For those who have been following the political metamorphosis and the shenanigans in Ivory Coast, the latest news from the country is hardly the fact that the country’s President Alassane Ouattara has announced he will run for President again in October, despite having concluded his two terms as president – the legal maximum. Definitely, not Ouattara’s rascality. Rather, the real news is the fact that human beings, especially, African leaders, have failed to cast off their diapers of immaturity, acquire some basic common wisdom and learn any simple lesson from the past. Are Africans born to think retrogressively? I do not share this line of thought; that would give credence to bigotry and racist minds. One thing I can hardly disagree with is the notion that no one is born evil, rather, our socialisation, flaws in our characters and mindsets explain the choices we make in life.
Those choices throw light on why one can irresponsibly mortgage their common sense and wisdom in the alter of selfishness and naked ambition. That includes the willingness to ignore the clear handwriting on the wall. Mene mene tekel upharsin! Do you hear the weird ancient warning? Yes, warning, especially, for those who have chosen to see history as just a number. A past; rather than an educative mirror of reflection that leads us to the road of prosperity and danger. Prosperity if we choose to avoid the avoidable mistakes of the past. And danger, if we go otherwise – the wide road to inevitable mayhem. But one thing is clear: When a dog is about to die, it no longer perceives the smell of poop.
Following the death of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, Ouattara’s preferred successor in the upcoming Presidential election, from a heart attack last month, President Alassane Ouattara effectively put his selfishness and egoism above the interests of Ivorians, by deciding to contest for the third term. Mr Ouattara’s opponents have insisted his third term ambition is a blatant slap on the country’s constitution, which limits the Presidential tenure to two terms. But like other African leaders before him, who are allergic to the constitution, the egoistic interests of President Ouattara, come before the unity, stability, peace and progress of his country. That mere decision to disregard the law could soon become a recipe for violence, instability and dichotomy in Ivory Coast, a country, which was once the oasis of stability.
Why have African leaders failed to learn from the mistakes of others? Hasn’t the past revealed enough dangers such a reckless decision by President Ouattara could pose in Ivory Coast and far beyond? Why are some African leaders epitome of hypocrisy and lawlessness?
We have seen how beautiful Burundi was plunged into senseless killings and violence, which consumed thousands of innocent lives and forced hundreds of thousands into exile after former President Pierre Nkurunziza attempted to prolong his tenure. Where is President Pierre Nkurunziza today? Take a look at the chaos and level of anarchy in South Sudan, where President Salva Kiir’s term as elected President officially ended in 2015, but he has subsequently remained in the office without a renewed mandate. How about the Democratic Republic of Congo, where former President Joseph Kabila tried all political abracadabra to prolong his tenure in the office? Those countries are far from being alone. Cameroon, Gabon, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Togo etc. have manipulated their constitutions to enable the leaders to stay longer in power. Where have the brains of some African leaders gone to? On sabbatical leave or sleeping?
For sure, African does not have a monopoly of extension or abolition of term limits. We have witnessed the same ugly precedence in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, while President Xi Jinping has virtually made himself a life-President in China. Having in mind that both Russia and China have enormous influence in the African continent, such reckless acts of the two countries do more than encourage a sit-tight leadership in Africa. As bad as the term extension or abolition can be in Russia and China, the two countries still have many advantages going for them in terms of peace, social development, and don’t forget ethnic, linguistic and cultural homogeneity. Unlike in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic cum multi-linguistic African countries, the inflammable catalysts for instability, violence and lack of development cannot be underrated.
Justifying his decision to ignore the constitution and run for the illegal third-term, President Ouattara would be more than happy to use Coulibaly’s death as scapegoat:
“Faced with this case of force majeure and out of civic duty, I have decided to respond favourably to the call of my fellow citizens asking me to be a candidate in the presidential election of 31 October 2020.”
