Category Archives: Côte d’Ivoire

African review 2011

Elections were held in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 28, 2011 and in Côte d’Ivoire on December 11, 2011.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC, the largest country in Africa as well as one of the poorest countries in the world, held general elections on November 28, 2011. The DRC, with its mineral wealth, could have the potential to be one of Africa’s richest countries, but corrupt incompetent governments succeeded by decades of civil war have ravaged the DRC’s economy and left it as one of the world’s poorest countries. In 2011, it had the lowest HDI in the world at only 0.286 and over 70% of the population live under the poverty line. The life expectancy is merely 48 years old.

Since 1996, the country which had since 1965 been ruled by anti-communist dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and known since 1971 as Zaire, has been in and out of civil wars. In 1996-1997, rebel forces and Tutsi militias allied with Rwanda and Uganda invaded the country and quickly overthrew Mobutu. In 1998, however, the new President and former rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila turned against his Rwandan Tutsi allies who were plotting to place their hands on the country’s mineral resources. The second conflict in less than a year opposed Kabila, now backed by Rwandan Hutu rebels (as well as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Chad), to two main rebel groups ostensibly created by Rwanda’s Tutsi government, Uganda and Burundi to a lesser extent. Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and replaced by his son Joseph, who progressively ended the conflict with Rwanda and Uganda by 2003. After a transitional government and a new constitution, the first free elections since 1960 were held in 2006, resulting in Joseph Kabila’s controversial victory over former Ugandan-backed rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The state apparatus has incomplete control over the country and the country remains wracked by remaining violence in Kivu, Ituri and Katanga as well as serious human rights abuses, sexual violence, looting, widespread disease and famine and millions of refugees. Kabila can either be seen as an observer without any power to turn things around or as a culprit turning a blind eye to his country’s ruin. At any rate, corruption remains rampant in one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

Kabila’s main rival in this election was Étienne Tshisekedi, a crippled former PM and ex-opposition leader who is dying of cancer. Tshisekedi’s main campaign plank was that he was already President because of popular will and the elections could not change that. Other candidates included the President of the Senate Léon Kengo, former Kabila ally Vital Kamerhe and Mobutu’s son Nzanga Mobutu. The official results place turnout 58.81%. While there have been tons of irregularities all over the huge country, it seems as if most people accept that Tshisekedi lost. The government had done away with the need for a runoff. The results are basically:

Joseph Kabila 48.95%
Etienne Tshisekedi 32.33%
Vital Kamerhe 7.74%
Leon Kengo 4.95%
Mbusa Nyamwisi 1.72%
Nzanga Mobutu 1.57%

The 2006 election had seen a fragmented vote in the first round and a country divided along east-west lines in the runoff between Kabila and Bemba. According to a map posted on Electoral Geography, the division this year is pretty similar. Kabila, who is from the Kivu region, took all the Swahili speaking regions – which are basically Katanga, the Kivus, Maniema and Ituri. In the Kivu region, although being his family’s native region, he was severely weakened by Vital Kamerhe’s candidacy, which won 41.7% in the Sud Kivu against 44.7% for Kabila. Tshisekedi dominated in the Tshiluba-speaking Kasai, his native region. He performed well in most Lingala and Kikongo-speaking regions, save for part of the Equateur Province where favourite son Leon Kengo dominated the Ngbandi region. The main exception is Bandudu, or at least the main bulk of it, which was absolutely owned by Kabila. This Kikongo – actually KiTuba – speaking region had voted for favourite son Antoine Gizenga, who is now a Kabila ally in 2006. Gizenga’s tribal support likely went heavily to his ally this year.

Tshisekedi has continued calling himself the legitimate President, but he has been placed under house arrest which might control the situation and prevent the country from going up in fire yet again.

I have found no result for the legislative elections, but Kabila’s allies likely won.

Côte d’Ivoire

Legislative elections were held in the Côte d’Ivoire on December 11, 2011. I had covered last year’s election here (preview), here (first round), here (runoff) and here (map). Since those posts, the country went up in fire for a short-lived civil war which ultimately saw the rapid victory of the election’s likely winner, Alassane Ouattara, backed by the international community, over former President Laurent Gbagbo who was captured by Ouattara’s forces in April 2011. The short conflict not only crippled the Ivorian economy, it saw flagrant human rights abuses on both sides. Like so many election-inspired conflicts in Africa, the Ivorian conflict was largely a tribal conflict whose roots had been laid in the results of the election. Ouattara has attempted a truth and reconciliation effort, but thus far such efforts have been quite partial and seemingly aimed mainly at destroying Gbagbo’s remaining base. Gbagbo himself was deported to the ICC to be judged on four accounts of crimes against humanity.

