acting President.



President-elect Ouattara.
Photo Credit: MyJoyOnline


  



Incumbent President Gbagbo
Photo Credit: Youth Canvas



There are some in the south that argue that Ouattara is a puppet placed into office by foreign power structures- and thereby not a legitimate candidate nor trusted to have taken part in a fair election. While others don’t care who won the election, they just want to return to work, get their salaries in full and on time, and start the rebuilding process so the country can thrive. Many northerners would agree that they just want to resume their responsibilities at work, get their children back in school, and gain a sense of normalcy under a re-defined vision of the term. Their support of Ouattara however is the reason for their current punishment under Gbagbo’s rule.
With all of this drama and emotion comes a reality about an economy that is facing a turbulent crash as some businesses, including banks have shut down. Let’s take a look at what has been happening: Schools in the northern part of the country have been shut down since late November 2010; Gbagbo’s administration has broken ties with the West African CFA monetary union- removing all except the Ivorian flag from the front of the bank’s offices; some state salaries ($160m) are not being paid on time or at all- a burden that some claim Gbagbo cannot hold up; Many private sector salaries are not being paid- especially in the northern region; Tuesday the country missed a $29m interest payment on bond debt held by European institutions; and now pro-Gbagbo supporters are showing off a new proposed currency that they call, “Ivorian currency of the resistance” at protest rallies.
So where’s the president-elect Ouattara?
President-elect Ouattara
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Ouattara is under blockade in a hotel in Abidjan waiting for Gbagbo to step down and relinquish control. Despite the obvious lack of control in many areas, Ouattara does however have control of the state bank accounts which reports say are held at the regional level. He respectfully called for a boycott on all cocoa exports last month, and for companies to stop paying taxes hoping that by Gbagbo no longer receiving those monies into his current administration he will get the hint that it is time to move out and move on. The cocoa boycott is a major power move and potential slippery slope since the Ivory Coast accounts for one-third of all the cocoa in the world,  but without exportation there is no revenue for cocoa producers; and more than one-quarter of earnings are derived from cocoa exportation. The ban could cause cocoa prices to spiral out of control.



Ivory Coast Cocoa
Photo Credit: TwilightWhisper



But what good will these measures do for the Ivory Coast as the head of the French Chamber of Commerce (in the Ivory Coast) estimates that the country will lose one-third of its small and mid-sized companies if this chaos rolls over into a third month? In December the U.S. imposed travel sanctions on Gbagbo and 30 of his allies (names unreported) and that did not seem to phase them much or at all.
It does not seem as though Gbagbo and his supporters are moved by the attempts made by Ouattaro and his supporters since Gbagbo supporters recently seized control of branches of the BCEAO, a West African regional central bank, and his computer and financial experts are scrambling to create a new banking system after the BCEAO restricted access of their internal system that is housed in their Senegal offices. To really send a message Gbagbo took control of the privatized electricity company’s distribution network, and then last week had his energy minister turn off all power to the northern part of the country (large Ouattara supporters) for a few hours.
The message is being sent loud and clear- Gbagbo has the power, has no intention of leaving office anytime soon, and he definitely won’t leave quietly.
Incumbent President Gbagbo

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
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