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Implications of the President's Capture

Speakers: Jendayi Frazer, Adjunct Senior Fellow For Africa Studies And Author Of The Op-Ed "The Martyr (Denied): Gbagbo's Last Stance", CFR, and John Campbell, Author of Africa In Transition blog and Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow For Africa Policy Studies, CFR
Presider: Deborah Jerome, Deputy Editor, CFR.org
April 12, 2011
Council on Foreign Relations

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OPERATOR: I would now like to turn the conference over to Deborah Jerome. Ma'am, you may begin.

DEBORAH JEROME: Thank you.

Good morning. I want to welcome all of you to this Council on Foreign Relations media conference call on the events in Ivory Coast. As you all know, former President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested yesterday after a long post-election battle in which he refused to cede power to the internationally recognized winner of the November presidential vote, Alassane Ouattara.

I'm Deborah Jerome. I'm deputy editor of CFR.org. And here with me are Jendayi Frazer and John Campbell. Jendayi Frazer is CFR's adjunct senior fellow for Africa studies and former secretary -- assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

John Campbell is a former ambassador to Nigeria, and he is CFR's Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies.

Thank you both so much for being here.

I want to start out with a basic question for both of you to kick off this session. I understand that there's still shooting going on in Ivory Coast. So what do you both feel are the key steps President Ouattara needs to take right now to stabilize the country politically and get the economy back on track?

Maybe, Jendayi, you can take it first, and then, John, it'll be your turn.

JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, I think that President Ouattara is taking a lot of the important steps. He's signalling very clearly to both his forces to put down their arms, as well as, to those who have supported Gbagbo, that there will be a process of reconciliation, and so -- and that there will be no witch hunting, and so I think that that's an important step.

I think he needs to, in addition, signal to the U.N. and be very clear that the U.N. still has a role to play in Cote d'Ivoire, and it was not simply a matter of -- the civilians are protected, according to their mandate, now that Gbagbo is arrested, but in fact they need to continue to play that role of trying to help him to secure the country during this transition phase and to carry out their mandate, 1975 and 1528, in which they are expected to protect the civilian population and to help restore human rights. So I think that those are two critically important areas.

Obviously, there's a humanitarian crisis. With a million IDPs and hundreds of thousands of refugees, he's going to have to restore the economy and start bringing those people home and resettled in their homes. So those are at least some of the early steps that he needs to take.

JEROME: John?

JOHN CAMPBELL: Clearly, the president has to reach out to Gbagbo's base. By the end, the Cote d'Ivoire was a highly fragmented country, and there were substantial numbers of people who supported Gbagbo. That's one of the reasons why he was able to defy the international community for so long. Those people need to be reconciled and, as Dr. Frazer said, the president has indeed made the right sounds.

Clearly, there has to be a disarmament, particularly of all the irregulars on both sides, and there also has to be a significant effort to reintegrate them into Ivorian life.

I agree that the U.N. has a continuing role in Cote d'Ivoire during this transition period, and I also think, related to that, that the international community, as it were, moves on and stops paying attention to Cote d'Ivoire at Cote d'Ivoire's peril. The drama isn't over yet. There is still fighting. There is still bloodshed. The Ivorian government needs the international community's support.

JEROME: Thanks, John.

We're ready now to open it up to questions.

OPERATOR: (Gives queueing instructions.) Our first question comes from Joe DeCapua with Voice of America.

QUESTIONER: Yes. Good morning. Do you see any comparisons at all at this stage in Ivory Coast and what's happening in Libya?

CAMPBELL: Jendayi, do you want to go first? Do you want me to --

FRAZER: You can go ahead, John.

CAMPBELL: Comparisons -- well, we can -- we can start with the fact that in absolute terms, in terms of the numbers of people involved, the humanitarian crisis in Cote d'Ivoire is worse than the humanitarian crisis in Libya. I mean, it affects more people. The population of Cote d'Ivoire is significantly larger than Libya's.

Second point, it is the U.N. that has been the principal outside organization that has been involved. Right now in Libya, it's NATO.