The Ivorian National Assembly, last elected in 2000, has about 249 members elected by FPTP in single or multi-member constituencies. You can find the only available map of these constituencies here, though sadly the CEI hasn’t released results allowing me to colour the map.

The elections were dealt a severe blow when Gbagbo’s party, the left-wing Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) decided to boycott the elections out of protest at the arrest of Gbagbo and several prominent FPI members. The government has seemingly cracked down, more or less, on the FPI and its media outlets. The legitimacy of these elections are pretty shaky, given that ultimately only 37% of voters turned out to vote in elections which were won in advance by the governing parties, made up mainly of Ouattara’s RDR and Henri Konan Bédié’s PDCI, the former ruling party. gives the following breakdown of seats:

RDR 123 seats
PDCI 76 seats
Independents 35 seats
UDPCI 7 seats
RHDP 4 seats
MFA 3 seats
UPCI 1 seat

The RDR, PDCI, UDPCI and RHDP are all part of the governing coalition. In general, the RDR, which is backed by Prime Minister Guillaume Soro’s former northern-based New Forces rebels, dominated the north of the country and Abidjan while the PDCI held its strongholds in the baoulé country around Yamoussoukro and performed well in the more pro-Gbagbo south. Independents usually dominated in the south. Guillaume Soro was elected in the northern constituency of Ferkessedougou-commune with 99% of the votes on 80% turnout. Turnout was only about 24% in Abidjan, and only 30% in the Ouattara stronghold of Abobo. The RDR dominated the vote in Abidjan with 59%, but the PDCI and independents split  the vote in the Lagunes region, which had voted for Gbagbo in 2010.

Some had thought that Ouattara was hoping on a strong PDCI result as an excuse to replace the more ambitious Soro by the old boss of the PDCI Henri Konan Bédié. Based on these results, with the RDR basically controlling an overall majority on its own, such a potential move will be rendered a bit tougher…

Besides a Christmas-day presidential runoff in Transnistria and a parliamentary election in Jamaica, this pretty much ends 2011 in terms of elections. I will wrap up the year, as always, with a Top 10 of this year’s most significant elections and a run through of what will be hot in 2012. You can help me decide which election was the most important election of the year by voting in the poll on the right-hand side of the page.

Mapping the Ivorian vote

The Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), the commission which proclaimed Alassane Ouattara as the winner over incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo with 54% of the vote, released its version of the results of the second round by region.

The basic structure of Ivorian politics since 2000 or so is the very apparent north-south divide. The south, fertile and green, is largely Christian. It is the centre of the cocoa and coffee economy which made the country’s fortune until the 1990s. The north – the northwest in particular, is drier and largely Muslim. There has also been important immigration to the northern savannas from Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea; immigration which has played a major role in Ivorian ethnic tensions since 1994 and have changed the ethnic makeup quite considerably. As in most of West Africa, tribal allegiances are the single most important factors in Ivorian elections. First rounds usually see a very divided vote which candidates representing one or more of the major ethnic groups, while the runoff traditionally sees two candidates (often those backed by the two dominant ethnicities) who build unholy ethnic alliances to win. In Côte d’Ivoire, the Baoulé, the dominant elite under Houphouët-Boigny, backed the Houphouëtiste candidate, Bédié, in the first round but heavily backed Ouattara in the runoff. Ouattara, who had only heavy backing from the Malinkés and Sénoufos in the first round, built an unholy alliance with the Baoulé (and the Yacoubas) to win in the runoff. Gbagbo had backing from pretty much every other ethnic group in both rounds.

Ivorian regions are further subdivided in departments, which often change boundaries, and which are pretty useless. Nonetheless, they are an interesting level for analysis. The CEI did not report results by department in the runoff, instead reporting them through centralized coordinating centres whose boundaries still largely follow departmental boundaries.

This map shows that reducing Ivorian electoral politics to a nice north-south is quite misleading. The reality is that in Côte d’Ivoire, like in most of former French West Africa, all politics is ethnic and about the alliance of ethnic groups to obtain power. Ouattara had the quasi-unanimous support of the northwestern Malinkés and Sénoufos, which was his original base, and expanded to include strong support in the 65-85% range from the Baoulés (which had backed Bédié in the first round) and the smaller Yacouba minority which backed, as visible here, a small candidate (Albert Mabri) in the first round. Not much should be read into this alliance other than an opportunistic alliance created by two traditionally rival politicians to obtain power and wrestle it from the hands of an opposing ruling class.

