Truth and Ivory Coast 36

An article in the Guardian yesterday by Thalia Griffiths quite rightly pointed out the huge problems facing Alassane Ouattara in uniting and governing Ivory Coast. But the article is remarkably uncritical of Ouattara, and follows the common Western fallacy of promoting a “good guy” in a civil war when the leaders on all sides are “bad guys”.

This is the fundamental flaw in liberal interventionism. It inevitably leads to the imposition of governments like the ultra-corrupt coastal elite of Sierra Leone, like Bosnian and Albanian gangster mafias or like Alassane Ouattara. I wrote what I believe is the only genuine, full and eye-witness analysis of the truth of Blair’s Sierra Leone intervention in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. The essential advice is simple. Follow the money.

That approach leads you quickly to note that Thalia Griffiths is the editor of African Energy. Ivory Coast is newly oil rich with extremely prospective deep fields under further exploration. That is why French army tanks finally crushed Gbagbo. That is why Sarkozy put such huge effort into establishing Ouattara.

Now we must not make the reverse error of glorifying the Gbagbo side. Gbagbo clung to office and postponed elections too long. He played the ethnic card. He indulged in nepotism. His forces killed the innocent. He was one of those noble and longstanding opposition figures who becomes something of a nightmare in power. His side cheated, beat and intimidated just as much as Ouattara’s side in elections which it is farcical to claim were free, fair and properly administered, or were any kind of realistic guide to the will of the people of a deeply riven state. I hope that Gbagbo is decently treated, but do not regret his loss of power.

That said, the attempt by Thalia Griffiths to puff Ouattara is simply a symptom of the saccharine treatment he will get in future by all those connected to western oil interests, including western governments. There were massacres on both sides, but the most startling were carried out by Ouattara’s forces, by ethnic militias which Ouattara deliberately mobilised with French money, including fighters brought in from neighbouring Liberia.

This by Thalia is an absolute disgrace:

Recent reports of atrocities in the west have blamed Ouattara supporters, but while conflicts over land pit northerners against southerners, it is cruel but convenient to blame Ouattara for the latest flare-up of conflicts that have existed for a generation. It is land conflict coupled with a breakdown in state security – not urban Abidjan politics – that are behind reports of killings in the west. Clashes like these are vile, but nothing new.

That is simply untrue. The massacre of 800 people at Duekoue a fortnight ago is thankfully extremely rare, and was without doubt committed by Ouattara mobilised militias. To try to lessen this is crass.

Consider this about Ouattara. He was Prime Minister to a truly dreadful African despot, Houphouet-Boigny, who was dictator of Ivory Coast for 33 years. Houphouet-Boigny moved the capital to his home village and spent US$300 million on building the world’s largest church there. He looted US$9 billion from the people of Ivory Coast. Ouattara was his ally, his finance minister then prime minister, and has never disavowed him. All that Thalia notes about H-B is that he had a policy of ethinic inclusion. That again is disgraceful journalism.

But also Houphouet-Boigny and Ouattara’s Ivory Coast was the base for both French military and CIA operations throughout the continent and for promoting the very worst kind of western interests – which is why Africans view with huge suspicion Ouattara’s instalment by Western forces.

Ivory Coast was allied to apartheid South Africa and was the sanctions busting capital of Africa. Vast amounts of goods, including but not limited to oil, were consigned to Ivory Coast on their papers and trans-shipped to the apartheid regime to bust sanctions. Ivory Coast also provided all the logistic back-up to Jonas Savimbi and UNITA and it was in Abidjan that the CIA and apartheid regime worked together to promote the terrible Angolan civil war.

It was also in Abidjan that the CIA organised the coup that overthrew Kwame Nkrumah and planned the death of Patrice Lumumba. (Again, we should not fall into the goodies and baddies trap. The CIA and Ivory Coast regime were definitely bad. But Nkrumah too had become a cruel dictator – again, read The Catholic Orangemen of Togo.)

