Opinions Sun, 23 Jan 2011

Diagnosis of Ghana’s Position on the Ivorian Electoral Crisis

Collective Insecurity?- Critical Diagnosis of Ghana’s Position on the Ivorian Electoral Crisis

By Kofi Nsia-Pepra, Ph.D.

Ghana is entangled in a diplomatic conundrum following President Mills’ declared position of noninvolvement militarily in the Ivorian crisis and allegations of supporting Gbagbo. President Mills pronouncements on ECOWAS’ decision to use force to compel Incumbent Gbagbo to respect the will of Ivorians by ceding power to president elect-Ouattara has ignited an interesting conversation among experts and government officials. This article contributes to the conversation objectively examining Ghana’s position, especially some remarks by President Mills, in an attempt to unravel the validity of the allegation. It also analyzes the ramifications of the rhetoric on Ghana’s reputation and geostrategic interests in the sub-region, Africa and the international community of nations.

As a security analyst, international relations and legal scholar and former service personnel, I acknowledge and appreciate the sincerity in President Mills‘ position of Ghana’s non-involvement militarily in the Ivorian crisis due to obvious political, economic and social considerations. Ghana’s noninvolvement, argued by President Mills and Gen. Smith, stems from its overstretched Armed Forces and potential reprisals against Ghanaians resident in Ivory Coast and our oil rigs (mine). Ghana with pending elections, informed by the 2008 electoral violence, requires adequate internal security for a violence free 2012 elections. Ghana‘s decision is well informed by the rational choice theory that postulates that decision makers impute cost benefit -analysis before acting, and actions are taken if the benefit exceeds the costs and vice versa. Guided by his own cost-benefit analysis, President Mills rejects an immediate use of force and proposes patient diplomacy because an immediate use of force will intensify the crisis and reignite the Ivorian conflict with dire consequences for the Ivorians and Ghana. Ghanaian residents in Ivory Coast and our oil rigs will be targets of attack by aggrieved conflict parties.

There is no doubt that Ghana, a “safe haven” and most stable closest Ivory Coast’s neighbor, will be burdened with hosting Ivorian refugees with attendant strains on our economy and related adverse social and political implications. The Liberian war and refugees in Ghana attest to these concerns. President Mills has genuine concerns and we must appreciate them. I support President Mills’ proposed patient diplomacy in line with Chapter VI of the UN Charter that encourages the exhaustion of pacific mechanisms before the initiation of Chapter VII enforcement mechanisms that include the use of force. The use of force is the last resort.

Very worrying however, are President Mills other remarks and whether President Mills concurred or not to the decision at the meeting of ECOWAS Heads of State to use force to oust Incumbent Gbagbo if he refuses to cede power to the legitimately elected President of Ivory Coast-Lasane Ouattara. It seems he agreed in principle to the decision to use force without advancing Ghana’s concerns at the meeting. President Mills‘publicly declared position is therefore incongruous and paradoxical to his position at the meeting with fellow West African Heads of State. This, in international diplomacy, constitutes a stab in their back, a mark of diplomatic dishonesty and a betrayal of trust by President Mills that may give credence to the allegations of supporting Gbagbo. Ouattara’s spokesman Patrick Achi, in reference to Ghana’s position, articulated this allegation when he stated, “I am not surprised by their position. There’s a close relationship between them. At first people felt like this would be easy then, as time goes by, some feel they owe something to the guy.”

President Mills’ diplomatic blunder, due to decisional inconsistency, has suicidal ramifications for Ghana’s reputation and integrity in international diplomacy that requires immediate rectification. President Mills could have avoided this blunder if he had stated his position at the ECOWAS meeting of Heads of State. He could also have had confidential bilateral discussions with each of his fellow Heads of State to discuss Ghana’s position to tactically court their support and court their understanding prior to the meeting of the Head of States. I am confident they would have understood our position cognizant of Ghana’s unique historic contributions to the West African Collective Security system in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and United Nations peacekeeping.

Gen. Smith also introduces an interesting dimension to the conversation. While advancing the security related reasons of Ghana’s non-involvement in the use of force, Gen Smith seems to blame the ECOWAS Secretariat for not consulting experts before making and submitting their decision to ECOWAS Heads of State. Gen. Smith stated - “ECOWAS Secretariat should have consulted experts to critically analyze the crisis before asking Head of States to take a decision on that country”. Gen. Smith’s statement reveals an information gap between Ghana’s representatives on ECOWAS and the home government in relation to decision-making on sensitive diplomatic issues such as the use of force. This is a serious diplomatic anomaly that defies a well acknowledged common diplomatic practice -“phone-home syndrome” - that requires state representatives on international organizations to consult and collaborate with their home states before diplomatic decisions are made. On a sensitive issue such as the use of force, it is imperative that state representatives’ contributions to the decision be informed by the interests and goals of their states to avoid distortions and contradictions in foreign policies. This relational collaborative gap must be bridged to ensure coherent, congruent and competent foreign policy decisions very much absent in our Ivorian crisis-related foreign policy .