On the other hand, Gbagbo obtained the support of most of the country’s other ethnicities. Gbagbo himself is a Bété and in the past he enjoyed strong support, but surprisingly in this election his best results did not come from Bété areas. This could mean that Gbagbo once in power distanced himself from his traditional clan, or that mixing of ethnicities in the south (but not in the north) brought about by a very extensive Baoulé migration from their heartland in the Lacs and N’zi Comoé region to other regions of the country (notably Bas-Sassandra, the only coastal region won by Ouattara, which had backed Bédié in the first round) have served to muddle up traditional ethnic lines. Ironically, Gbagbo’s strongest support seems to have come from ethnicities akin to the Baoulé (an Akan tribe) such as the Agnis and Attiés which are concentrated in the Lagunes, Agneby and Comoé regions. I don’t know much about inter-Akan family relations, but one could realistically assume that the Agnis and Attiés have felt alienated from the Baoulé due to the latter’s omnipotence in Ivorian politics in the past. Gbagbo also performed strongly amongst ethnicities akin to the Bété (in the Kru family), notably the Wés south of Man in the west.

Abidjan, like most major African cities, has been extensively affected by internal migrations of various ethnicities. In the end, Gbagbo very narrowly won the city with roughly 51% against 49% for Ouattara. It should not be surprising that such ethnic mash-up cities end up being the focal points of riots, conflicts and sometimes civil wars in Africa.

How not to run elections

I suppose this post could be about Haiti, but it’s about Côte d’Ivoire. The West African state held the first round of its first presidential election in ten years back on October 31. A runoff between the top two contenders, northern-backed Alassane Ouattara and incumbent southern-backed President Laurent Gbagbo, was held on November 28. Gbagbo had won 38% against 32% for Ouattara in the first round, but, as expected, third-placed contender, former President Henri Konan Bédié (25.2%), backed Ouattara who was expected to win. The first round, save for the usual silly accusations of fraud and recount demands from the third placed candidate, went smoothly enough. But since the runoff decides access to the Finance Ministry and its stashes of money, it’s quite important.

Results were due to be announced by the CEI some days after the first round, but it was delayed a bunch of times and finally the CEI announced on December 2 that Ouattara had won 54-46 against Gbagbo. The next day, on December 3, the Constitutional Council announced that the CEI had no authority because it announced results late and that only it could announce results.  It proceeded to invalidate results from a number of northern regions (Ouattara’s main support base) and give Gbagbo the victory with 51.5% against 48.5% for Ouattara. The Constitutional Council is run by Paul Yao N’Dre, who is an ally of Gbagbo.

Gbagbo was sworn in the next day and named his government with a new Prime Minister. Gbagbo, backed by the south, also seems to have the support of the military but lacks foreign support. He has taken a somewhat nationalist tone, a tone which reeks of Ivoirité. On the other hand, Ouattara – who used to work for the IMF – also took office and named incumbent Prime Minister Guillaume Soro (of the New Forces, the former northern rebel group) as his Prime Minister. Ouattara is recognized by the international community as the rightful winner of the election, and has the backing of the former northern rebel groups.

It remains to be seen how long Gbagbo can last without the support of the international community, but he is an able politician and has the backing of important power brokers (the south and the military). At any rate, this election, which was supposed to complete the transition to democracy and stability after the bloody Ivorian Civil War has ironically put the country on the verge of another civil war. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

African review

A late and brief review of two major West African elections held earlier this month (or in late October). The first round of the elections in Côte d’Ivoire were held on October 31 and a runoff is tentatively scheduled for November 28. The first round of the elections in Guinea were held way back in late June but the runoff was finally held on November 7. I hadn’t talked about the Guinean elections because I don’t know much about the situation, but I did preview the Ivorian elections.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the first round of voting opens up a runoff which is totally unpredictable. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, in office since 2000, comes first with 38.04%. But his two major opponents take the bulk of the remaining votes. Alassane Ouattara, supported by former northern rebels, will face Gbagbo in the runoff after taking 32.07% of the vote. Former President Henri Konan Bédié, the candidate of the old Baoulé-PDCI elite, is behind with 25.24%. Bédié has contested these results, but they will stick and his voters will still probably back Ouattara in the runoff as he had pledged to do before the first round. This might be enough to push Ouattara over the top, or it might not.

