A general strike has been called for in the Ivory Coast today to force incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo to cede power. Gbagbo has refused to step aside following the disputed presidential election last month. Opposition leader Alassane Ouattara has been widely recognized as the winner of the vote. Meanwhile, the president of ECOWAS threatened that the West African bloc may use force to remove Gbago from power. We speak with Syracuse University professor Horace Campbell. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the Ivory Coast, where a general strike has been called for today to force incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo to cede power. Gbagbo has refused to step aside following the disputed presidential election last month, which he claims was rigged.
Opposition leader Alassane Ouattara has been widely recognized as the winner of the election. The United Nations, the European Union, the United States, the African Union and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS all say that Ouattara won the November 28th vote. A delegation of heads of state from Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde is traveling to the Ivory Coast Tuesday to convince Gbagbo to step aside. Meanwhile, the president of ECOWAS threatened that the West African bloc may use force to remove Gbago from power.
VICTOR GBEHO: In this season of peace, the summit decided to make an ultimate gesture to Mr. Gbagbo by urging him to make a peaceful exit. In this regard, the authority decided to dispatch a special high-level delegation to Côte d’Ivoire. In the event that Mr. Gbagbo fails to heed this immutable demand of ECOWAS, the community will be left with no alternative but to take other measures, including the use of legitimate force, to achieve the goals of the Ivorian people.
AMY GOODMAN: President Gbagbo’s security forces have been accused of orchestrating some 200 deaths, hundreds of arrests, dozens of cases of disappearances and torture in recent weeks. Some 14,000 people have already fled to neighbouring Liberia, and the U.N. says it’s prepared for a total of 30,000 refugees in the region. In Washington, State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said Gbagbo must step down.
P.J. CROWLEY: The certified results irrefutably show that President-elect Ouattara was the winner. Credible, accredited and independent election observers have declared the election to be fair and reported no instances of fraud that would change the outcome as announced by the electoral commission. And so, Mr. President Gbagbo must accept the results of the election. From our standpoint, this is not negotiable.
President Gbagbo also claimed that the current situation in Côte d’Ivoire has been peaceful. This is untrue. The international community is documenting widespread human rights abuses occurring in the country, from home abductions to a feared mass grave in Abidjan.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined on Skype by Horace Campbell. Now, Skype had a global blackout last week, and we hope that we’re able to maintain this connection. Horace Campbell is professor of political science and African [American] studies at Syracuse University, but he’s joining us from North Carolina, which is also in a state of emergency right now because of the blizzard. Just before we talk about Ivory Coast, what is it like in North Carolina, in Raleigh, Professor Campbell?
HORACE CAMPBELL: I’m actually in Winston-Salem, and I’m actually surprised, because we have less than three inches of snow here in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I’m from Syracuse, and in the last two weeks, we had 71 inches of snow in Syracuse. But we are a bit hard in Syracuse. We have a long history of resistance and hard work. Peace Council is 75 years in Syracuse, 75 years old. So I’m actually very surprised to see that, on the ground here — I’m looking outside the window — there are less than three inches of snow, and I hear that there’s a state of emergency because of three inches of snow. Coming from Syracuse, that is amazing to me.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s always amazed me, even in Washington, D.C., that it seems like when there’s a snowflake, the entire Capitol shuts down. But speaking of adversity, let’s turn right now to the Ivory Coast, which certainly is in the midst of a firestorm. Explain what is happening there. Talk about the elections and what took place, Professor Campbell.
HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, this is a test for the African Union. It’s a test for whether the concept of people’s rights and the idea of democracy will go beyond elections, because in the case of the Ivory Coast, that is called Côte d’Ivoire, we have a situation where the person who has lost the election, Laurent Gbagbo, is refusing to step down. And in the process of refusing to step down, he and those around him, they are invoking all forms of xenophobia and hostility to people from the north in order to divide the country. Thankfully, the days when Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were places that could provide the mercenaries so that Gbagbo could develop war, thankfully, we are in the state of transition in Sierra Leone, in Liberia and Guinea so that the possibility for war will be dependent on the extent to which Gbagbo can get support from persons like Lanny Davis in the United States and the bankers and financial elements within the country that will finance his army.