Thirdly, as of yesterday, there is significant progress towards resolving the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, whereas in Libya it goes on and on. So I think -- I mean, there are -- there are obvious similarities between the two in that there is a civil war or something like a civil war under way in both countries that involves the international community, but I wouldn't push the comparison too far.

FRAZER: I would -- I would simply add to what John said in -- from the point of view that, frankly, the African Union has had little influence over the events which are taking place in Libya.

The Arab League has taken much more of a leadership role there, whereas they have been part of the driving force in recognizing Ouattara's government from the beginning with the Economic Community of West African States, and so they have greater influence over events in Ivory Coast. And I would have loved to have seen the plane with President Zuma, instead of going to Libya, actually going to Ivory Coast and trying to help in that conflict in a way that did not leave the impression that it was a French, you know, neocolonial action.

And so I think now is the time for the African Union to help Ouattara figure out some type of exit strategy. And that does include bringing Gbagbo to justice, that he's held accountable for the events in Cote d'Ivoire, but to help him to do that. And so I think the AU needs to assert itself or at least members of the AU to support Ouattara's governing.

CAMPBELL: I think it's interesting that French spokesmen are at pains to distance themselves from the actual arrest of Gbagbo. I think there is, indeed, a possibility of an anti-French backlash in Cote d'Ivoire.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes -- (name inaudible) -- from AllAfrica.com.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thanks for taking the time. I actually had two questions.

The first was you had mentioned the issue of impunity. How best do you think it is to address this, to bring those to justice? And do you foresee Laurent Gbagbo going before the International Criminal Court?

FRAZER: Well, I will say that I think -- I'm not necessarily a fan of another African, you know, case at the International Criminal Court. So I would rather see Mr. Gbagbo taken out of the country, held in some type of custody, whether it's house arrest or jailed, and then the Ivorian courts being relegitimized and build the capacity to actually hold a trial against him or that there be some type of -- and unfortunately I think there's not this option, but it should be some type of regional court, you know, an African court of human and people's rights or something, which would be able to address this issue. But I'm not a big fan of an automatic going to the ICC.

CAMPBELL: It is interesting that an ICC prosecutor has raised the possibility of another ECOWAS state, asking the ICC to get involved. I share Dr. Frazer's unease about yet another African case before the ICC. I think, as of right now, all of the cases before the ICC are African.

If in fact Gbagbo could be kept in custody outside of Ivory Coast until the Ivorian judicial system can be reconstituted -- a process that might not take all that long -- then, I think, trying Gbagbo on criminal charges under Ivorian law in Cote d'Ivoire would be the best way to deal with him.

QUESTIONER: OK. And my second question was, when you do foresee -- do you have any kind of a timetable of lifting any sanctions imposed against people in Cote d'Ivoire or against the country itself?

CAMPBELL: You're question is how rapidly will the international community lift the sanctions that are in place?

QUESTIONER: Yes. Well, the United States -- you've imposed your own sanctions, correct? And if you -- when do you foresee lifting any of those?

CAMPBELL: Well, I would suspect that the sanctions will be lifted literally as soon as it's practical do so. It is -- was remarkable how quickly, for example, the sanctions regime, which was far more complex and far more elaborate, that applied to apartheid South Africa -- how quickly that that -- that regime was dismantled after South Africa's nonracial elections. I wouldn't anticipate it taking very long.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible.)

FRAZER: Yeah, I would agree with John that -- I'm sure that the State Department and Treasury Department are looking to immediately remove sanctions that have been placed on the economy -- for instance, getting the West African Monetary Union to release funds to Ouattara so that he can pay the military and restore the economy. And so I'm positive that they're going to move very rapidly.

QUESTIONER: Mm-hmm. OK. Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Joe Vaccarello, with CNN.

QUESTIONER: Well -- and my question was the ICC question, but another question I have is, John, you mentioned the possibility of a French backlash.

CAMPBELL: Yes.

QUESTIONER: Does France, you know, take some troops out or do they need them for the, you know, French expats? I mean, what role -- what does France do to make sure that there's -- there is no backlash? And does what Ouattara -- you know, does he distance himself from the French and, you know, go more towards the U.N. or what? What happens next?

