Cleaning Up Ivory Coast

Recent election results are a good start but more extensive reforms still necessary

Last weeks developments in Ivory Coast read like a recap of the events in Belgrade earlier this fall: A former military ruler gets defeated in election, but wants to remain in office; a popular uprising forces him from power; the elected opposition leader is sworn in as new leader. This, however, is where the two stories diverge. Vojislav Kostunica won in Yugoslavias first free elections and rightfully claimed victory over Slobodan Milosevic. However, Laurent Gbagbo, who claimed victory in the Ivorty Coast election, did not win over former General Robert Gue in an entirely democratic election, since two other major opposition parties were excluded from the ballot, one of which is the party of Alassane Ouattara who most prominently represents a 40 percent Muslim minority. Supporters of Ouattara are now battling Gbagbos proponents in what seems to be close to a civil war.

Gbagbo has followed Kostunica as a beneficiary of democracy, but now he needs to acknowledge that the elections were seriously flawed. After winning the staged elections last Sunday, he has the unique chance to lead his country towards a full democracy. Ousting a corrupt dictator, however, is not enough. Gbagbo must promise fully democratic elections and the reinstitution of a multi-party democracy.


The U.S. has been peculiarly silent on this issue. Vice President Al Gore 69 has long been an avid proponent of using the U.S. influence for so-called nation-building missions. It is Gbagbos own responsibility to avoid the looming civil war, but the only way to do so is to promise fully democratic elections. The White House should urge Gbagbo to agree to such a step and offer full administrative support in overseeing such an election process.

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