We could have also averted this blunder if President Mills and his security advisers, prior to the decisions by the Secretariat and ECOWAS Heads of State, had proactively met to discuss and forecast Ghana’s position on the potential use of force, cognizant of ECOMOG’s historic involvement in conflict prone member states militarily.

President Mills also erred and exhibited decisional inconsistencies by stating that “Ghana will support any government” while recognizing Ouattara as the winner of the election implicitly acknowledging his legitimacy as the President-elect. Supporting any government includes supporting an illegitimate Gbagbo government. This position is unfortunate and derails effective resolution of the Ivorian crisis because it sends wrong signals to the Gbagbo camp and feeds the allegations of Ghana’s tacit support for Gbagbo. It emboldens and hardens Gbagbo’s resolve to ignore the popular demands of the Ivorian people, ECOWAS, AU and UN to cede power to the legitimate choice of Ivoirians because Ghana, a prime troop contributing member of the ECOWAS collective security system, tacitly supports him. Ouattara’s camp similarly became hardened in their quest to claim their legitimate right of leading the Ivorian people by any means possible as unequivocally articulated by his spokesman, Achi . In response to Ghana’s dismissal of the use of force, Achi stated “ I don’t think President Ouattara is only counting on ECOWAS to move this forward” … “other options of intervention exist”. Both camps are currently hardened and deeply entrenched in their subjective positions and the potentialities of compromises for peaceful resolution of the impasse remain very limited.

President Mills’ statements that “it is not for Ghana to choose a president for Cote D’Ivoire” and “Ghana does not take sides” constitute the most serious and damaging diplomatic blunder. The policy of not my business contradicts and damages Ghana’s cherished historic contribution to international peace and security. In a globalised world of structural linkages and at a historic epoch when collective security has assumed primacy in international security discourse, President Mills’ position of not my business stigmatizes Ghana as apathetic , isolationist , divisive, a spoiler and an advocate of collective insecurity. Ghana by this policy finds itself on the wrong side of history opposed to collective security as an effective mechanism of attaining international peace and security reflected in the purpose and goals of the United Nations once headed by a proud son of Ghana, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Involvement in collective security to respond to a threat to international peace and security does not denote partiality or taking sides. Rather it denotes impartiality in the pursuit of the collective interests and resolution of a collective problem. A state’s non-involvement in a collective security system in dealing with a violator/spoiler may imply its normal relations with the spoiler whose behavior has been censored by the international community. This may expose that state to the accusation of condoning that behavior by the spoiler. This is the situation we find ourselves now.

ECOWAS’ military option, if used as a last resort, challenges the usurpation of the sovereign rights of the Ivorian citizenry to elect their leader. The use of force serves as a deterrence to would-be violators and signals to the defenseless citizens that society does not brook brutal acts against innocent people. Refusal to act encourages further human rights violations and the cycle of impunity. Ghana is a signatory to the UN Charter and Article 1 of the UN Charter proclaims the realization, protection and promotion of human rights, through international cooperation, as the purpose of the United Nations. Articles 55 and 56 of the Charter impose obligations on members to this end. In Articles 55 and 56 of the Charter, all members “pledge themselves to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the Organization” to achieve the purpose in Article 1 of the Charter. Chapter VIII of the UN Charter addresses the utilization of regional bodies such as ECOWAS to deal with matters relating to international peace and security consistent with the purposes and principles of the UN. Article 53 provides that regional bodies may take enforcement measures with the authorization of the Security Council.

The situation in Ivory Coast constitutes a threat to international peace and security reflected in global condemnation and measures to compel Gbagbo to cede power to Ouattara. Apart from Gbagbo’s usurpation of the legitimate rights of the Ivorians, reports of extra judicial killings along ethnic fault-lines , refugee flow (22,000) and potential conflict spillage, the sequels of Gbagbo’s recalcitrant and illegitimate cling to power, constitute threats to international peace and security. The impasse has assumed an international dimension that requires international collective action. ECOWAS’ response, including the use of force, is legitimate once authorized by the Security Council or once it receives ex post support as per EOCOMG’s interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. I advocate the exhaustion of pacific means to give Gbagbo enough time to blink but if proved otherwise, the use of force should not be off the table- the last resort. I must caution that we should be watchful he does not utilize this period to rearm and fortify himself rendering all other measures impossible. Ghana’s position of not my business rather derails the efforts of the West African Collective Security System and sends wrong signals to would-be violators that their acts will be unchallenged and unpunished thereby perpetuating the cycle of impunity. Ghana by this creates an environment and a precedence of collective insecurity in the sub-region.

