An Ivory Coast court convicted six ex-soldiers for the kidnapping, torture and murder of four foreigners in 2011 during a civil war that following a disputed election, the prosecution said.
Gunmen kidnapped the four victims – two Frenchmen, a Beninese and a Malaysian – from the Novotel hotel in Abidjan in April 2011 and took them to the presidential palace where they were tortured and killed, according to a court statement from the public prosecutor.
In 2010, former President Laurent Gbabgo lost the presidential election to Alassane Ouattara. No one but Gbabgo and tribal supporters contested the election. Gbabgo gambled that his control of the army would ensure his power. This, after all, had worked for 33 years for the country’s founding president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny.
But Gbabgo was no Houphouët-Boigny. Houphouët-Boigny had founded the Ivory Coast, leading it out of colonialism; he enjoyed a Founding Father stature. He also tied the country very closely to France and the United States, severing relations with the Soviet Union and China and supporting anti-Communist wars and coups throughout Africa. His relationship with France kept him supplied; his support for the United States ensured his country’s stability was paramount to the West.
Gbabgo had less to go on. He was no founding father but a politician-in-exile, drawing on French socialism for his politics, which tried to supersede tribalism in a country still moving towards nation-state status. There was also no Cold War to leverage; both France and the United States no longer saw reason to support dictators at any cost in West Africa. When he lost the election, he had no Western shield to protect him.
Moreover, Nigeria had transformed ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, into a militarized force that saw democracy as the pathway to both stability and prosperity. Old school tribal dictators had produced civil wars that butchered Sierra Leone and Libera in the early 2000s. Nigerian elites concluded they needed to police West Africa to prevent repetitions of such waste.
Thus Gbabgo had no allies but his local forces. French forces occupied the airport and refused him access; ECOWAS threatened to invade. In a bloody but brief civil war, Gbabgo was defeated and arrested.
Though it took six years, this conviction is proof that ECOWAS’s – and hence, Nigeria’s – strategy is slowly paying off. Rule of law has long eluded many former African colonies; it hamstrings development, ignites civil wars and genocides, and sets African states back years, if not decades. Following the successful management of the Gambia’s recent crisis, West Africa, under Nigeria’s aegis, is emerging as the planet’s one bright spot.