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Opinions Thu, 13 Jan 2011

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Ghanaian Soldiers Should Not Be Sent to Die for Laurent Gbagbo!

Ghana is presently caught in the whirlwind of Africa’s latest political quagmire: the post-election turmoil in Ivory Coast. President Mills has decided against sending Ghanaian soldiers as part of an ECOWAS-superintended military force to oust the ostensibly recalcitrant Laurent Gbagbo. The Ghanaian president’s bold decision to reject a regional plan to employ military action against the leadership of a fellow sovereign African nation-state is the right one, even if the reasons the nation’s public servant numero uno has given his fellow Ghanaians and the international community are not tenable. Mills’ arguments that Ghana’s military was currently spread too thin and that sending a contingent to join a likely ECOWAS-mandated regional force would risk the nation’s peace may not be the real reasons why the president is unwilling to cooperate with his fellow heads of state in the West African sub-region. Whatever his real reasons may be, nevertheless, this shrewd move could become President Mills’ best foreign-policy action so far in his two years as Ghana’s head of state.

In my previous articles on the current political impasse in Ivory Coast (see http://www.africanewsanalysis.com/?p=8128 and http://www.africanexaminer.com/pryce1218), I rejected any calls for a power-sharing arrangement – the type that is currently in place in both Zimbabwe and Kenya – arguing that it would contaminate the clean air of democracy that has been blowing across the continent the last few decades. I also rejected any suggestions that external force be used to propel Alassane Ouattara to the seat of government, arguing, instead, for greater diplomacy in resolving the Ivorian stalemate. A power-sharing plan anywhere on the continent will defeat the essence of a national election, circumnavigating the will of the majority, in the process. Similarly, invading a sovereign nation-state because of an internal political stalemate, where peace and social order have not broken down, may constitute a highhanded interference that may become a terrible precedent.

Because democracy is fairly new to Africa, a continent where social equality had been nothing more than a transitory infatuation, many people in leadership on the continent are finding it hard to subordinate their inordinate ambitions to the basic needs of the masses: freedom of choice, freedom of expression, authentic self-rule and rule of law. From the deserts of Algeria to the savannas of South Africa, from the highlands of Kenya to the forests of Gambia, truly selfless leaders are yet to emerge on the African continent, which is why assaults on democracy and the will of the people are on the rise.

President Mills said very clearly a few days ago that he was not taking sides in the Ivorian crisis, even if he did not deem it necessary at this time for ECOWAS to sink its military fangs into Laurent Gbagbo. Committing Ghanaian soldiers to an open-ended conflict – yes, an invasion of our neighbor will start as an imprecise conflict, with no one able to predict how long it will last – in Ivory Coast could turn out to be our Waterloo, increasing our national debt rapidly and exposing our oil fields to insurgents bent on taking retributive action against the “invaders.”

If there are any lessons here for us, we simply need to study the damage done to the U.S. economy because of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. When George Bush II sent U.S. forces to remove Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein from power a few years ago, the actual air and ground offensives took only three short weeks! In fact, the superior U.S. military’s quick victory over Saddam Hussein’s ill-equipped army surprised even the biggest naysayers, but what do we find in Iraq today? 700 billion dollars – the U.S. government borrowed the same amount of money from the Chinese to prop up the American economy after the nefarious activities of Wall Street insiders nearly crippled the world’s largest economy – and several thousand American deaths later, the U.S. government has been unable to wash its hands off Iraq.

The U.S.A. is facing a similar problem in Afghanistan, where an obviously corrupt Hamid Karzai remains president because the U.S. government cannot allow its mission in that country to fail, thereby allowing Taliban and al-Qaeda forces a field day to plan their next moves against Western nations. It is easy to start a conflict, even for the greatest war machine on earth, but U.S. generals will be the first to tell Ghanaians that prosecuting a war is easy; exiting one quickly is a different matter altogether.

The current Ivorian crisis certainly reveals the dangers of running for office in most African states; epitomizes the nature of repression in Africa; and depicts the brutalities that are rife among African politicians, each trying to outmaneuver his opponents in order to either hold on to power or get to the pinnacle of power. But, most importantly, the Ivorian stalemate is a microcosm of life, in all its venomousness, on a continent where the “correct” version of a political story is told by those leaders who have access to all the AK 47s, bazookas and sub-machine guns. If Africans are going to prevent the merciless winds of dictatorship from sweeping aside the gains brought about by democracy, pluralism and divergence of opinions, then collective action is needed in this decade and beyond to reverse course.

Lt. Gen. J.H. Smith, Ghana’s Defense Minister, said at a recent press conference in Accra, Ghana, that the military high command supports the president’s decision not to send officers and men of the Ghana Armed Forces to “fight in a needless war.” I support the president’s gutsy decision as well. While I will not call any impending military intervention in Ivory Coast “needless,” it will be safe to rather call it “an act of impetuosity,” since diplomacy has not been exhausted. Going to war in Ivory Coast to please France, the U.K., the U.S.A., the United Nations and Alassane Ouattara will not augur well for Ghana in the long run – at least, not while there is a semblance of normalcy in Abidjan.

While many agree that Alassane Ouattara won the recent presidential election in Ivory Coast, Ghana, ECOWAS and the international community must continue to use diplomatic channels to force Laurent Gbagbo to step down – unless the Ivorian military is ready to carry out this all-important assignment on its own.

What, ultimately, may happen is one of two things: a recount of the votes; or a fresh election, to be paid for by the United Nations. Of course, a more welcoming route to peace, as mentioned earlier, will be for Ivory Coast’s military high command to remove Gbagbo from power and install the rightful person, Alassane Ouattara, as president. While this writer is unequivocally against the usurpation of political power by the military across the African continent, the Ivorian situation may be an exception, since one man is holding an entire nation hostage by his decision to cling on to a stolen verdict. Will the Ivorian military make every major international player’s work easier by doing the right thing?

Daniel K. Pryce

E-mail: dpryce@cox.net

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.

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