After the failed mediations from Thabo Mbeki, Boni Yayi, Olesegun Obasanjo and many other diplomats, Raila Odinga has also left Côte d’Ivoire without being able to find a solution. Along with Goodluck Jonathan, he was, for obvious reasons, the most adamant to sort the Ivorian issue.
“Mr Gbagbo assured me that this blockade would be lifted yesterday, but for the second time in two days he has not kept his promise, ” said Odinga, after the first mediation mission in early January had already been unsuccessful.
As many diplomats pointed out, negotiating with Gbagbo is a hard task. Here are 10 reasons why.
1- He has already gone “too far”. Gbagbo and his wife are already on the international sanction lists, and might have reached a point of non-return. His assets abroad will be frozen soon, and his possibilities to travel are already very limited. Because of his heavy involvement in the post-electoral violences alone, he is likely to face charges at the International Court. Many other cases in which he might be also involved would probably be investigated too if a new administration takes charge: the toxic waste case, corruption in the coffee and cocoa industry, violation of UN-imposed arms embargo, anti-french violence and many others.
2- Gbagbo might be certain that he won the elections. From the results of the polls he conducted before planning the elections which assured him of an overwhelming victory, to the misleading information his entourage may be giving him (cf “Dans la tête de Laurent Gbagbo, Jeune Afrique), it seems that Gbagbo cannot conceive his defeat in the second round of the elections.
3- He is leading a “messianic mission“, and is leading his men under the assumption that he was chosen by God to fight the “evil” of western power and Ouattara. It has became more than a political matter for some : “God is with us, we are calm. Laurent Gbagbo is that God has chosen”.
4- Gbagbo gets his advice and international support from other “not recommendable ” states. Since the beginning of his presidency, Gbagbo sought advice and help from the likes of Eduardo Dos Santos (Angola), Teodoro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea) and more recently Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe).
5- As most people trying to hang on their power against the will of the people and the the international community, Gbagbo may be getting paranoid, even against his own people.
“Mangou was afraid for him and his family. He is constantly surrounded by soldiers he has not chosen and who rush to pick up his cellphone when it rings. As for the news he reads in front of cameras of the national TV, they are dictated to him.
When his supporters are accusing ECOWAS and the African Union to get puppets from France and the United States, can he be negotiating with them ?
6- His entourage (his wife, the “patriotic youth” and many advisors) may have a strong and negative influence on his behaviour. Over the ten years of his presidency, they have reached a certain position -economic, financial, political- they are not ready to leave, or that they could not maintain under a different government. Even if they are not part of the negotiations, their disruptive influence should not be underrated.
7- He is not accountable. Raila Odinga and Olusegun Obasanjo busted out of the negotiations because of Gbagbo’s bad faith in the negotiations. He did not respect the engagements he took, such as stopping the violence against civilian populations or stopping the blockade against the Golf Hotel.
8- Gbagbo has the upper hand in the current situation, because he controls Abidjan, and the main institutions. He knows that every day passing by isolates Ouattara on the national level. The response to the calls for strike is limited, and doesn’t threaten him. His control of the communication networks and the increasing political repression serve his purposes within the borders.
9- His strategy to stay in power is already set.”We stay, or we stay”, as his election campaign motto suggested. Gbagbo’s strategy of leaving the problems to stagnate and multiplying the talks and meetings has already been used previously, and in most case has strengthened him. The only difference being that he didn’t have the entire international community against him.
10- The security dilemma has been increasing every day. Both parties have radicalized their positions, and are now contemplating the possibility of a civil war. The fear created by the tensions between the two blocks has already generated violent or deadly clashes against the United Nations forces, Ouattara supporters and police forces.