The United Nations and France joined the offensive to dislodge Ivory Coast’s presidential pariah Laurent Gbagbo last night, launching air strikes against forces loyal to the man who has refused to cede power after losing an election.
The battle for Abidjan took on an unprecedented international aspect as the UN responded to days of attacks against its peacekeepers by stretching its mandate to protect civilians to the maximum with a show of force.
In what appeared to be a premeditated move to support the forces of Mr Ouattara, France quickly authorised its military to join in the UN campaign. Last night, the attack was intensified with rockets fired at targets close to Mr Gbagbo’s official residence in Abidjan. Read the rest of the story.
So, finally the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire and France clarified their position and openly took part of the pro-Ouattara attack against Gbagbo’s forces in Abidjan. The official motivation for the strikes : the use of heavy artillery against civilians and UN personnel and assets.
Off the record, that intervention was much-needed by the pro-Ouattara troops, which despite significant military successes in the past few days, could not get past the heavy military setup in Abidjan. The numerous calls from members of Ouattara’s government for an intervention against Gbagbo’s regime have finally positively been answered.
Without questioning the legitimacy or the legality of their strikes -after all, they are supporting the internationally-recognized president and acting under the demand from the UN Secretary General- France finds itself in a situation similar to the 2004 scenario, when Licorne troops destroyed the entire Ivorian airforce after they had attacked a camp in Bouaké. They appear as aggressors to most of Gbagbo’s supporters. After the violent media campaign against France, the United States, the UN , the African Union, ECOWAS -and most of the outside world- that took place since Gbagbo’s men seized back the RTI, even more violent acts against French nationals and interests can be expected if Abidjan is not under Ouattara’s control within the next hours.
Not to mention that the official and effective backing from foreign countries, especially from France, will be a severe handicap from Ouattara’s future.
Nevertheless, the external intervention will hopefully end the status-quo which had caused so much pain for the Ivorian populations. We can only hope that French and UN troops will be as decisive in ending the urban violence, looting and chaos that follows.