CAMPBELL: Backlash against the French has become an element in Ivorian politics, not least because Gbagbo played that card fairly frequently in the past. And more recently he was associating the United States with France as well.

In terms of what the French do about it, until the French increased their -- the number of their troops a few days ago, the French stated that their troops in Cote d'Ivoire were there only to facilitate the departure of French nationals, should that become necessary.

One would hope that with Ouatarra's reaching out and with various steps that are presumably under way to end the fighting, that it would be necessary for the French to keep troops in Cote d'Ivoire to facilitate the departure of French citizens, since if French citizens wanted to leave, they could simply get on a plane and leave.

The fact remains that the French were indeed involved yesterday, and whether or not they were directly involved in Gbagbo's capture, everybody could see their helicopters circling overhead. So this is going to be an issue that is going to require careful management.

QUESTIONER: And what about the U.N.? I mean, supposedly the U.N. had used attack helicopters. Is there a feeling that the U.N. may have -- I mean, there are some saying that the U.N. may have gone beyond its mandate and is not a -- you know, a fair player. Do you see any kind of backlash against the U.N.?

CAMPBELL: It's a case where if people want to attack the role of the U.N., they can certainly find grounds to do so. But look at where we are. We were in the last days of a civil war taking place in a city of more than 3 million people, with every potential for a major blood bath. Under those circumstances, I'm not prepared to second guess what the U.N. did to bring about an end to the fighting -- or an end to the crisis. The fighting is still going on.

JEROME: John, actually, I'd like to -- this is Deborah Jerome. I'd like to throw in a question there.

You seem to be indicating that you feel that the U.N. and France -- the international intervention here has generally been a sound thing. But given this anti-French feeling in Cote d'Ivoire, does that sort of speak -- does that sort of speak against this kind of intervention?

CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, anti-French feeling is by no means ubiquitous in Cote d'Ivoire. It is something that was specifically associated with Gbagbo and his supporters.

The other thing -- we've been talking about the U.N. role and the French role. I think it's very important to remember that essentially starting a bit more than a week ago, Gbagbo's supporters started deserting him in droves. You remember that after the Ouatarra forces -- well Ouatarra forces were able to essentially walk into Yamoussoukro, the ceremonial capital of the country, and kept on going towards Abidjan as Gbagbo's supporters simply melted away.

Now, the reasons why Gbagbo's Ivorian support seems to have collapsed, I think, is a very interesting question. I think it probably owes something to the international financial sanctions regime, because I think Gbagbo had increasing difficulty in actually paying his irregulars and also paying the Ivorian army. But it's important to remember that there were wholesale defections of Gbagbo's supporters to the Ouatarra side.

I think we always have to guard against seeing dramatic developments in an African country as the result of outsiders, such as the U.N. or, in this case, France, as opposed to the internal dynamic.

JEROME: Thank you very much.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

Our next question comes from Sam Logan with International Relations and Security.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Good morning. Thank you both for your time.

Listening to your comments from other questions and your earlier remarks, I'm thinking about the idea of careful management moving forward. My question is sort of focused on the role of the international community and whether or not you two think if the international community, collectively speaking, pushes in too quickly to prosecute Gbagbo, would it make that -- would it make it then difficult for the two sides to reach some sort of reconciliation?

CAMPBELL: Jendayi, do you want to go first?

FRAZER: Well, I can't say whether it will or not. I certainly think that the passions are fairly raw right now, the emotions are fairly raw in -- especially with Gbagbo supporters. And they would argue that, you know, the atrocities committed by forces loyal to Ouattara are as much of a problem.

And so I would probably err on the side of taking some time to bring Gbagbo to justice, to put him on trial rather than trying to move forward quickly on that path in the interest of reconciliation of the society as a whole. Moreover, I think that to have a credible trial, you do have to do investigations. And that's also going to take some time. You know, you don't want it to be a kangaroo court. So they need to spend some careful time actually looking at the evidence and, you know, bringing appropriate charges against him.

CAMPBELL: And after all, certain human rights organizations as recently as yesterday and the day before were postulating that some of these mass graves were the results of murders by irregulars associated with Ouattara's side.

