Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - International affairs analysts in Nigeria have welcomed the decision by West African leaders to use force, if necessary, to remove incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who has so far defied international pressure to allow the presumed winner of the 28 Nov. presidential runoff, Alassane Ouattara, to assume office.
Even though those interviewed by PANA differ on the modalities, they agree that the use of force to kick out the recalcitrant incumbent was long overdue, to send a strong message to other leaders who may want to defy the wishes of their people.
''The decision of ECOWAS leaders to use force is as a result of the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to allow the winner of last month’s (runoff) presidential election, Alassane Ouattara, to be sworn-in as president,'' said Mr. Joshua Bolarinwa, a Research Fellow at the think-tank Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos.
Bolarinwa, a member of the ECOWAS observer team that monitored the Ivorian runoff, said unless Gbagbo heeded the ECOWAS leaders' call to quit, the 15-member regional grouping has the capacity to remove him.
''ECOWAS standby force will remove him because Laurent Gbagbo presently no longer has the support of the electorates, he doesn’t have the support of the masses of the people, he doesn’t have the support of the international community, he doesn’t have the support of ECOWAS countries, he doesn’t have the support of everybody.
''The only support he has now is that of the armed forces in Cote d’Ivoire, and they have pledged absolute support for him and that is the only thing he is counting on. And that is why the ECOWAS leadership have decided they will use force. The implications is that it (use of force) will also send a good message to other African leaders who have the same attitude of sit-tight.''
While agreeing with Mr. Bolarinwa, another analyst, Dr. Aminu Umar of the Department of International Relations and Diplomacy, Kaduna Polytechnic in northern Nigeria, said any possible use of force must be well planned and that the leaders must handle it diplomatically.
''If the international community has agreed that something is wrong there (Cote d'Ivoire) that must be put in order, it shouldn’t read as an invasion the way they are pronouncing it,'' he said, calling for what he called 'diplomatic enforcement'..
Dr. Umar also warned that if such an invasion was not properly managed, it could backfire on the citizens of some West African nations, especially Nigeria which has an estimated 2 million of its citizens in Cote d'Ivoire.
Asked if such use of force will not infringe on the sovereignty of Cote d'Ivoire, the international relations expert said: ''The reality of the matter now is that what happens in your country is under the watch of the international community. The days for you to say this is our internal affairs, we are a sovereign nation, don’t interfere or this is a local issue is now over.
''The issue of human rights is now everywhere, the issue of ensuring free and credible elections in all states across the world is now everywhere. So no single government can sit down and say that they will maneuver the process of elections or because you are so strong internally, to use your position to rig election and think you will also seat in the international arena. That is the lesson for Africa and for sit-tight leaders in Africa or those who abuse the democratic process.''
Three West African Presidents, Yayi Boni of Benin, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone - are due to leave for Abidjan Tuesday to convey the decision of the ECOWAS leaders to Gbagbo, while West African military chiefs will also meet in the capital city of Abuja on the same day to begin planning for a possible troops deployment and other logistics of giving teeth to the leaders' threat.
According to the UN, Gbagbo's refusal to respect the wishes of his people have so far claimed at least 173 lives and sent thousands fleeing to neighbouring states, as tension escalates and threatens a return to the civil war of 2002-2003.
-0- PANA SB/SEG 27Dec2010