The Ivorian crisis and President Mills’s ramshackle Pan-African calculus

President Atta Mills

Whatever others may make of him, John Atta Mills continues to see himself in the mirror of Pan-Africanism, a philosophy that seeks cultural, political and economic unity of Africa. From his teaching years at the University of Ghana to his political and social life, Mills is actuated by a lofty Pan-Africanism vision.

Pretty much of this he draws from his political hero Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana (in office from 1957 to 1966). The examination of Mills’ Pan-Africanism vision was in display at the on-going Cote d’Ivoire political crisis. After agreeing with his fellow leaders at an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Abuja to intervene, if push comes to shove, militarily in Cote d’Ivoire to install the dully democratically elected Alassane Ouattara against the intransigent Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent who lost the presidential elections and is resisting to vacate the presidential seat.

Mills’ u-turn on an Ecowas agreed probable plan to use military intervention against Laurent Gbagbo makes his Pan-Africanism vision suspect in the face of actual African democratic test. This isn’t surprising: Mills democratic roots are shallow and his conversion to democracy recent. Unlike Nana Akufo Addo, presidential candidate of the main opposition National Patriotic Party, Mills isn’t known as democracy struggler. For long, he was a Marxist-Leninist with no believe in democracy. Mills is yet to couple his Pan-Africanism of yesteryears with Ghana’s and Africa’s fast developing democracy of today.

Mills expected misreading isn’t surprising: at issue isn’t the sovereignty of Cote d’Ivoire as an abstraction but the practical democratic order of Ivorians, and by extension Africans, who have suffered under tyrants like Laurent Gbagbo. The enshrinement of democratic agreements in the Ecowas and the African Union charters is as a result of Africa’s painful political history where the likes of Laurent Gbagbo have brought their countries down.

Mills’ judgment that Ghana’s military is over-extended and that sending some to a probable Ecowas authorized force would endanger Ghana is unPan-Africanism. It smacks of amateurism, weak philosophical understanding of Pan-Africanism as the foundational pillar of Ghana’s and Africa’s development, and a Mills who is unstable when it comes to the actual Pan-Africanism challenges. Kwame Nkrumah would tell Mills that it was Pan-Africanism, as the philosophical basis of Africa’s progress, that made Ghana lent Guinea-Conakry US$10 million during its hurting trial when it opted for its independence from France colonial rule in 1958.

Still, despite its own internal security challenges, even Nigeria’s late President Sani Abacha, who was viewed in African political circles as an appalling leader, comes out as a better Pan-Africanist than Mills when Abacha send Nigerians troops, under Ecowas, to clear out the murderous Armed Forces Ruling Council junta in Sierra Leone in 1997 and again in 1999 that had overthrown the democratically elected President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. Sierra Leone is today one of Africa’s emerging democracies and as a result has improved from the bottom of 167th to 158th position on the United Nations Development Index that measures globally human well-being.

Democracy may be fairly new in Africa but its growth and maintenance is a work in progress sometimes needing both diplomatic and military enforcement, sometimes taking unpleasantly painful decisions and actions. Cote d’Ivoire is the latest case but Mills doesn’t get. European and other developed countries democracies have come in this way. And so part of the philosophical drive of today’s Pan-Africanism is enriched by Africans coming to the excruciating conclusion that their democracy, born out of agonizing experiences, is better for their progress than the dictatorial military juntas and autocratic one-party systems of yesteryears.

At best Mills should have refrained from editorializing about Ghana’s place in Ecowas when military intervention becomes necessary and postpone any policy changes with his Ecowas leaders. By back-stabbing his fellow Ecowas leaders in public, Mills has proved to his adversaries that he is politically immature, has feeble cultural grasp of Ghana and Africa, and has poor hold of the Pan-Africanism philosophy that is to spur Africa, especially of the forces such as Laurent Gbagbo that have been stifling the continent’s progress. Mills has also removed Ghana from participating in Africa-wide discussions of democracy as the best solution to the continent’s numerous development challenges.

To Mills, Cote d’Ivoire’s democratic problems are their business and Ghana doesn’t care. That’s jaundiced Pan-Africanism. That also makes Ghana touted as the leading light of Pan-Africanism garbage. In Cote d’Ivoire, Mills’ long-held view that he draws his Pan-Africanism inspiration from Kwame Nkrumah isn’t true against the realities on the ground. While Nkrumah invoked Pan-Africanism to help Guinea-Conakry, Mills is on the opposite line, telling Ivorians “this is your internal affairs, I don’t care about you.”

In Mills, Ivorians aren’t from the African family and do not exemplify the best in Africa. And yes Mills has no empathy for Ivorians in the face of the mindlessly autocratic Laurent Gbagbo suffocating them to death.

