In October 2000, Laurent Gbagbo stood for the hope against Guéi’s military regime and all its abuses. He represented a new kind of leader in Côte d’Ivoire: democratically elected, socialist, who fought his way up to finally become the new elected president.
Ivorians expected a lot from him. After two decades of economic and social slump, he would have led the country in a new direction. The general feeling at that point was, “what could be worse than five more years of military rule ?”.
And to be totally honest, I admit I was glad for the country on the day he was elected. In the early hours, his takeover was quite glorious, with a historical popular uprising unsettling the ungraceful soldiers. In the early hours, a feeling of freedom, like a new birth, took over the fear and frustration of the military rule.
Maybe it’s because of that new-found hope, that he wasn’t immediately held responsible for the mass graves, the gross human rights violations, and the general mismanagement of the country. He even managed to open up to a certain degree his political sphere to welcome other components of Ivorian politics.
Then came the war, with all its atrocities and disillusions about Côte d’Ivoire. After being blinded by a patriotic momentum, the consensus broke up and the defects of the FPI regime appeared : nothing had been done in order to promote the national reconciliation or to solve the crisis that had started after the death of Félix Houphouet Boigny. Unable to open up anymore, Gbagbo’s regime confined itself and generated extremist movements. Death squadrons, mass killing of protesters, assassination of journalists and many other drifts followed.
From then, Gbagbo has played a real politik game with much duplicity, using violence, propaganda and mobs as his weapons of choice. His relationships with any actor outside of his gang turned sour: Albert Tévoédjrè, Seydou Diarra, Jacques Chirac, Thabo Mbeki and so many others were disappointed by his double-dealing.
Today, the ex-president took by force the role of the referee in a game where his is merely an actor. Is he a person to negotiate with ? Very few examples from the past would attest that. Since December, the United Nations, ECOWAS, and many others have not succeeded in doing so. Many signs even suggest Gbagbo’s total unwillingness to act in that direction.
Since the second round, more than 173 people lost their lives, and many more have suffered in Côte d’Ivoire.