I had said that the results by region would be interesting, and they are.

Most patterns are predictable. Ouattara has huge backing in the traditionally Muslim areas of the north, Bédié is strongest in the Baoulé homeland while Gbagbo has more widespread southern support but polls best in the Bété homeland. To win, Ouattara will need to assemble a coalition taking up the bulk of Bédié’s southern Baoulé while running up huge margins in the Dioula and Sénoufo Muslim areas up north.

In Guinea, these were the first democratic elections since independence in 1958. Between 1958 and 1984, the country had been led into the drain under the rule of Ahmed Sékou Touré, one of West Africa’s most sanguinary despots. Between 1984 and 2008, the country was ruled by slightly milder dictator Lansana Conté who was promptly succeeded by a military junta led first by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, and now by Brigadier General Sékouba Konaté. The presidential ballot predictably included a lot of heavy weights, but no close allies of the ruling junta were amongst the top candidates. On June 27, former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo (a close ally of Lansana Conté who broke with Conté in 2006/2007) got 43.69% of the vote. A long-time opponent of both the Conté and Sékou Touré regimes, Alpha Condé, placed a distant second with 18.25%. Former Prime Minister Sidya Touré, who had also broken with Conté (but much earlier than Diallo) got 13.02%. Another former Prime Minister, Lansana Kouyaté got 7.04%. The vote split heavily along ethnic lines, making a map of the first round a good demographic guide to the country.

Cellou Dalein Diallo dominated in the Peul stronghold of Middle Guinea and the Fouta-Djalon plateau. Condé dominated in Malinké-populated Upper Guinean plain, while Sidya Touré did best in the Susu-populated areas along the Atlantic coastline. Three other candidates also won prefectures, most of them in the Guinée forestière region, a densely forested area near the Liberian border populated largely by smaller ethnic groups such as the Kpèllés and Kissi. Ahead of the runoff, most small candidates backed Condé but Sidya Touré, who had contested first round results, ended up backing Diallo. Yet, the main factor coming into play ahead of the runoff featuring a candidate from the country’s two largest ethnicities, the Peul and Malinké; were ethnic loyalties.

According to runoff figures, Condé has won with 52.52% against 47.48% for Cellou Dalein Diallo. Ethnic votes allowed Condé to catch up with the first round’s frontrunner. A map clearly shows that despite Cellou Dalein Diallo’s utter dominance (often taking 85-95% of the vote) in the Fouta-Djalon plateau region, Condé managed the same numbers in the Upper Guinean plains and also raked up the quasi-entirety of votes cast for first round favourite son contenders such as Kouyaté, Telliano and Kourouma. In maritime Guinea, despite Sidya Touré’s endorsement of Diallo, Condé also won the bulk of the Susu vote there and also won by the narrowest of margins in Conakry, the capital.

Diallo has not recognized the results (which seems to be usual for defeated candidates in African elections), and there have been bloody ethnic clashes, mainly in Conakry, between ethnic Peuls and Malinkés. Relieving ethnic tensions will be but one of Condé’s (who is 72) challenges. Guinea, despite rich mineral (bauxite) resources, is extremely poor and extremely corrupt; and has no democratic past whatsoever. Condé is undoubtedly one of the best possible persons to deal with these issues, but the country is in dire need of competent leaders to get it out of the ditch.

Election Preview: Côte d’Ivoire 2010

Key presidential elections will be held in Côte d’Ivoire on Sunday, October 31; more than ten years after the last presidential election in October 2000 and after only eight postponements. After a five-year civil war between 2002 and 2007 and a 2008 peace deal, these elections are considered key for the fragile country’s future.