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

  1. Stella Attakpah says

    This article is hostile and not well thought through. Mills made a good decision by listening to his experts on return from Abuja after the hasty push of the ECOWAS leaders to agree to military intervention. ECOWAS’s mistake was to exclude the experts from the decision by first of all finding out what possibilities were there and weigh this against the consequences to oust Gbagbo militarily….

  2. Clement says

    There are two sides to a coin. This writer is entitled to his opinion, but I will say this article is misleading and not well thought through. Ghana’s position is; Gbagbo lost the election and must go, ECOWAS should use dialogue to get Gbagbo out, Ghana supports decisions of ECOWAS but will not contribute troops to oust Gbagbo. What is difficult to understand about this?

  3. Sabelo Dludla says

    What nonsense how can a Pan Africanist aspire to democracy! Democracy is the trojan horse by which the devil(devil being the Euro and Western influence) is let in.
    Military intervention harms the innocent, if you were saying they would arrest and charge(whith what though?) Gbagbo I would hear you.
    Pan Africanists who pedal demon-cracy are not pan africanists at all. Pan Africanists aspire to Black Socialism, anything that neo-liberals call ‘pan africanism today is a joke. The worst Pan Africanist wana be being Thabo Mbeki, my former president who slept with the George Bizos of this world and gave us Gear and all those anti-african policies.
    I agree with Stella’s comments above, esp. ‘not well thought through’.

  4. Clement says

    Nigerians go to the polls this year, should President Goodluck Jonathan refuse to go, can ECOWAS send troops to Nigeria to oust him? This article is complete joke.

  5. Wallace says

    This article is wrong. Mills is completely right to support Gbagbo, the rule of law and the Ivorian constitution.

    It may be a good idea of reading this AU observer mission report about the election in Ivory Coast before reading my comment:

    I think the Ivorian issue is a dispute about election results, which are typical in Africa, which is characterized by people and media taking position in haste without analyzing all the facts.

    Firstly, I must say it’s surprising that some people avoid the issue of the election atrocities committed during the election in the rebels held region of the country. Some journalists are well contented of only repeating what the international news agency wrote without any kind of investigative journalism. You avoid the issues altogether without discussing the facts and events brought up by the AU observer mission report. For example:

    “It is a fact that in the entire district of Korhogo, serious cases of murders, death threats,intimidation, confinement and physical assaults were perpetrated against the LMP activists and representatives by the New Forces and the RDR activists.”

    “For example, one of the LMP supervisors, Mrs. Coulibaly Sita, was savagely beaten then illegally detained before being murdered after denouncing the irregularities she recorded during the polling process in her area of duty.”

    Those are real issues but don’t seem to be problematic for you. You can’t ask the constitutional council of any country, even in Africa, to ignore frauds, violence, murders that happened in the zone controlled by the rebellion led by Soro and Ouattara during the presidential elections. You can’t.

    Secondly, and people can google those following facts easily, I’ll try to put things into context. Gbagbo fought for democracy peacefully all his life. Something he’s still doing now by asking for the respect of the Ivorian institutions, rule of law and constitution. He even was imprisoned for it by the one party state government that was in power at the time in Ivory Coast. A one party state government that was supported by France and to which Ouattara was part of (prime minister). Then when Gbagbo was elected into power. Soro and the rebellion try to take power with a military coup which transformed itself into a rebellion after it failed. The armed rebellion still occupy the north part of the country (even during the elections), contrary to the peace agreement. Now Soro, the rebellion leader, is announced by Ouattara as the prime minister of the would be Ouattara party government.

    Thirdly, under the rule of law and constitution of Ivory Coast. It’s the constitutional council which receive electoral disputes and statute on it and give to final results. This was accepted by all party before the election. It’s important to respect the constitution and rule of law stated before the election in case of such electoral results disputes. Claim of it being on the side of Gbagbo after the election is too late, since the rule of law must be followed. Everybody knows that the CEI was also controlled by Ouattara and his supporters, which was also accepted by all party. But you can’t ask the constitutional council to ignore the cases of fraud, violence, intimidation, murder committed in the rebel held north during the elections. It would be irresponsible.

    Here’s one the constitution articles about the constitutional council and it’s role in presidential election:

    Article 94
    The Constitutional Council controls the regularity of the operations of the referendum and
    proclaims the results. The Council decides [statuer] on:
    — the eligibility of the candidates to the presidential and legislative elections;
    — the disputes concerning the election of the President of the Republic and of the Deputies.
    The Constitutional Council proclaims the definitive results of the presidential elections

    Clearly it state that the constitutional council receive election disputes about then proclaims the definitive results in presidential elections.

    For conclusion, I hope people will google the facts stated above and take a look at the AU monitoring election report.

    I just hope the issues brought above will be an opportunity for people to analyze all the facts, data for themselves and reorient the debate toward the respect of the rule of law and constitution of Ivory Coast.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.