Out of civic duty? Perhaps President Ouattara may as well believe it his civic duty to break the law and disobey the country’s sacred constitution, which he vowed to keep as President. Definitely, Ivorians think otherwise. For sure, the death of President Ouattara’s preferred candidate for the Presidential election is not legally, rationally, morally (or from whichever perspective, you want to see it) cogent a reason for any responsible leader to ignore the same constitution they swore to uphold, just to achieve the third term ambition. President Ouattara’s argument is not only the most watery, to say the least, but it is also an insult to the integrity of an average Ivorian. Does President Ouattara doubt the intelligence of his citizens that he ever expected them to buy such unsubstantiated, diluted argument? Of course, if President Ouattara believes the death of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly necessitates him to disrespect the constitution and run for the third term, it equally explains the selfish side of the President’s decision. Could it be that President Ouattara is afraid that a win by the opposition or his opponent could unearth his hidden political garbage and atrocities, including alleged corrupt practices? That leads one to the hypocrisy in President Ouattara’s decision.
Ironically, Alassane Ouattara became the President of Ivory Coast after former President Gbagbo was forcefully removed from the office, following his refusal to give up power after he allegedly lost the Presidential election. It is a matter of argument whether former President Gbagbo lost the election or not. But it is a fact that President Alassane Ouattara is constitutionally banned from contesting for the third term. The arrest and prosecution of President Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court (ICC) could not be a better opportunity for President Alassane Ouattara. With his political nemesis gone, one would have expected Ouattara to use the rare opportunity to unify Ivorians and create jobs, trust and stability. Alas, the opposite has been the case. He squandered the golden opportunity. Accusations of marginalization, nepotism, political thuggery, repression and power struggles have become the order of the day. Former President Gbagbo has been tried and exonerated by the ICC of all the accusations levelled against him, yet, some powers who are afraid of the former President are allegedly working tirelessly to keep him in Den Haag, rather than allow him to come back to his country. Have Ivory Coast leaders learned from the past? Hardly not.
Perhaps President Alassane Ouattara could not have come to power in 2010 without help from France and the military support of 47- year- old Guillaume Soro, a former rebel leader. Once Alassane Ouattara came to power, Guillaume Soro became his ally and he was rewarded with the post of the prime minister and then parliamentary speaker under him until last year. Their political bromance suddenly got poisoned, immediately Mr Soro revealed his presidential ambitions in the up-coming election scheduled in October 2020. Suddenly Mr Solo, who went into exile was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in jail on charges of embezzlement and money laundering. The question in the minds of many political analysts, is, if Ouattara regarded Mr Solo as a threat, even though the President is officially banned by the constitution to contest after his 2nd tenure, could it be President Alassane Ouattara never wanted to vacate the political stage? Was President Alassane Ouattara looking for a good reason to extend his political journey? That brings one to more serious allegations. What was the cause of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly’s death? Is the death of the former Prime Minister a perfect solution for some powerful forces to fulfil their political ambitions? Whatever the case may be, the one thing is clear: The constitution of Ivory Coast allows a two-term tenure of the President. Is President Alassane Ouattara operating under a different constitution?
Perhaps, President Alassane Ouattara hopes the African Union would likely recommend the government of national unity with the opposition to prevent Ivory Coast from descending into political chaos. Or the President is counting on his French friends to help him as usual. Before France could intervene in the Ivorian internal affairs, it might be necessary for the former colonial power to first ask itself a simple question: Would it be acceptable in France, where Dominique Folloroux-Ouattara, the wife of President Ouattara comes from, for their President Emmanuel Macron to seek for an unconstitutional term extension after his tenure has expired? If it is unthinkable in France, why would that be acceptable in Ivory Coast? Don’t France and the First Lady of Ivory Coast, for that matter, have the moral obligation to unconditionally condemn President Ouattara’s third term dangerous ambition, which could throw the country into another ethnic mayhem? If Dominique Folloroux-Ouattara sees nothing wrong in the husband’s naked ambition, then Ivorians would have little difficulties to believe that their leader has absolutely, no interest in their country’s progress.
President Alassane Ouattara is taking a dangerous step, which could turn the once peaceful, prosperous and progressive Ivory Coast into violence, instability and lawlessness. The infectious ambition has effectively blocked his senses, reasoning and ears for good advice. Sadly, in the process of hanging on to power, he has created many enemies – known and unknown – which could help drive his inflammable ambition to the Waterloo.
James Hadley Chase writes: “It’s when a guy gets full of confidence, he’s wide open for a sucker punch.“
Unless President Alassane Ouattara learns from history, he will repeat the same mistakes other leaders have made and play with the same dangerously inflammable light that have engulfed other ambitious leaders before him. He has a choice, which he must make – immediately.