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Laurent Gbagbo's Insistance To Stay In Power Took Years Out Of The Momentum Of Economic Development Of Côte d’Ivoire

In pursuit of their endless grip on power, dictators -– not only African -– employ brutal methods to deal with opposition.

28/08/2017 03:58 SAST | Updated 28/08/2017 07:47 SAST
Peter De Jong/ AFP/ Getty Images
Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo

At this stage of his life, former President of Côte d'Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo should be enjoying his retirement or serving his country in an advisory capacity, not in jail. But his conduct in early 2011 led to the BBC to describe his as that 'classically educated academic now widely regarded as a leader who was willing to destroy his country by refusing to accept defeat at the ballot box'.

Had Gbagbo's refusal not fuelled conflict, which claimed about 3,000 people, there would be no case for him to answer at the International Criminal Court [ICC]. Instead of calling himself a 'victim of a plot by the French', he should ask why he is now facing several charges of crimes against humanity -- murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts.

Due process must be followed in the interest of the needless victims of the violence incited by Gbagbo's refusal to recognise President Alassane Ouattara's victory in the elections held in late 2010.

Several African countries continue to forfeit their due share of the world economy because of leaders who hold onto power until a coup, ill health or death; thus compromising continuity.

This would not be as big a problem, if they did so in keeping with the will majority of the people, but it is often not the case. Not only do many African leaders remain active politicians past their retirement age, they employ extra-judicial means to do so. They either use patronage politics, misusing state resources to carry favours among the electorate, change the constitution to extend their reign or simply crush their rivals and those citizens calling for change.

In pursuit of their endless grip on power, dictators -– not only African -– employ brutal methods to deal with opposition. They jail activists and, in some cases, perpetuate gross violations of human rights. Women and children are easy prey for dictators, who do not mind fuelling civil conflict or outright war to enforce their iron will on the people they should be serving.

Côte d'Ivoire and some of its fellow African states validate the stereotype of Africa being the 'richest place with the poorest race'.

Apart from maiming and killing innocent people, either through war or neglect, dictators or those who cling to power, weaken the institutions of their country: the judiciary, the legislature and the police, the military, revenue authorities, etc.

An eminent educator and economist in the South African asset management industry, Dr Adrian Saville, led a team of researchers to distil the six critical attributes of countries that have led economic development over three decades. In their sample of 120 countries, observed over a 50-year timeline, Dr Saville's team found that South Korea and Singapore, grew their income per person ten-fold growth between 1980 and 2013 to $23,000 and $53,000, respectively.

Singapore and South Korea do not have half of the resources that Côte d'Ivoire, or any other African country, possesses. For starters, being the world's number one cocoa producer, the country also boasts abundant petroleum, natural gas, diamonds, manganese, iron, cobalt, bauxite, copper, gold, nickel, tantalum, silica sand, clay, palm oil, and hydropower potential. Despite all these endowments, Côte d'Ivoire and some of its fellow African states validate the stereotype of Africa being the 'richest place with the poorest race'.

Dr Saville's team singled out what they call the 'six-pack' of prosperous or winning nations. These are a high savings rate, access to improving education, access to improving healthcare, a favourable demographic structure, the degree of economic openness and a stable policy environment with effective institutions.

Without effective institutions, all the other five factors are unworkable. When any leader frustrates the functioning of state institutions to meet their selfish ends and normalise corruption, they do not only syphon financial resources from deserving beneficiaries, they can paralyse a prosperous country for years -– turning it into a failed state.

Although Côte d'Ivoire has come a long way since President Ouattara took over and has sustained its upward economic growth trajectory, the insistence of Gbagbo to stay in power illegally took at least four years out of the momentum of economic development of Côte d'Ivoire and the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] region.

When every leader appreciates that the violation of human rights or flouting the constitution to stay in power can lead to prosecution, Africa can protect its vulnerable citizens.

The African Development Group anticipates an 8.3 percent growth in the economy this year, maintaining a trend that goes back to when President Ouattara took over the reins. Investors like French chocolate maker Cémoi, South African financial services giant Standard Bank are now in Côte d'Ivoire. The African Development Bank also returned to its original headquarters in Abidjan, from Tunis, confirming Côte d'Ivoire as a major economy in West Africa.

While the government of Côte d'Ivoire focuses on the furtherance of the objectives of the national development plan of 2012-2015, the ICC must be allowed to enforce the law. When every leader appreciates that the violation of human rights or flouting the constitution to stay in power can lead to prosecution, Africa can protect its vulnerable citizens.

There are those who accuse the ICC of bias against Africa. At the latest heads of state summit, some African leaders, such as Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta, reportedly even spoke of Africa withdrawing from the institution, en masse! As imperfect as the ICC system is, the exodus by African member states will not change anything.

The ICC is part of justice for those countries with institutions too compromised to protect ordinary citizens against the abuse of power, and it must be given in chance to deliver for the people of Côte d'Ivoire.