So Dr. Frazer is exactly right. This requires a very, very careful investigation, very, very careful weighing of factors. And it's why I find attractive the notion of keeping Gbagbo in custody outside of Cote d'Ivoire and then eventually having him stand trial in Cote d'Ivoire, but standing trial for allegedly breaking Ivorian law.

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Gives queueing instructions.)

Our next question comes from Evelyn Leopold with the Huffington Post.

QUESTIONER: Yes, what other issues do you think have to be solved, since the 2002 civil war was never really solved?

CAMPBELL: No.

QUESTIONER: Aside from disarmament, which is obvious, and no revenge killings, what are some of the economic and social issues that you think Ouattara faces now?

And also, on the French thing, both men have had such a close connection with French -- one married a woman. Gbagbo was in exile there. He's supported by French socialists as well as Le Pen. It's a peculiar relationship.

CAMPBELL: It certainly is a peculiar relationship. And one thinks back to Houphouet-Boignmy in many respects, the sort of father of modern Cote d'Ivoire, and his intimate relationship with France. It's enormously complicated, and it's a -- it's an ex-colonial relationship, which I think is different from those of many of France's other ex colonies.

The question you're asking, what do you do to reunify a badly fractured country, what do you do to break down this insidious distinction between the so-called indigents and so-called settlers -- even the settlers have lived, or their families have lived in Cote d'Ivoire for 50 or 60 years -- this is a -- I mean, how do you -- how do you move beyond those kind of identities into a broader Ivorian identity? I mean, this is -- this is a long and painful process.

But it's a process, I think, that becomes much easier if the economy is on the upswing. I mean, in effect, what was in many respects West Africa's strongest economy has essentially been severely damaged and aspects of it destroyed over the past 10 or 12 years. And what that's done is make everything worse. I mean, a step forward in Cote d'Ivoire is "enrichez-vous" -- get rich. I mean, restore the economy. Get things moving again. And then in conjunction with very artful politics, try to -- try to restore or even create a renewed sense of national identity that supersedes the other divisions.

FRAZER: Yeah, just to add to that, I think that they need to -- I mean, once you take care of your basic issues of, you know, addressing the humanitarian -- and restoring the economy and to some degree securing the country, I think they need to really deal with more structural institutional reform, and particularly trying to diminish the power of the presidency so that you can have more of a balance and separation of powers. And I think that you can create more localities of decision making, of governance so that it doesn't all reside in the presidency and that becomes the big prize to capture. So I really do think that some type of real institutional reform down the line is going to be necessary, as well as issues of land reform. And as John said, the thorny issue of citizenship are important long-term changes that need to take place.

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Gives queuing instructions again.)

JEROME: While we're waiting, I was just wondering, you -- Jendayi, you mentioned before that there are, you know, a huge number, over 1 million -- over 1 million, I believe, displaced people.

FRAZER: Yes.

JEROME: Many of them have fled to Liberia and elsewhere. What are the long-term effects of this displacement, and how do you get these people to return? And what are the implications of their return to the country?

FRAZER: Well, one of the good things about this, is there -- if you can say anything is good, is that they haven't been displaced for so long. This displacement, this wave of people is really starting with the post-election period of November, and so I think there's going to be a need for a huge infusion of humanitarian assistance to try to move them back home. It's not so much -- and of course you want to be sure that they come back to a very secure environment, but I think that it's not a situation where they've been gone for, you know, months -- I mean not for months but years and therefore somebody else has, you know, taken over their land or taken over their homes, et cetera. So I think it doesn't have to be too much of a major challenge with significant international assistance to help, you know, with the relocation, the logistics of it all.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

JEROME: John, do you have any thoughts on this?

CAMPBELL: Just that the vast majority of the displaced persons, in fact, remain in Cote d'Ivoire and, you know, they want to go home. They want to get back to their -- to their villages. I think -- I think once the security situation is restored, there will be no -- there will be no problem getting them to go home.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Joe DeCapua with Voice of America.

QUESTIONER: Yes. Early on you talked about or you warned about what might happen if the international community eventually turns it back on Ivory Coast when this immediate crisis is over. What do you think would happen if the international community does that?

