The Blackmail Path to Power

The aftermath of Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential election in November highlights a disturbing trend in African politics, whereby defeated incumbents seek to unleash enough violence to bargain their way back into power. It is time to end this impunity.

ABIDJAN – On December 2, Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) declared opposition leader Alassane Ouattara the winner of the country’s November presidential election with 54.1% of the vote. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, gained 45.9%. The United States, European Union, Canada, and United Nations Secretary-General all congratulated Ouattara and called on Gbagbo to respect the people’s will.

One day after the result was announced, the country’s Constitutional Council, led by Gbagbo’s close ally Paul Yao N’Dre, annulled the results from seven departments in the north, declaring Gbagbo the winner of the election with 51% of the vote. The decision, reached in less than 24 hours, left many Ivorians flabbergasted. UN Special Envoy for Côte d’Ivoire Choi Young-jin was categorical, stating that “the proclamation of the final results by the President of the Constitutional Council...which makes candidate Laurent Gbagbo the winner of the second round, can only be interpreted as a decision having no factual basis.”

Choi also declared that even if the irregularities alleged by Gbagbo were confirmed, Ouattara still would have won enough votes to carry the election. Within 48 hours of the CEI’s announcement, both candidates swore themselves in as President. Ouattara went a step further, naming a prime minister and a 13-seat cabinet.

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