Ouattara became head of the african department and deputy managing director of the IMF in the 1980s when that organisation was forcing disastrous structural adjustment programmes all over the continent. African nations were forced to liberalise, reduce tariffs and open up their economies when no such constraints were placed on the developing nations with which they were trading. To give just one example of how this worked, which I personally tried but failed to counter: Nigeria was forced by the IMF to reduce tariffs on imported sugar. The EU then flooded Nigeria with millions of tons of sugar, at one third of the cost of its production, with the remaining two thirds paid to European farmers as export subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy. Nigeria’s sugar plantations – which were actually very efficient – collapsed under the unfair subsidised competition from which Nigeria was not allowed to protect them. That was Ouattara. France was very happy with him.

So not only does Ouattara need to heal the deep divisions in his own population, he has to prove to the rest of Africa he is not just a western tool. That will not be easy. I pointed out in an earlier posting that there is dislike between Ouattara and Zuma; I hope that this gives you some idea why.

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36 thoughts on “Truth and Ivory Coast

  • WikiSpooks


    You really are at your very best when commenting on African politics; a vast subject on which the ignorance – and consequent credulousness – of Western publics is equally vast. The above is impressive and enlightening in equal measure. Thank you

      • spectral

        I watch the clip about "western weapons" in hands of rebels on WkiSpooks, I'll tell you that is not the truth. FN Herstal (among others) had sold the rifles to Tripoli way before the rebellion. I am not saying the rebells are not supplied by the Western secret services, but those shown on clip are not ones. So, if I may advise, if you want to be taken seriously: do not propagate the lies.

  • Michael.K

    Yeah, thanks Craig. Experience and knowledge are powerful tools in the battle to understand the contradictioins and complexities of the world.

    • Craig_Murray

      Thank you. MSM comment is mostly simply entirely ignorant of background; where it isn't it is wilfully slanted, like the Guardian piece.

  • ingo

    Thank you very much for this enlightened resumee Craig, I have been fretting since the elections, because the mix of ethnic and religious tensions there did not forbode well. I still fear that those of Gbagbos forces, still armed, can raise the temperature in neigbouring countries.
    maybe I'm just imagining it, but people are much more clued up in Africa, in the sixties and seventies they were much eager to take up arms and fight for one or other despot, today they seem to prefer leaving them to it and rather going into camps in exile. Information about African affairs are as badly reported as EU affairs, UK citizens are some of the worst informed in the world it seems, unless there are some bendy banana stories to be written.

  • Anon

    All this is following a pattern of the west cutting up the world for their own ends, we are looking at the sharing of the spoils to those who support the USA in their quest for total domination of the planets resources!. I have been watching all this for years and I think the planets resources are in a FAR worse state then we are led to believe. If we only knew the truth. France is now getting it`s pay off, it will also make France more powerful in the EU and able to counter a more powerful german dominance that is growing, there does seem a more cosy relationship between the UK and France over the last few years, a case of mutual interest, it also suits the US that this is so, control of the EU is a major aim of the US. People really should have known what was coming when the USA started up Africom, how long has the (once) bread basket of Africa Zimbabwe got before that is taken back by the UK ?.

          • glenn_uk

            Perhaps you're a mate of this nut who ran for Congress:

            —start quote
            "While ocean dispersal would have long ago turned the radioactive waste disposal issue into a non-problem had pseudo environmentalism not intervened, the best place for that waste is in the concrete foundations and insulation of homes and buildings. Suitably diluted, radioactive substances in our homes would provide a hermetic radiation dose and significantly prolong our lives."
            —end quote

            He's with you on this crap about "hormesis", and has a range of views you may find entertaining:

          • evgueni

            Glenn, can you do better than argumentum ad hominem, please, it is childish. If you are a fan of Linear No Threshold hypothesis then perhaps you could point out the glaring flaws in the alternatives for me so that I may also see the light.

            Just to recap, these two statements are not mutually exclusive:
            radiation is dangerous and deadly;
            effects of low level radiation are not established beyond doubt.

            If it can be shown that the latter statement is not accurate do let me know.

          • Guest

            evgueni, it is you that has missed the point!, some people are trying to pass higher then low level radiation off as being "good for you". That you come on here and try and do the same sort of thing tells me you have an agenda of sorts. Trying to make yourself look smart/clever ?, Unlike Glenn YOU just fell flat on your face.

          • evgueni

            Alright, you got me! How did you do it? I mean, I have never until now let slip that I am generously funded by the evil nuclear lobby.

            I jest. My true agenda is that I am not innumerate. What's yours?

