Planned protests in Cote d’Ivoire by supporters of President Ouattara’s camp were shot down (literally, with live ammunition) by President Ggabo’s police forces today. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma plans to mediate the three-month old crisis. This tale of two presidents has been an unfolding soap opera, long forgotten to the Egyptian protests.
The Christian Science Monitor story on the failed protests brings up an important question about mediation in Africa, and in particular South Africa’s role. President Ouattara might have a point in arguing for regional diplomatic process and mediation, rather than AU efforts. But I think in particular, he is afraid that Cote d’Ivoire will be a repeat of Zimbabwe in 2008.
While we can argue that South Africa is the most developed sub-Saharan country and thus is positioned best to mediate such crises, the country’s attempts at being a hegemon for the continent have been useless for the most part. I think President Ouattara should be afraid. Remember Zimbabwe in 2008? I do. I remember arguing with officials from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and South African representatives to SADC about the unfolding crisis in May, two months after the failed elections. Their arguments were for sustaining stability for their neighbor, discouraging meddling in other countries’ politics, and above all power sharing. When asked about suspending SADC membership until President Mugabe cooperated with democratic process, they argued that the elections were democratic and that suspension made no sense.
Let’s time travel again to March 2009, when a series of violent protests led to the resignation of President Ravalomanana of Madagascar. The president turned control of the country over to a military council. But the leader of the protest, Andry Rajoelina decided to declare himself president instead. The SADC and AU had no trouble suspending Madagascar’s membership. What makes Madagascar so different from Zimbabwe? Couldn’t we consider forced voting and ballot stuffing a coup d’état of democracy?
South African President Jacob Zuma and four other African presidents are due to arrive in Abidjan on Monday. Mediation efforts will most likely focus on brokering a “power-sharing” deal between the two presidents. It appears that both of President Ouattara’s protests were shot down today.