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Ivory Coast: Europeans roll their eyes but do not use their arms

Ivory Coast was on the agenda of the COPS, the Political and Security Committee of the European Union, today. But the Europeans should not cross the rubicon of the solution by force. We remain with the decisions proposed by Cathy Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union, and endorsed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs on December 14, namely: initially, a travel ban for Ivorian leaders and, in a second stage, asset freezes. This decision came in record time. But it shows the limit of this “nice” diplomacy on the ground which can be effective in the long term. But is inefficient in the short term.

The big eyes of Europeans

The Europeans are rolling their eyes at Laurent Gbagbo who doesn't care. He, his wife and 17 other Ivorian leaders are banned from staying in Europe. But the self-proclaimed president of Côte d'Ivoire takes his vacation elsewhere and makes it known. As for the freezing of assets, it should take place within several days. The decision is “more complex” we explain on the European side. But by then, the Ivorian leader should have taken precautions. In the meantime, the head of government has the power and free use of force and is ready to use it as he has shown in recent days. The objective for him is not in the medium term, but in the very short term: to crush the rebellion.

No use of force, even to evacuate Europeans

However, the European Union does not want to use force. It's not that she can't (she has certain strengths). But this option was not even mentioned on the COPS table. On Catherine Ashton's side, we explain that all the means used are peaceful. And that it is not “no question and not justified” to use battlegroups in such circumstances. “These battlegroups were never used. And it would be really counterproductive to use them today“, explains one of his relatives. They are not needed on site to evacuate Europeans. “It is up to each Member State to take its own measures. And each embassy has made its emergency arrangements and plans. The vast majority of residents there are French. And France took measures.” As for coming to reinforce the UN forces on site (ONUCI), we might as well dream, that is not at all the state of mind of Cathy Ashton who is rather thinking of Christmas and end of year celebrations to take a breather a little… (the next COPS meeting is scheduled for… January 7).

By denying the existence of battlegroups, Lady Ashton's office is making a serious mistake. It does not respond to an existing crisis, with all available EU resources. It leaves the member states and, in particular, France to manage with its nationals. He reiterates Haiti's error: wait-and-see attitude in the face of the crisis. Except that the Ashton team has been in place for a year now. The “I don’t have an office” excuse no longer holds true today. Faced with the crisis, the voice of European diplomacy is currently very weak and even rather sluggish. And yet, it is more necessary than ever. European intervention would have more than one advantage. Do not leave France, a former colonial power, in a delicate face to face with the Ivorian power. Show Africans that the EU can act, with determination if necessary, and not only through humanitarian aid or development aid. Support UN forces. In short, maintain your international rank…

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

2 thoughts on “Ivory Coast: Europeans roll their eyes but do not use their arms"

  • Roger Bensadoun

    The blows of Laurent Gbagbo!
    This is not his first shot. Obviously, Laurent Gbagbo is a master of sleight of hand! The last he has just played in front of the world is to transform his failure in the last presidential elections into victory, won by his political opponent Alassane Ouattara with just over 54% of the vote.
    Despite his ousting from power, Laurent Gbagbo has indeed just re-proclaimed himself President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire. However, he thought he could easily win the game of lying poker when in June 2008 he decided to eliminate those responsible for the coffee-cocoa sector accused of alleged illegal taking of funds and to lock them up without any other form of trial, at MACA (Abidjan House of Arrest and Correction) where they are still without investigation or trial, in violation of the most basic human rights.
    He imagined on this last blow to be able to win the elections by representing himself before the Ivorian people as the new “Mister clean” of Côte d'Ivoire. But this time, the people were not fooled! In reality, for Laurent Gbagbo it was a question of clearing himself not only with the population but also with coffee-cocoa producers who were frustrated at not having received any compensation from the Regulatory Fund (FRC) during the fall in the price of the coffee and cocoa.
    However, in order to build up savings on their income in the event of a drastic drop, the producers had freely decided to make a levy of 35 CFA francs/kg of cocoa sold and 10 CFA francs/kg of coffee sold, paid into the Fund Regulation and Control (FRC), a financial regulatory structure whose mission is to support the farm gate price. However, when cocoa prices fell during the 2002/2003 intermediate season, the Ivorian government refused to support prices, which resulted in a substantial drop in producers' incomes and their impoverishment.
    As the 2003-2004 campaign saw a further drop in cocoa prices, no exporter wanted to buy the product, for lack of support. The producers then asked the FRC to immediately make available all of the 300 billion CFA francs that the State had collected and…confiscated by it.
    Faced with the refusal of the FRC, held by a relative of Laurent Gbabo, to give satisfaction to the producers, they organized a strike. In response, the President of the Ivorian Republic had suspended all investments in the coffee and cocoa sector. Subsequently, decrees were taken by the supervising Ministers, of Agriculture on the one hand and of the Economy and Finances on the other hand, to open accounts of which they are jointly the only signatories, and where the escrow funds, entitled “FDPCC – Investissement”.
    Moreover, it was important for the former President of Côte d'Ivoire, to divert the attention of the population sensitized by the democratic opposition press for the involvement of the Head of State in the takeover by the FRC of a disused chocolate factory in the United States. The Fulton affair, named after the city in the state of New York which is home to the Grunch manufacturing plant belonging to the Nestlé group, had as main actors the representatives of the FRC, industrialists and advisers close to Laurent Gbagbo. On President Gbagbo's injunction and after signing several transfer orders by the President and the Director General of the FRC, it would have swallowed up approximately 16 billion CFA francs (24,4 million euros). But according to the Ivorian press, the amount of money spent would have been 100 billion CFA francs.
    Last April, the "defendants" without proof were able to reveal, in e-mails sent from their place of confinement, that they had been able to obtain "all the copies of the checks payable to the Presidency of the Republic, as well as letters of transmission discharged by the Director of Financial Services, stamp in support". And since, they affirmed in an e-mail sent to the editors of the international press, “Gbagbo persists in leaving us in prison…. » we are also prepared to denounce « the hearing by the examining magistrate of the Financial Director of the Presidency where the latter confirms having received the checks and having deposited them in the bank accounts of the Presidency of the Republic. »
    Undoubtedly, this explains why Laurent Gbagbo wanted to take everyone by surprise, by not hesitating to make a new … coup d'etat! In order, no doubt, to escape the justice of his country!


    It is not up to Europe to act militarily and the “Battlegroups” never used are inappropriate to settle the Ivorian crisis….
    The military solution must be French and quick, otherwise it is once again our country and its President who are making a fool of themselves. When will there be a nice grouped jump from our Paras in Abidjan? We think of Kolvezi (former Katanga)….

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