The position of the African Union, the position of ECOWAS, the position of the United Nations is clear, that the elections were won by Alassane Ouattara and that Gbagbo should step down. Gbagbo is doing what Mugabe has done in Zimbabwe and that Kibaki did in Kenya. When you lose an election, they use the powers of the state to say the elections are rigged, and then you maintain power by force. The African Union is taking a very strong position in the case of Ivory Coast, and what we’re dreading is the actual military confrontation, which has been promised by ECOWAS. As you played in the clip, it said that they will use credible force. We are hoping that sanctions and the rising by the working peoples will be enough to bring down Gbagbo.
What we have to do in this country, we have, in this country, to call on Hillary Clinton to distance herself from Lanny Davis, who has been employed by Gbagbo to lobby for him in Washington to present the government as a transparent and democratic government.
AMY GOODMAN: You mention Lanny Davis. We had him on in a debate around the coup that led to the ouster of the democratically elected leader of Honduras. He was a spokesperson for those who supported the coup in Honduras. Explain exactly what his role is in the Ivory Coast and who he is, his significance in U.S. democratic politics.
HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, it’s not in U.S. democratic politics. It’s the Clinton faction of the Democratic Party politics. And he has been an adviser to Bill Clinton, and he remains close to the Clintons. Lanny Davis has a lobbying firm. Right now he’s employed by one of the worst dictators in Africa, the Nguema clique, that has ruled Equatorial Guinea for 30 years. This is a government that has vast wealth from oil companies, whose children own mansions in California, where banks in Washington, D.C. holds money that should be used for water supplies and health for the people of Equatorial Guinea. Now, this government, Equatorial Guinea, employed Lanny Davis, who’s a lobbyist in Washington, to present an image of these dictators in Equatorial Guinea that could be sold to the corporate elements in the United States of America.
As you rightly pointed out, when the coup took place in Honduras, Lanny Davis also represented the militarist elements there. It is this track record that has endeared him to the Gbagbo forces, the Gbagbo forces whose elements of millions of dollars have also used the money that should be used for the people of Ivory Coast to employ Lanny Davis. And what we should see is Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton should distance themselves from such a person, because the United States cannot in one breath say that they’re supporting transparency and accountability — that’s the words that have been used by Lanny Davis — in Africa, while they are allied with persons such as this who support dictators in Africa.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Professor Horace Campbell, a professor of political science and African American studies at Syracuse University. It’s very interesting what you’re saying, because when he represented those who supported the coup in Honduras, when we saw the documents released by WikiLeaks, the U.S. diplomatic cables, in fact, their analysis of what happened in Honduras was dead on: this is an illegal coup that has taken place in Honduras. But it’s not what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor the President was saying on a regular basis, Professor Campbell. Do you see something similar happening right now in Africa’s Ivory Coast?
HORACE CAMPBELL: Very, very similar. In this case, Gbagbo is trying to exploit differences between the State Department and the White House. The President of the United States called Laurent Gbagbo to urge him to step down, and he was so arrogant that he refused to take the telephone call of President Barack Obama. And he is arrogant enough to believe that he can whip up the kind of xenophobia to divide the people of the Ivory Coast to say that Alassane Ouattara is not an Ivorian, that Alassane Ouattara is from the north, he’s a Muslim, and he is using all kinds of divisiveness that we have seen in that country, so that the people of the north, the people who are of Islamic background, are being presented as non-Ivorians. I have no — I have no beef for Alassane Ouattara, but the point is, the people voted for him, and the election’s results should be observed.