Once the success story of West Africa and the gem of French West-Africa, Côte d’Ivoire declined into chaos starting in the late 1980s. Prior to that, the country had been kept prosperous and stable under the leadership of the old authoritarian President Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Houphouët-Boigny, scion of a well-off Baoulé family of coffee and cacao planters, became President following independence from France in 1960 and ruled until his death in 1993. Until 1990, the country was a single-party state ruled by Houphouët-Boigny’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI-RDA), a party which which was based in the Baoulé rural aristocracy of planters and the growing urban bourgeoisie; and the government led an eclectic economic policy based around agricultural exports (largely cacao and coffee) which until the 1980s led the country to become one of the continent’s most prosperous countries. However, dependence on agriculture led to a slow decline in the country’s wealth as cocoa prices decline in the late 80s; something which resulted in increased political and ethnic strife and finally to an opening towards democracy in 1990. Houphouët-Boigny died in 1993 and was replaced by a fellow Baoulé, Henri Konan Bédié. A corrupt and incompetent leader, Bédié’s policies led directly to the outbreak of civil war in 2002. His government became increasingly nationalistic, playing on the concept of Ivoirité, a concept which was soon corrupted into a nativist and xenophobic Baoulé nationalist concept. He was overthrown in a coup led by General Robert Guéï in 1999, who himself was defeated in the 2000 election by Laurent Gbagbo, an old left-leaning opponent of Houphouët-Boigny. In September 2002, the north of the country revolted and caused a civil war, which ended in 2007-2008 with a 2008 peace deal between Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro, who became his Prime Minister in a power-sharing deal.

Ethnicity and immigration have played a major role in recent Ivorian politics, especially since Houphouët-Boigny’s death in 1993. He had previously kept a lid on nationalistic rhetoric and ethnic conflict, and in fact he encouraged immigration from Burkina Faso and led a liberal policy which quickly granted the Ivorian nationality to Burkinabé immigrants in return for support for the PDCI. In addition to the conflicts caused by immigration – around 30% of the Ivorian population are immigrants of some kind – there are also important internal ethnic conflicts. Firstly, there exists an important divide between north and south. The north, largely Muslim, is covered by savanna and whose economy relies upon herding, cotton and other low-income crops, is much less developed than the south. The south, largely Christian, is covered by forests and its economy based around coffee and cacao have made it the centre of Ivorian economic and political life. Within the south, there exists another important divide between the Baoulé, a subgroup of the Akan linguistic family; and the Bété, a subgroup of the Kru family. Based in the southeast of the country, the Baoulé are the coffee and cacao planter elite and the political elite behind the Houphouët-Boigny regime and the PDCI. From their heart around the capital (and birthplace of Houphouët-Boigny) of Yamassoukro, they have expanded into the pioneer regions of the southwest to plant coffee and cacao. Here, they encountered the Bété, whose identity was carved around a feeling of exploitation by the Baoulé elite who came on their traditional lands as semi-colonialists. The Bété form the core base around Laurent Gbagbo and his party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

Other ethnic groups of importance include the Gio/Dan people in the west, a group which was the core group backing Robert Guéï in 2000; the largely Muslim Malinké, Dioula and Sénoufos groups of the north, groups which backed the rebels in the civil war and whose main leaders include Guillaume Soro and Alassane Ouattara, a former Prime Minister pushed aside by Bédié in 1993.

In 2000, in a sham election marked by 63% abstention and boycotts by both Ouattara and Bédié, Laurent Gbagbo defeated Robert Guéï with around 60% of the votes against 33% for Guéï. Outarra had been excluded because of a new constitution passed in 2000 which excluded foreign-born citizens (like Ouattara, technically born in Burkina Faso) from the presidency. Although low turnout and boycotts by the Muslim north and the Baoulé hide a lot of things, the electoral map showed a stark divide between the north which largely supported Guéï and the south which largely backed Gbagbo. A clear harbinger of things to come in 2002.

This year, there is a fascinating contest between the three main players in Ivorian politics since the late 80s. On one hand, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo backed by the Bété; while on the other you have Henri Konan Bédié of the PDCI backed by the Baoulé and Alassane Ouattara of the Rally of the Republicans (RDR, an old splinter of the PDCI) backed by the Muslim north. Guillaume Soro, under the 2008 peace deals, cannot run and his New Forces have not officially backed anybody though a lot back fellow northerner Alassane Ouattara but many think that Gbagbo have worked out a secret deal whereby Soro backs Gbagbo this year, in return for Gbagbo’s backing for a potential Soro candidacy in 2015.

Laurent Gbagbo and his party are probably the first round favourites, but if he does not win outright by Sunday, a runoff will be held, a runoff in which the two other candidates have already announced that they would back each other and form a kind of united opposition front. It is not known which of Bédié and Ouattara will come out on top of the divided opposition, but Ouattara is the best candidate out of the two given that he is more likely to do well in his non-native region (the south) than Bédié would do in his non-native region (the north) given his past nationalist saber-rattling. It will be interesting to see a breakdown of the results by region and department.