In the short term, military force might be able to install Ouattara as President of Ivory Coast. But the ethnic and religious divisions of the civil war have been reopened, and deepened. Ivory Coast desperately needs a healing figure, somebody who is not Ouattara or Gbagbo. Having been imposed on Abidjan by force, Ouattara will only stay there by force. The future looks bleak.
Many thousands have been killed in the last week. The massacre of 800 civilians at Duekoue is only the worst individual event. It was carried out by fighters from the old LURD camp in the Liberian civil war, brought across the border by Ouattara with French money. That money has also brought in Burkinese and Senegalese fighters for Ouattara.
This is a tragedy for Africa, because it devalues democracy. Ouattara, with a strong personal push from Sarkozy, secured international recognition for his election victory. In truth it was an extremely dubious election, with no freedom for Ouattara supporters in the South or for Gbagbo supporters in the North in a poisonous contest. It would have been better for everyone if Gbagbo had accepted that he lost and left quietly. But the truth is that both sides’ claims of victory are fallacious. This was nothing like a free and fair election. Somehow the UN and the international community finds itself in the position of imposing by force, fighting alongside the perpetrators of massacre, the “democratically elected” victor. This denigrates democracy.
Nor should it be forgotten that Gbagbo’s forces had been responsible for plenty of killing of innocent civilians, particularly among the Ouattara minority in Abidjan itself. The international community should declare that both men have shown they are unfit to rule, and disqualify both from new elections.