Ouattara Elected President: Cote d’Ivoire Poised for Progress

Ballot of the four presidential candidates
President Ouattara and wife after voting

Lawrence Freeman

November 12, 2020

On October 31, Alassane Dramane Ouattara was re-elected President of Cote d’Ivoire. The official vote for President Ouattara was 3,031,483, which was 94.5% of total votes cast, with 53.9% of registered voters participating. Observers for both the African Union and Economic Community of West African States validated the legitimacy of the election process. On November 9, he was sworn in for his third term as president of Cote d’Ivoire.

In the days leading up to the election, scores of widely circulated stories, with frightening headlines predicting “chaos, a dangerous election, civil war,” attempted to create the narrative that this election could potentially experience a repeat of the violent conflict that caused thousands of deaths in 2010-2011. This blatantly false storyline, spread by major news outlets in Britain, France, and the U.S., that was intended to create fear and inflame the emotions of the population; never materialized. There were acts of civil disobedience and conflicts in a few outlying districts. However, in Abidjan, the country’s port city, where 20% of the population resides, there was no evidence of any kind of violence and the city remained calm.

I was very pleased to witness hundreds of Ivorians peacefully standing in long lines waiting to vote, in Treichville, a poor section of Abidjan. This was one of the several polling centers I visited. As I walked around several voting locations, I observed a professional orderly voting procedure.

Ivorians at Treichville lining up to vote

Stability for the nation of Cote d’Ivoire following this election is not only important for 25 million Ivorians but is vital for all of West Africa and the Sahel. Cote d’Ivoire’s bordering neighbors, Mali, and Burkina Faso are being destabilized from attacks by violent extremists.

Cote d’Ivoire, a potential economic hub in West Africa, is already exporting energy to several nations in the region and transporting goods from its port via rail to landlocked Niger and Burkina Faso. With the modernized Abidjan port, Cote d’Ivoire offers a vital gateway for development in West Africa.

Respect Cote d’Ivoire’s Sovereignty  

It is universally recognized that President Ouattara, who was president from 2011-2020, created an economic recovery from the previous ten years of 2000-2010. In that period, referred to as the ‘lost decade,” Cote d’Ivoire was governed by President Laurent Gbagbo, and racked by a protracted and bloody civil war.

Originally, President Ouattara announced in March of this year that he would not run for office again. He threw his support behind the then Prime Minister, Gon Coulibaly, who unexpectedly died of a heart attack in July, compelling President Ouattara to reverse his decision.

Ivorians in Abidjan waiting to cast their votes in the presidential election

In an article published on Oct 28, in Modern Ghana, More than meets the eye, Mamadou Haidara, ambassador to the U.S., explains President Ouattara’s reasoning to seek the presidency again:

“This extraordinary circumstance left a major political party with the difficult task of identifying, vetting and putting forward an alternative candidate in a matter of days or weeks — an unrealistic timetable in any country, and especially so in this young and still somewhat fragile democracy…

“Confronted with this unforeseen predicament, President Ouattara’s decision to seek another term in office was the only viable path forward for his party and his country.” 

The nation’s Constitutional Council ruled on September 14, that in accordance with Cote d’Ivoire new constitution of 2016, it was permissible for President Ouattara to seek a third term. United States ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire, Richard Bell supporting the nation’s sovereign authority to conduct its election, responded in an interview  published in Fraternite Matin (October 17-18):

“Question: Of the 44 candidates, only 4 were deemed eligible to take part in the election. Do you have a comment on this situation?

Amb Bell: There are a lot of applicants who weren’t successful. I think the Constitutional Council ruled that they did not meet the criteria. In any country, there must be someone who decides. Who says the law in this country? There has to be a clear answer to this question. In Côte d’Ivoire, for questions of this kind, I believe that it is the Constitutional Council which decides. The United States respects the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire. I therefore find it hard to see my government contradicting what is said by the highest Ivorian authority.”

A voter registering to vote

 Destabilization Launched

Those seeking to destabilize Cote d’Ivoire, seized the ruling by the Constitutional Council to allow President Ouattara to seek a bid for a third term as a gambit to destabilize the nation.

In addition to the 78 year old President Ouattara, from the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace party (RHDP), the Constitutional Council approved three other candidates to compete for the office of president.

  • Henri Konan Bedie, Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI), 86 years old, a former president Cote d’Ivoire from 1993-1999, before he was couped. He initiated ethnic conflicts when he introduced the notion that to be a “true” Ivorian both parents had to be Ivorian.
  • Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Popular Front Party (FPI), 67 years old, a former prime minister from 2000-2003 under President Gbagbo.
  • Kouadio Koana Bertin, running as an Independent, 52 years old, a former youth leader of the PDCI, who competed for president in 2015.