And the positive result out of all of this is the clarity of the African Union, the fact that the African Union is taking a very clear position that Ouattara won the election. The African Union is taking a very clear position that they will use force. And the fact that the meeting of ECOWAS that took place two days ago would send a very clear signal so that there could be no manipulation within West Africa itself, I think this is part of the maturity of the African Union process. And we’re going to need that process also in the Sudan in nine to 11 days’ time, when we face a similar crisis in the Sudan. So, what we in this side of the world have to do, we have to keep up our education to the citizens so that people like Lanny Davis and the State Department and the U.S. Africa Command cannot use incidents such as what is happening in the Ivory Coast to represent Africa as backward and divisive and barbarian.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Campbell, if you could look directly into the camera as you speak, but give us a thumbnail history of the Ivory Coast, a geopolitical history, how it got to this point. I think most people in the United States, or people who are listening and watching now all over the world, probably have very little idea about even where the Ivory Coast, where Côte d’Ivoire is.
HORACE CAMPBELL: OK. Well, the Ivory Coast was a jewel in the crown of French colonialism. The Ivory Coast, by its very name, was a place where colonial plunder took ivory and gold. And the Ivory Coast is located in West Africa, bordered by Liberia, bordered by Sierra Leone, and by Ghana. Now, the president of the Ivory Coast, when Ivory Coast became independent in 1960, the president of Ivory Coast was Houphouët-Boigny. Houphouët-Boigny used the Ivory Coast as a base for counterrevolution in Africa. All of the forces of French colonialism, all of the forces of French exploitation, all of the forces of French militarism converged on the Ivory Coast. And for 30 or more years, the Ivory Coast was the base for supporting apartheid in South Africa. It was a base for supporting Jonas Savimbi. Jonas Savimbi was very close to the leader, Houphouët-Boigny. And some of your listeners would know that they were also complicit in the plot to assassinate Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso.
Now, the fact is, because of the intensification of the investment in the Ivory Coast in that period, in the 50-year period, millions of Africans went to work on banana and cocoa plantations, so that there were a number of people, persons from Burkina Faso, persons from Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, who worked in that country. So the country has 20 million persons. There are 10 or a million more persons from north of the country whose ancestors came as migrant workers. Now, in the spirit of pan-Africanism, one should recognize that the borders in the Ivory Coast were artificially created at the Conference of Berlin.
Well, in 1993, after Houphouët-Boigny passed away, Alassane Ouattara was the prime minister. They wrote a Supreme Court judgment to say that those who are from the north were not Ivorian citizens, and Alassane Ouattara, whose mother supposedly was born in the Burkina Faso, could not become a candidate for the presidency. Now, between 1999 and 2000, Gbagbo himself ran in an elections, and when he won the elections, the general who was the head of the army said that Gbagbo could not come to power. Gbagbo himself organized so that he could come to power, and there was a civil war in the country between 2000 and 2004, which, again, brought about the intervention of South Africa and the African Union. In that invention, the African Union worked to overturn that judgment of the Supreme Court that said that persons from the north could not be citizens.
And this idea is a sentiment that is whipped up in the country called Ivority. Ivority is a chauvinistic notion. It is an anti-pan-African notion. It’s a notion that says only those who are Christian from the southern area of the country can be citizens. Now, this is not something that is carried by the majority of the citizens of the Ivory Coast; this is an idea that is whipped up by the elements of the Ivorian capitalist class. These are Ivorians who have made millions of dollars out of cocoa plantation, out of exploiting the workers in the Ivory Coast.
So, up to 2005, there was another election, and the — Gbagbo has been negotiating about — [no audio]
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Campbell?
Let’s go to a break. We’ll try to get him back on to finish this in-depth look at the Ivory Coast and what’s happening there, with 14,000 people fleeing the Ivory Coast, as the president, after an election, has refused to step down. It’s believed several hundred people have been killed, disappeared. We will continue to follow this story. Professor Campbell, speaking to us from North Carolina, where there is a state of emergency, although he describes something like three inches of snow on the ground where he is in Winston-Salem. He’s a professor at Syracuse University. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
[break]AMY GOODMAN: We’re not able to get Professor Campbell back, but we’ll continue to bring you the latest on what’s happening in Ivory Coast.