CAMPBELL: Well, I think that if Ivory Coast is to move out of the current crisis, it's going to need the support of the international community.

Now, what do I mean by that? It's going to need humanitarian aid and assistance. It's also going to need political support and encouragement. And the legitimate government will benefit from the fact that the international community is watching.

What worries me is that too often the international community has a very short attention span and simply moves on to the next crisis that dominates the news cycle. Were that to happen with respect to Cote d'Ivoire, the whole process would at very least take much longer and might well be compromised in some way that's hard to foresee.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Moni Basu, with CNN.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thanks very much for taking our questions today. I was wondering if you could maybe give us some perspective on Ouattara. Human rights agencies have actually accused him of having blood on his hands -- or at least his forces of having blood on his hands, murder and rape. What does that bode for him in his moment of victory, as he is poised to begin leading the nation out of this troubled period?

FRAZER: Well, I think that that really speaks to the need to have a balanced sense of justice, you know, to do investigations on all sides. I think it's a remaining question about these forces who are supportive of Ouattara, versus Ouattara having command and control over these forces. That bears some investigation.

But I think that it's widely recognized that the source of this crisis lays at the feet of Gbagbo. And so in terms of Ouattara's governance, if he does reach out and he is skillful in his efforts towards reconciliation and he holds accountable, to the degree possible, forces loyal to him that have committed, you know, crimes against humanity or human rights violations, then he should be OK.

His biggest challenge is going to be more on the governance side of addressing some of these more fundamental and long-term problems in Cote d'Ivoire than I think it will be addressing the issue of atrocities, which he so far is handling quite well.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Clayton Jones, with The Christian Science Monitor.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thank you for doing this. International context question: As we've seen in Libya, there's been a distinction between humanitarian intervention and avoidance of regime change. From what we know about the French intervention -- helicopters over the residence and so forth, and perhaps even in the arrest -- has that distinction been blurred in terms of humanitarian role and regime change? And might that -- this lesson in Ivory Coast apply to Libya some day, that perhaps they're two sides of the same coin? Have the French purposely shown that you can't just do one?

CAMPBELL: I'm not sure I really understand your question or really see it. We're not talking regime change in Cote d'Ivoire. I mean, a change of government occurred in Cote d'Ivoire last November, as the result of an election which was internationally recognized as credible. That made Ouattara the president of Cote d'Ivoire. Gbagbo's position after November was essentially that of some kind of rebel leader, despite his claims that in fact the elections were not credible and that they ought to be rerun.

Now, that reality is complicated by the fact that Gbagbo had, and presumably still has, considerable bedrock support. That takes us back to the bedeviling issues of a profoundly divided society and how you go about bridging those differences. But what happened in Cote d'Ivoire yesterday was not a regime change. The regime change, as it were, occurred last November, as a result of credible elections.

FRAZER: Yes. I agree with that 100 percent.

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Repeats queuing instructions.) (Pause.)

Currently there -- actually, our next question comes from Samuel Rubenfeld, with Dow Jones.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thank you for taking my question. You've only addressed so far U.S. sanctions on Ivory Coast. As we all know, there are several other entities that have imposed sanctions, including the EU, which has since lifted sanctions on the ports, and the United Nations. Can you speak to the status of those sanctions issuances and whether any of those will be lifted any time soon?

FRAZER: Go ahead, John.

CAMPBELL: Well, what I was going to say is that those sanctions are -- the situation of the sanctions is essentially parallel to ours. In other words, what you're dealing with here are essentially logistical issues in which the sanctions will be lifted as quickly as possible. And that's going to vary from organization to organization and from country to country.

FRAZER: And I'm sure that the sanctions, the targeted financial sanctions against Gbagbo, his wife and a few of his supporters, will remain in place.

CAMPBELL: Oh, yes.

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Gives queueing instructions.)

Currently there are no questions in the queue.

JEROME: All right. If we have no further questions, then I think I'd like to -- we'll end the call a little bit early. I want to thank Jendayi Frazer and John Campbell for answering your questions this morning and remind all of you that if you're interested in more information on these issues, you can go to cfr.org to -- and -- where you'll find quite a trove.

Thank you all for joining us, and good morning. Bye.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

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