Ivory Coast: This Is How You Make A Mess

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September 30, 2006: In the north, the economy, and infrastructure, has broken down. The northern rebels are split into a coalition of factions. They are only really united when it comes to dealing with the government in the south. As a result, the water and electricity systems have fallen apart in the north, mainly due to lack of maintenance, and looting of facilities. There is no government in the north to guarantee the safety of water and electricity facilities, or the staff that runs them, so little is done. President Gbagbo knows this, and believes that if he can get the 4,000 French and 7,000 African peacekeepers out of the country, he can reconquer the north and reunite the country. ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), which has supplied most of African peacekeepers, is opposed to this, as they see Gbagbo as a corrupt despot and the cause of most of the trouble in Ivory Coast. But ECOWAS and the French have to agree to remove Gbagbo and run the country until elections can be held. This would be very difficult, for Gbagbo does have followers who would fight. Gbagbo's basic position, which caused the civil war, is that most of the people in the north, because they are emigrants, or the children of emigrants, are not really citizens of Ivory Coast and should leave. The Ivory Coast armed forces, and pro- Gbagbo militias in the south, are not strong enough to toss out the peacekeepers. And then there's the cost issue. Maintaining 11,000 peacekeepers is expensive, France and the African nations are getting tired of paying for it. Everyone would like the situation to be resolved peacefully, but Gbagbo has made "expulsion of the foreigners" really popular in the south. And the "foreigners" in the north are not willing to go.
September 25, 2006: The president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, arrived to mediate the dispute between the government and the rebels in the north. This won't work because the northern rebels did not accept Mbeki, who was selected by the African Union (where South Africa has a lot of influence.) Mbeki is a personal friend of Ivory Coast president Gbagbo, which was the main reason why the northern rebels rejected this choice.
September 22, 2006: The ruling party in the south has demanded that French peacekeepers leave the country. France ignored this.
September 21, 2006: The UN admitted that the presidential election could not be held by the end of October. The main reason is lack of cooperation by president Gbagbo in registering voters. No one has any idea of when this problem might be cleared up. Officially, the UN mandate for Gbagbo to continue as president, a year after his terms has expired, also ends on October 31.
September 16, 2006: Popular anger against the toxic waste dumping led to the formation of a new government. Some of the old ministers were physically attacked, or their homes burned down. The most notable thing about the 130,000 gallons of "toxic waste" was that is was not all that toxic (it was slops, containing petroleum and cleaning chemicals) from the holds of a tanker, that was foul smelling (rotten eggs) because of the presence of hydrogen sulfide. Normally, this stuff if transferred to a treatment facility, which costs several hundred dollars. But there was no such treatment facility in Ivory Coast, although the ship paid a local Ivorian company to take care of the stuff. It was Ivorians who left the stuff in several garbage dumps around the capital. To further complicate matters, the ship owner insists that chemical analysis of fluids remaining in the ship show no presence of hydrogen sulfide. It also appears that most of the illness was the result of panic and hysteria because of the smell from the hydrogen sulfide. This chemical can be dangerous, but only in large quantities. Most of the damage apparently resulted from the smell, media attention and rumors. But given the poor state of government in Ivory Coast, this is not surprising. Corruption and incompetence has created a government that does not work every well at all, and it doesn't take much (like the smell of hydrogen sulfide), to set people off.

 

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