Rulings in West African Run-Off Elections Bring Controversy

Shawn Humphrey
Yahoo! Contributor Network
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Shaded relief map of Guinea.


ANALYSIS | The results are in for two West African Presidential elections and as is so often the case in regional politics, the results are not entirely simple. After five years of delay in Côte d'Ivoire (or the oft anglicized Ivory Coast), a rival President has been elected, MSNBC reports. For neighboring Guinea to the northwest, a one-time exile and political prisoner has become the first democratically elected President in the nation's history, according to the BBC. In both cases, the results have been contested, and the prospects for peaceful transition remain uncertain in both nations.

Two Close Nations, Similar Tragic Stories

Ivory Coast and Guinea are more than neighbors. They've had an intertwined history. Ivory Coast's first President and, consequently, strong man Félix Houphouët-Boigny, was a political rival of Guinea's first President Ahmed Sékou Touré, according to Wikipedia. Over the years, both countries have seen their share of violence. Ivory Coast disintegrated into civil war after the death of Houphouët-Boigny, and Guinea is still technically ruled by a military junta which took power following the death of long-time President Lansana Conté. Guinea also became a major center for refugees fleeing civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Where Guinea never really flourished under a Marxist government, Ivory Coast was considered the "Paris of Africa" in the early '70s as MSNBC noted. The nation became divided between a Muslim, immigrant north and a Christian, native Ivorian south, and the various parties involved in the conflict turned to politics instead. Though President Laurent Gbagbo managed to hold power five years beyond his initial five-year term, he finally held elections.

Signs of Chaos Emerge in Ivory Coast

As reported the BBC, rival northerner and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara won by 54 percent to Gbagbo's 46 percent. When the results were announced, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the European Union, Carter Center, the African Union, and the U.S. breathed a collective sigh of relief, agreeing that the vote had been fairly held.

But on Dec. 3, all parties were surprised to hear that the judicial arbitrator of electoral issues, the Constitutional Council, had determined that the results of the run-off election had to be thrown out due to massive fraud in the north- Ouattara's power base. The jurist on the Council is a Gbagbo appointee.

Borders in the Ivory Coast were closed on the 3rd, and the UN Security Council is, according to AfricaNews.com, deciding what to do in response and has said they will take unspecified "appropriate action" to make sure the initial results are respected.

Cooler Heads May Prevail in Guinea

AfricanNews.com reports that Guinea's border also closed, surprising neighbors. The country had also had an run-off election in November, and the country has been awaiting the results of a Supreme Court decision regarding whether too much fraud had taken place for the vote to be credible. President-elect Alpha Conde and ex-prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo asked their followers to respect the results, BBC reported, trying to defuse violence that had followed the run-off result announcement. As the Supreme Court decided in Conde's favor today, it appeared that Diallo accepted the results. Both men had represented rival ethnic groups and their power bases.

The impoverished nation could potentially grow in power and wealth if it remains stable, as it is the world's largest supplier of bauxite.

Sources

BBC News, " Guinea's Alpha Conde confirmed presidential poll winner "

Kingsley Kobo, " Tensions high in Ivory Coast, borders close " AfricaNews

Kingsley Kobo, " Opposition leader wins Ivory Coast elections " AfricaNews

Samuel Okocha, " Guinea poll: Court confirms Conde's win " AfricaNews

Samuel Okocha, " S Leone surprised at Guinea border closure " AfricaNews

BBC News, " Guinea's Diallo concedes election defeat to rival Conde "

BBC News, " Ivory Coast poll overturned: Gbagbo declared winner "

Petra Cahill, " Déjà vu all over again in Ivory Coast? " MSNBC.com

AllAfrica.com, " UN Envoy Speaks Out As Council Names Gbagbo Election Winner "

Wikipedia, " Ahmed Sékou Touré "