Barring the improbable step-down of Laurent Gbagbo, Ivory Coast’s long-time president and current despot, the war-torn country sits on the precipice of another violent cycle. With the internationally-crowned Alassane Ouatta surrounded by security forces in the Golf Hotel, Ouatta’s Minister of Infrastructure and spokesman has requested that the West remove Gbagbo by force.
“We are not concerned about the setting up of an evaluation committee,” said Patrich Achi before a meeting with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).” The international community through the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and ECOWAS, has already voiced out that Alassane Ouattara has won. What (more) evaluation has to be done? Most of them have instructed Gbagbo to leave the country peacefully.”
“I hope that, at the ECOWAS meeting, people will finally decide that if (there) is a need for military force,” he explained. “Then, they should use military force to remove this guy (Mr. Gbagbo), so that everybody will know that never again (will) a head of state in Africa should do something like that and act against his own people.”
By most observations that need exists. Ivory Coast’s security environment is rapidly degrading after systematic night-time abductions, according to UN reports.
Contrary to its position in Egypt, Washington is eager for regime change elsewhere in Africa and has forcefully condemned Gbagbo from the beginning. President Barack Obama spoke for himself instead of through a spokesperson, the World Bank has cut funds, sanctions are being prepared, and negotiations are taking place between UN countries to provide additional forces. The current UN deployment of 10,000, reinforced by a 900-troop French unit, remains insignificant in the face of Gbagbo’s loyal military.
“Decisions have to be made on that and they haven't been made yet," said State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley. “We can't rule out that at some point in time he may challenge the presence of that force through force of his own. We would hope that it is not necessary to deploy force but by the same token we recognize the value of having peacekeepers.
"It could be that that kind of reinforcement would be another way to send a clear message to President Gbagbo."
The problem with UN reinforcements is that “peacekeeping” could be the least of their duties. If Gbagbo and the UN descend into open hostilities, the likeliest scenario is a nasty mixture of urban and rural guerrilla warfare. Gbagbo relies on foreign mercenaries to carry out his biding, and they will be heavily employed against UN or Western forces to avoid using his military. UN officials fear that additional mercenaries are being lured into the potential conflict.
Gbagbo will likely rely on his military only when he must, making it difficult to predict whether it will respond with conventional or unconventional operations. Probably both, with an emphasis on guerrilla tactics.
As for Ouattara, the Western technocrat enjoys the support of the New Forces, a main insurgent group of Ivory Coast’s civil war. In the event of a hot conflict, he may receive the support of French and U.S. Special Forces too. Thus if the Ivory Coast does fall into a new cycle of civil war, the front could find itself scattered across the country and home to a variety of armed groups. And the war’s scale could quickly exceed the West’s capabilities.
We will follow any full-scale insurgency that develops.