ODOGWU: GET GBAGBO
LIKE everybody knows by now, Africa seems to be cursed by volatile political climates, with an equal measure of unstable leaders whose sole appetite is permanent possession of state power. These leaders have totally redefined tyranny; and not only have they succeeded in tarnishing the image of the African man as an individual, they have plastered an unmitigated barrage of turd on the self-defined African emerging democracy, and economy. Nevertheless, positive indications from Ghana, Guinea and Sierra Leone points to a not-too-distant vista that we as a continent are currently undergoing a deliverance from our malady, and shall soon shout out our 'Hallelujah' as we join the emerging democratic world order. This is therefore the more reason why we must all look towards Cote d'Ivoire at this point in history.
Get Shorty is the title of an American movie, in which the story of a renegade gangster on the run is told. According to the film, the underworld was no more comfortable with one of their star hit men as his actions threatened to overturn what they stood for as a criminal clan, so they put out 'a contract' on his head: 'Get Shorty, dead or alive!' The rogue hit man was only saved when he turned 'legitimate' by abandoning gangsterism and joining a new trade, proving the truth in the all-time cinema axiom which states that the good always carries the day. Get Carter is another movie with a similar plot and characterization.
In Cote d'Ivoire today, Laurent Gbagbo still adamantly holds on to state power which he lost to his compatriot Allasane Quatara in a democratic election last month, thereby threatening to turn the idea of democracy on its head. Quatara, the universally accepted winner of the November polls, is already asserting his rights as the true president by ruling his nation from a hotel room. While considering the global yearning of all men that democracy must be entrenched in this West African nation, which is still recuperating from a devastating civil war of 2002-2003, I have but only one sentence for all of us: Get Gbagbo!
In the year 1938, the whole of Europe wavered on the right way to tackle Adolf Hitler's unspoken threat to the free world. Then, Sir Winston Churchill - later considered to be the greatest British ruler to ever live - did not have illusions about the evil lurking around the corner of Western civilization, and did not mince words in telling his country same. Though people did not really have the capacity to believe his fears because no government actually wanted a repeat of the Great War (World War I) that just ended a couple of decades back, Churchill did not shake in his belief and never stopped expressing them even when Hitler promised Europe 'no aggression'.
Later, the four countries of Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain composed and signed the Munich Pact in Munich, Germany on September 29, 1938. The forming of the pact between these four countries served appeasement purposes, securing Great Britain's and France's agreement to Adolf Hitler's demands. Hitler demanded for the secession of the German-speaking Sudetanland of Czechoslovakia to Germany. Looking for any attempt to prevent further confrontations with Hitler, Great Britain and France accepted Hitler's demands. France and Britain were devastated by World War I and would be willing to do anything to avoid more confrontation. With the two countries' acceptance, Hitler promised not to claim any other European territory. The Pact, signed by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for Britain, Premier Edouard Paladier for France, Adolf Hitler for Germany, and Benito Mussolini for Italy, set October 1, 1938 as the date of Czechoslovakian evacuation of the territory.
However, Hitler did not keep to his promise. In March of 1939, Germans marched into Czechoslovakia, making most of the country a German protectorate. This immediately nullified the Munich Pact. The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) signed a non-aggression pact with Germany to avoid any war. On September 1, Hitler attacked Poland, assuming that Great Britain and France would not intervene. Hitler was mistaken, as both countries immediately declared war on Germany. World War II had been launched. Winston Churchill, the man who shouted, Get Hitler!, from the word go, had power handed to him in Great Britain, as the British Parliamentarians realized that he was the person well-suited to lead the nations against Hitler and the Evil Axis.
Gbagbo poses such a substantial threat to the West African sub region in particular and to Africa in general that he should not be ignored. As a matter of fact, he is a threat to Nigeria as a nation. A couple of weeks ago, our embassy in Cote d'Ivoire was attacked when the Federal Government hinted that it could provide asylum for the embattled Gbagbo, thereby violating our country's sovereignty, which is against international law and diplomatic protocols. I strongly feel that Nigeria should take severe measures against Gbagbo and his men to show that as a moving force in Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations, he is made to pay the price for his dangerous power game.
It is a well-known fact that the international community has labeled him, his whole family and his men as outlaws. To start with, the African Union suspended Cote d'Ivoire until Allasane Quatara is allowed to take over as president, saying that it viewed Quatara as the country's democratically elected leader. Furthermore, the United Nations Organisation (UNO) not only condemned Gbagbo's refusal to hand over power, but refused to call back its peacekeeping troops in the country when Gbagbo demanded a total withdrawal of UN troops with the claim that they were violating his country's sovereignty. Notably, the fact that the United Nations forcefully rejected Gbagbo's orders to terminate its peace keeping mission in Cote d'Ivoire is a demonstration of the global village where leaders can no longer behave the way they choose and hide under the clause of Westphalia Treaty of Peace to use the concept of equality of nations to plead non interference in domestic affairs.
In fact, in the diplomatic world of today, Gbagbo shall face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity if he allows his country to slip into a second round of civil war following his refusal to relinquish power in Cote d' Ivoire, where hapless citizens and nationals of other countries have become targets of desperate attacks by people suspected to be supporters of the desperate leader. The Hague-based ICC was set up in July 2002 in line with the 1945 Rome Statute of the body which is a permanent United Nations tribunal. It was set up to prosecute individuals for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and acts of aggression. Although the official seat of the court is in the Hague, the Netherlands, its proceedings may take place anywhere.
The creation of the ICC perhaps constitutes the most significant reform of international law since 1945 - when World War II ended. To date, the court has opened investigations into situations in northern Uganda, Dafur in western Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central Africa Republic and Kenya. The court has indicted 16 people; including the president of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir. The ICC's first trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga began on 26 January 2009. The former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, who unleashed a reign of terror on his fellow countrymen and foreigners living there, especially to Nigerians resident in Liberia - many of whom are living today without their limbs - at the time of his infamous 'misrule', is also standing trial at the moment.
But I am of the view that the world should not fold its arms and wait for another war in Cote d'Ivoire before they can drag Gbagbo to court. Let there be a preemptive move against Gbagbo to forestall another prolonged spate of suffering by the innocent citizens of that country, and their neighbors. Adolf Hitler and tyrannical leaders of his ilk have taught the world a lesson. Violence in any nation is no more a domestic affair, and incendiary power-drunk leaders shall have their fire put out before they consume the citizens around them. Human rights violations during crisis are products of individual men who came in a package that exploded in infamy and wickedness; and the only way to stop the abductions, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial and summary executions, acts of sexual violence, and destruction of lives and properties is to get the bad leader before he gets the nation.
• Odogwu lives in Abuja.