          • Guest

            "I am not innumerate"

            Glad to hear it, all you need to get now is some common sense.

          • evgueni

            I asked you a question and got another insult in return. But alright, I admit defeat. You are much better than me at insults. I have learned my lesson!

  • Iain Orr

    Craig – Many thanks for that balanced and informed comment. Is there no way you can get it into the mainstream media? I would also encourage an enterprising publisher to commission a new edition of "The Catholic Orangemen of Togo", with an extra couple of chapters on more recent West African politics. It's daft for such insights to be read only by the powerless elite who follow your blogs. Recent events in Cote d'Ivoire with their echoes of the varied colonialisms in West Africa make it worth recalling a stanza from a verse written during the 2nd World War by a writer who then served from 1941 to 1943 as Press Officer to the British Representative in Dublin:

    Keep our Empire undismembered
    Guide our Forces by Thy Hand,
    Gallant blacks from far Jamaica,
    Honduras and Togoland;
    Protect them Lord in all their fights,
    And, even more, protect the whites.
    John Betjeman (1906-84) from In Westminster Abbey, published in Old Lights for New Chancels, 1940

  • mark_golding

    Ouattara and Dominique Folloroux are crooks hiding behind front charities like 'Children of Africa' with offices in France and New York. Ouattara and Folloroux's money guru, Simon Midale, rapidly closed bank accounts in France and moved $billions to Geneva while (*note well*) manipulating complex tax loop-holes that exploit tax havens and 'off-shore' transactions to avoid paying $millions in taxes.

    Of course 'Best Man' Nicolas Sarkozy will work hard .TO AVOID EMBARRASSMENT.

    • ingo

      Would one deduct from your hints that the french establishment is equally partial to its taxpayers silent consent to their partaking of tax evasion as it is de rigueur here in these septic isles?
      It is estimated that world wide taxhavens laundering funds of some 900billion past the inbox of inland revenues,
      many of their clients being major high street banks.
      I'm beginning to like the idea of re running an election.
      Can't understand that decentralised power systems have never caught anybodies fancy, such a system would suit diverse regionalities/cultures and or religions, with one head/president selected for a period of X years, or rotating.
      here's one for Ian Orr I made up earlier.
      Power is one animal yet to be drawn, emotionless Moloch, standing three blocks high, no other aim but to make us cry, from dust to dawn, restlessly tangenting, connecting death mammon brawn, for all eternal, unrelenting….

  • Frazer

    HB also had a pond at the palace full of crocodiles where he used to throw in anyone who offended him.
    The church in question is a smaller scale exact copy of St Peters in the Vatican…just thought you would like to know..

  • mark_golding

    I am not a fan of Gbagbo. Craig succinctly exposes the exploitation of Africa by the West and Ouattara IS a western tool in the hearts and minds of West Africans. The ripples of discontent by astute Ivorians permeate the 'blogosphere' – they interpret the hypocrisy of sending a delegation of African leaders to negotiate with Ghadaffi – the OIC insisting Ghadaffi is not to be ousted, while Sarkozy's 'dogs' manhandle Gbagbo ignorant to the Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council declaring President Laurent Gbagbo the winner of a run-off.

    Once again we are talking OIL, CACAO and sugar – fuck the poor Africans, France needs to fill its coffers and Britain is limbering-up colonial powers to exploit the inevitable African unrest by sending British 'wolves' to Nigeria – not to be outdone by the French…. eh?

    • Frazer

      Don't think they have oil mate..if they did the Yanks would have been straight in first …

  • spectral

    I read the Guardian and some of journalist are fine. For some time I thought the Guardian is progressive and truthful oriented paper but nothing further from the truth. When it comes to "realpolitik" the Guardian is pure propaganda, London's Pravda.

    It is in service of Albion and its military-imperial elite. It is, probably, more close to the Chatam House than the Telegraph. By shaping public opinion it enables "humanitarian" interventions and in that sense is in same line with NYT, Al Jazeera, Spiegel, Figaro and the like. I can read warmongering pamphlets like today about Syria, actually I've been following this for couple weeks, wondering where it will go:

    There is no verifiable information at all, clips from Youtube are showing nothing and they can post anything without to understand it, "Katherine Marsh" is reporter from Damask and reporting that pseudonym, and Human Right Watch says this and that….and I know who, and what is behind Human Right Watch. Similar type of article, of similar vocabulary, the tone I could see in the eve of NATO bombardment of Libya.

