Is the national army a threat to Gbagbo ?


Here is an excerpt from the Paul Collier article by in The Guardian

Gbagbo is still in power, albeit circumscribed. The question now is how to oust him.

As President Outtara said recently, Gbagbo will only step down in the face of force, or the credible threat of force. Where is such force to be found? There is an alternative, much less demanding approach along the lines I suggested in my book. That is to generate a credible threat of force from the government’s own army. In much of Africa, the national army is the force most feared by presidents. Leaders go to considerable lengths to keep the army happy, but coups are still common.

It is the senior officers who are closest to Gbagbo, but they would know that a coup from lower-ranking officers would spell their own doom – and that lower-ranking officers would find this an attractive strategy for accelerating their careers. If junior officers ousted Gbagbo, their reward would not be an unstable and high-risk presidency, but secure senior military positions.

Paul Collier suggests that:
1. The use of force is the way out of the crisis
2. A military coup, led by low/middle rank soldiers is a credible alternative to an ECOWAS strike

The idea of an internal military solution was suggested previously in the Ivorian press. Many rumors have circulated about the loyalty of Philippe Mangou, Chief of the Armed Forces, to Gbagbo. Indeed, some key military officers could have played a major role in shifting the situation in the early hours of the crisis, when it appeared that the Republican values wouldn’t be respected by Gbagbo.
But a military Coup seems today to be Gbagbo’s principal concern, even more than an external military operation. He has carefully developed a strategy to minimize the threat that the army could represent to his power. He was careful to ensure the allegiance of the army officers, and to place relatives and trusted men in key positions. Gbagbo has also balanced the strength of the regular army with an important mercenary force and a well equipped and trained presidential guard. As a safety measure, his intelligence networks are focusing on the army generals and eventual ties with the Ouattara side  (according to the latest issue of La Lettre du Continent).

Besides the feasibility of such operation, a military coup represents a tremendous risk for the country, higher than a military intervention supervised by the international community. Furthermore it is also going to worsen the legitimacy crisis the country had been going through since 1999, and the succession of coups. After winning the elections, Ouattara surely wouldn’t want to access to the Presidency with a coup d’état.

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