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Thursday, 10 March 2011 10:29

Ivory Coast: Another Failure of Morality?

There was a very good point in reaction to my last post, on a no-fly zone in Libya, arguing that the West could not claim to be the moral arbiters for the world. Even though this is not entirely what I aimed at, there are plenty of examples to support this comment. Ivory Coast, a former colony of France, is just the latest example.

Despite regaining some media attention at the moment, the Ivory Coast has been largely ignored since the election last year. The former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara won the elections in a process that the UN called "free and fair" and is internationally recognised as president of Ivory Coast, but incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refuses to leave office. Reports now claim that supporters of Gbagbo shot at protesters with live ammunition, killing hundreds, maybe up to 1,000 since the elections took place in December.

Unlike Libya's case, which is being broadcast 24 hours a day, Ivory Coast's position is considerably weaker. If you consider it's geopolitical position in comparison to Libya, it does seem to make a difference whether your main export product is cocoa or oil, (and possibly illegal migrants). It may not be surprising then that despite trade sanctions against two Ivorian ports, the European response has been limited to 'concern' over escalating violence (Germany) or hollow calls to the UN to investigate the violence (France). As in the wider Middle East, Europe has once again missed the opportunity to make a bold statement in promoting democracy and liberal values.

The International Crisis Group warns that the rapidly worsening violence "is a serious threat to peace and stability in West Africa" and that the African community needs to prevent an "all-out war". Rather than supporting African attempts to settle this situation, Europe shrinks from pushing this topic firmly onto the international agenda. The time in which Europe can (re-) claim moral righteousness has once again moved further away.

Published in Beyond Europe
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