Ghana proudly recognizes and has obligations thereof under the international norm of “responsibility to protect “ (R2P) . R2P redefines sovereignty to include states responsibilities to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Should the state be unable or refuse to protect them, the international community has a responsibility to take prompt and decisive collective action either diplomatically or militarily to protect the victims. If the Ivorian crisis reaches the threshold of invoking R2P, it will be morally wrong for Ghana to ignore its moral obligation “to protect “defenseless Ivorians.

Some commentators have questioned ECOWAS legitimacy in intervening to restore democracy invoking the provision in Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter that prohibits the use of force by member states against the territorial integrity or political sovereignty of any state in any manner inconsistent with the purpose of the UN. Exceptions are for self defense and when authorized by the UN Security Council. However, a new customary international law seems to have emerged in international law discourse that supports intervention to restore democracy as an exception to Article 2 (4) reflected in the Haiti case and ECOMOG’s involvement in Sierra Leone to restore the democratically elected President Kabbah to power. Pro-democratic interventions do not threaten the state’s territorial integrity and violate the political independence of the state. Rather, interventions to restore democratically elected government support the political independence of a state by enforcing the nation’s political will and sovereignty which is violated by the dictator who usurps the will of the people. This position is predicated on the fact that sovereignty derives from the will of the people informed by social contract theory. Thus, pro democratic interventions are consistent with the purpose of the UN as they seek to further human rights in accordance with the preamble and Article 55 of the UN Charter as well as the principle of self determination. Usurpation of the will of the Ivorian people by Gbagbo rather violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ivory coast. An intervention by ECOWAS to restore the will of the Ivorian people (Ouattara as the president), restores the sovereignty and protects the territorial integrity of Ivory Coast.

A new historical epoch has dawned on Africa with strong commitments to collective security with ECOWAS cited in collective security discourse as a success story of regionalism worthy of emulation by the rest of Africa. ECOWAS needs our support to restore the legitimate will of the people of Ivory Coast as articulated by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Kofi Annan states that “I join the many, led by the Economic Community of West African States and African Union who call on former President Laurent Gbagbo to step aside and respect the will of the people. They have chosen Alassane Outtara and no repression, however brutal and long, can undo this decision nor Mr. Ouattara’s legitimacy”.

In conclusion, Ghana has genuine reasons for its noninvolvement in ECOWAS’ potential military intervention in the Ivorian crisis. Ghana’s reasons are overstretched service personnel and related internal security requirements, fear of reprisal against Ghanaians resident in Ivory Coast and our oil rigs (mine). The president’s suggestion of exhaustion of peaceful mechanisms is also laudable however his remarks such as “ I support any government” “it is not for Ghana to choose a president for Cote D’Ivoire” and “Ghana does not take sides” elicit inherent contradictions in his avowed position that betray the genuineness of his intentions for noninvolvement. These inconsistencies may also be deem as acts of betrayal and distrust by ECOWAS Heads of State and other stake holders such as African Union, European Union, and the UN. Ghana seems to champion collective insecurity system in the region with damaging ramifications for Ghana’s cherished global reputation and our future interaction within the community of nations. The tag of tacitly assisting former President Gbagbo is damaging . Ghana requires an immediate damage control mechanism to redeem our image. We need an immediate diplomatic spin to reframe our position and adopt a strategic, balanced, concerned and objective foreign policy on the Ivorian issue in order to reclaim our reputation in international diplomacy.

**Kofi Nsia-Pepra Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Political Science (International Relations/Comparative politics, public policy, conflict analysis and resolution and American politics) at Ohio Northern University, USA. He taught at Wayne State University, University of Michigan Dearborn, Central Michigan University (USA) and Hanyang University, South Korea. He has Master of Laws degree (International Human Rights Law), Essex University, UK. His research and publication interests are: critical international security, conflict analysis and resolution, good governance, diplomacy, foreign policy, human rights and UN peacekeeping.

Kofi was a former officer of the Ghana Air Force (rank: Flight Lieutenant) and served with United Nations Assisted Mission in Rwanda and was Ghana Air Force detachment Commander with ECOMOG in Sierra Leone. .

E-mail: k-nsia-pepra@onu.edu

Columnist: Nsia-Pepra, Kofi