After South Africa, Gbagbo loses Angolan support

Angola’s government dropped its support for Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, further isolating him in a dispute over election results.

Angola brought its position in line with the African Union, which has called for a unity government led by Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the Nov. 28 vote, Foreign Minister George Chikoty said yesterday on Televisao Publica de Angola, the Luanda-based state-owned broadcaster.

In January, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos called for new elections in Ivory Coast after saying the United Nations misled the international community when it validated electoral commission results handing Ouattara victory. The U.S., European Union and most African countries backed the UN position.

That could be an important blow for Gbagbo’s administration. Over the years of his presidency, he had built a solid relationship with Angola, going from military to economic aspects. Many observers explain these strong ties by the shift of the Ivorian diplomacy regarding UNITA -Jonas Savimbi’s movement-  operated by Gbagbo when he was elected.

Laurent Gbagbo is now losing a strong diplomatic, but also military support with the defection of the South Africa – Angola axis. I can see the few countries still supporting Gbagbo switch sides, not willing to be completely isolated on that issue.

But the main consequences to expect are an embodiment the shift in the balance of power observed during the recent weeks on the diplomatic and military side, and -finally- a consensus amongst African countries and institutions about the Ivorian crisis.

In Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara is following what had seemed to be one of his only remaining options a couple of weeks ago : a military offensive backed by the former rebels and some infiltrated and well-equipped troops in Abidjan. His strategy towards the international institutions is getting more and more aggressive, with open critics against the incapacity or the unwillingness of the UN and the international community to act in the Ivorian crisis. Even if the external military intervention option to remove Gbagbo seems to be discarded, I can see some major powers bringing limited but necessary support to  Ouattara’s “Republican Army” against Gbagbo’s FANCI troops and mercenaries.

Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

On the other side, Gbagbo is about to resort to his usual tactics : street violence and youth militias.

Thousands of men — most young, but some older — and a few young women gathered to enlist in the armed forces. Known as Young Patriots, they are followers of Charles Ble Goude, the man they call their streetwise general. He is the fiery youth minister in Gbagbo’s government.

At a mass rally over the weekend, Ble Goude urged his Young Patriots to sign up, asking: “Are you ready to fight to liberate your country?”

Thousands of his supporters said yes. “Let’s free our country,” they chanted.

Ble Goude has been under international sanctions, including a travel ban, since 2006 for inciting violence, extrajudicial killings, rape and pillage in Ivory Coast and attacks against U.N. peacekeepers. But he claims it’s not his militant supporters who are behind the recent wave of killings in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

“We don’t lead the country with militia. We don’t need to kill people that we want to lead. My appeal is to the Young Patriots for them to be enrolled in the army to defend the country,” Ble Goude says, adding that many are rushing to enlist.

“I ask all the youth of Ivory Coast, who feel able, who are ready to die for their motherland, who can no longer accept the humiliation suffered by Ivory Coast, to present themselves to the army chief of staff, in order to free our country from these ruffians,” he says.

Jo Nicole, 23, is one of the few women to join the thousands of men who answered Ble Goude’s call and lined up Monday to join the army. She says she’s doing it for her young son.

“I’ve never taken up arms in my life, but we’re suffering,” she says. “Our country has been attacked by rebels and terrorists. We need to free this country. I’m not afraid. I’m going carry a [Kalashnikov] and liberate my country.”

The UN says more than 435 people have been killed since the November election.

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