    Goebbels and Walter Lippmann's Manufacturing of Consent has found its implementation and best friend in Guardian.

  • Anon

    Its not just about oil, its about many things, farm land, mining, strategic positioning to control any given area, we may see some BIG trouble if Russia gets kick out of its naval base at Port Tartus. China's involvement in Africa could well see military confrontation between the USA/EU versus China, sooner then later methinks.

  • spectral

    Two individuals, an intimate friends of the French President, are in the core of Ivory Coast's power struggle. The French bank-industrial elite, by using French military forces imposing figurehead in order to maintain dominance in socio-economic sphere and life in its former colony.

    "Many Ivorian Economists such as Nicholas Agbohou and Mamadou Coulibaly have demonstrated the mechanisms that operate this monetary union which allow it to divert important resources to the French treasury. All countries belonging to the CFA union must deposit 60% of their reserves in the Central Bank of the West African states (BCAO). This bank is effectively controlled by France, through the French members of the bank that sit as permanent members of the administrative council that enjoy the power to veto any decision."

    If one is interested, and want to understand what is going on Ivory Coast this article is must read:

    In addition, neo-colonial establishment and parties from the Germany, in obvious support to its neighbor; just as "international division of labor of colonialists" it requires, Germans support Ivory Coast's parties with help of various NGOs such as right-wing CDU affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation's "Political Dialog West Africa" programme, and the FDP affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation "African Liberal Network". When it comes to lotting and pillaging someone else wealth and resources an ideological prefix is loosing its meanings. Green, red, white, blue or left, right, center are united when attacking "third world" countries. The Germans is in full support of secessionist movement of South Sudan and thus fanning civil war in that country.

    The same Anglo-Frecnh military-political forces – NATO, are at work in Libya, no difference whatsoever between Libya and Ivory Coast or Lebanon and Gaza.

    I wonder where is Bernard-Henri Lévy, another friend of Sarcozy, now? Or, Nial Ferguson of Harvard University? The sad truth they are joined by Juan Cole, Chris Hedges, sometimes Robert Fisk of Independent.

  • mark_golding

    In my opinion and considering the big picture, the Ivory Coast Bush/Gore type election debacle was only an immediate part of the wider problem of neo-colonialism in Africa. The Ivory coast has indigenous wealth particulary off-shore gas and oil which was the reason Gen. David Hogg, the United States Commander in charge of Africa was seeking troop commitments in January for military intervention. France bit the bullet and sent in special forces before the CIA could recruit and arm a classic opposition force against Gbagbo's supporters.

    The fundamental division that drives African politics is the division between the incredibly wealthy foreign and local elites that control continental resources and the dispossessed and oppressed African poor that have to sell their labour and surrender their dignity to these elite machines just to survive.

    Situation normal then as the overwhelming desire for more by the elite at the expense and lives of ordinary folk takes precedence. Another lesson learned – thank-you Craig.

  • felix

    There has been quite a bit of seismic surveying off the coast of Guinea towards the end of 2010. Let's hope the Guardian and their MI6/Chatham House cronies get the right person installed before the oil starts to flow.

  • Japuonj


    In all these debates about Gbagbo, Ouattarra, IMF and stuff, the person whose views and thoughts are consistently 'ommited' is the African voter who should choose who they think have sold them a good deal during the campaigns, and thefeore deserves the 5 year term as the president, and the right to vbe removed after 5 years if the flounder. That person in Ivory Coast situ was Alassane Ouattarra who won by 54 percent of the vote.
    As an African who has seen 2 presidents loose elections and stick to power in Kenya and Zimbabwe, removing Gbagbo from the office he lost via elections, is a good thing.

  • japuonj

    COMMENT 1 Continued……..
    History and the past about Africa, involvement with Apartheid regime, assasination of Patrice Lumumba et al not withstanding, I think Craig will probably
    -Call for the arrest of Nelson Mandela for shaking hands with De Klerk to usher in a new era in South Africa. After all De Klerk represented the apertheid party.
    -Castigate ANC leadership in South Africa for sending condolences to Botha's family following his death. After all Botha was apartheid personified

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