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EDITORIAL: For power without limits

rhondathompson, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: For power without limits

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The situation in Ivory Coast is proving to be a hard nut to crack. It was initially thought the election dispute there would be brief and that the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo would bow to international pressure and give way to the winner Alassane Ouattara.
But the dispute has dragged on since the November 28 presidential election and there seems to be no solution in sight.
With over 200 people dead so far, the situation is threatening to become a full-blown catastrophe as violence in pockets of the country takes the tribal dimension.
The country has become the latest blot on Africa’s political map. Gbagbo, who was declared the loser by the Electoral Commission but was declared winner by the Constitutional Council, has decided to hang on to power. He seems intent to employ the “Samsonian” strategy of bringing down the house to die with everyone within.
It is unfortunate that an election that was meant to reunite the war-weary nation has turned out to be divisive. The country is being torn asunder instead of being healed, and blood is being spilt in the streets of Ivory Coast.
As both politicians lay claim to the presidency, the situation is quickly turning from bad to worse. The blatant attack on unarmed citizens by armed groups is a harbinger of worse things to come.
All indications are that the antagonists are digging in for an all-out aggression to either gain or retain power.
African leaders must be put on notice that they cannot continue to take their citizens for a ride and get away scot-free. Too many of them have for far too long taken advantage of the tribal divisions to achieve their despotic ambitions.
It is heartening that constitutional reviews have been done in various African countries to open up democratic space, enhance human rights and limit the excesses of those in power. Their power must be limited.
However, that alone has proved insufficient, as some leaders have rallied support to change constitutions to either remove or extend presidential term limits. It is now becoming a trend in Africa that election losers refuse to leave office.
There seems to be little progress being made through mediation. Gbagbo promised to lift the siege on the hotel where Ouattara is holed up but later reneged on the promise.
The Economic Community of West African States has threatened to use force to push Gbagbo out of power but the option is unlikely to be taken.
Although it has previously sent troops to Liberia and Sierra Leone, the military option would be the last resort and in our view would be ill-advised based on the reality on the ground.