On October 15, candidates Bedie and N’Guessan, fearing they would lose, called on their supporters to boycott the election, in preparation to create the conditions to destabilize Cote d’Ivoire immediately following the vote. This calculated action, a mere 16 days before this critical election, which would impact the nation’s future, was intended to prepare the groundwork for a campaign to “delegitimize” the presidential election. Right on cue, as part of their scheme, Bedie, and N’Guessan, who received .99% and 1.66% of the vote respectively, characterized the election as illegal and illegitimate, as they had planned. The duo then nonsensically called for the creation of a “council of national transition.” In effect, these defeated candidates, who claim to support democracy, are advocating for the disenfranchisement of millions of Ivorians, who endured the heat and long lines to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Democracy at the ballot box

Sedition

N’Gueesan was arrested on November 7, and Bedi is under house arrest for calling for the formation of an unlawful-none-elected government. This may not seem serious to those unfamiliar with Cote d’Ivoire’s history of elections. However, Ivorians memories are deeply scarred from the violence that followed the 2010 presidential election, when President Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave the presidential palace after being defeated by President Ouattara. From December 2010 into March 2011, heavy fighting between opposing armies in Abidjan killed three-thousand people and displaced upwards of one million. For a young, emerging nation, recalling the horrors from a decade earlier, the actions of N’Ggueesan and Bedie are threatening to Ivorian society and its elected government.

Joining the opposition coalition that is attempting to overthrow the elected government of Cote d’Ivoire is Guillaume Soro. He served as prime minister under President Gbagbo from 2007 to 2012, and President of the National Assembly from 2012 to 2019, during  Ouattara ‘s presidency. He previously was an ally of President Ouattara and led the rebel forces against then President Gbagbo. It is important to recognize that prior to the election, Soro confirmed the opposition’s game plan, telling Le Monde, a major French newspaper:

“We have succeeded (sic) in discrediting the electoral process and in giving ourselves the means not to recognize Mr. Ouattara as President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire after October 31.”

Soro, who was disqualified from running for president by the Constitutional Council for embezzlement and money laundering, is residing in Belgium after being found guilty in absentia. On November 4, four days after President Ouattara’s victory, Soro called for armed mutiny against President Ouattara. He posted on his face book an appeal for a military coup. He wrote:

Turning now to our security and Defense forces…I’m asking you to disobey illegal orders and join the national transitional council…We cannot out of fear, allow dictatorship in Ivory Coast by Alassane Ouattara.”      

Bedie also failed when he tried to enlist the support of the U.S. to join his effort to subvert the election. On November 2, the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan issued the following statement:

“The United States Ambassador did not meet the candidate Bédié this weekend. The United States respects constitutional order in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, which President Ouattara still leads, and urges all to respect constitutional order and avoid violence.”

Showing international observer proof he voted with blue ink on his finger

 Time to Move Forward

With the election over, now is the time for Cote d’Ivoire to unite around the goals of fulfilling the nation’s potential, industrializing its economy, and providing for the wellbeing of all its people.

President Ouattara, in his acceptance speech on November 9, committed himself to resolving the country’s conflict:

“I would like to reaffirm my availability today, as I did yesterday, for a sincere and constructive dialogue with the opposition, while respecting the constitutional order.

 “I would like to invite my elder, President Henri KONAN BEDIE, President of PDCI-RDA, to a meeting in the next few days for a frank and sincere dialogue in order to restore confidence.

 “I ask all our fellow citizens, in a surge of peace of minds and hearts, to work to maintain and strengthen peace throughout our country. We have so much to do together, to build and consolidate our Nation.

“The time for electoral competition has passed.  Now is the time for action.  And for me, action is the “Côte d’Ivoire Solidaire” Project for which I was elected, and which will accelerate the economic and social transformation of our country, through more inclusive growth.”

President Ouattara’s administration has outlined in its Strategic Plan-2030, a vision for a prosperous and inclusive Cote d’Ivoire. Key goals of this plan include; reducing poverty from 39% to 20%, increasing life expectancy from 57 to 67 years of age, creating 8 million new jobs, and reducing child mortality by 40%.

It is in the interest of all Ivorians to move beyond this contentious election and work together to achieve a stable and blossoming nation. With peace, stability, and the right policies, Cote d’Ivoire, a lovely cultural melting pot of many nationalities, is capable of becoming an engine of growth for West Africa.

(The authored visited Cote d’Ivoire from October 23-Novemebr 3, 2020)

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

 

Science and Space Exploration Essential For Africa’s Economic Growth

I present below a new paper by the China Africa Research Institute (CARI) and remarks by Marie Korsaga, an astrophysicist from Burkina Faso. The common theme binding these two presentations is the importance of space technology and science education for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Not discussed by the two authors is the essential understanding that scientific discovery is the true source of economic wealth, contrary to the foolish views that Africa’s wealth is measured by the quantities of mineral resources found underground. The mind with its innate ability to hypothesize, to discover new physical principles, if imperfectly, is the underlying wellspring of progress for humankind. African nations expanding their involvement in space exploration are making an invaluable contribution to their future. Africa’s education of its large and growing youth population in science should be a source of hope, antithetical to Thomas Malthus’ evil over-population claptrap  I will be posting an article on this in the near future. 

 

May 28, 2020

Click to access PB+45+-+Klinger+-+China+Africa+Space+Satellites.pdf

 

Marie Korsaga is the first female astrophysicist in West Africa.

Dr. MARIE KORSAGA* I am an astrophysicist and originally from Burkina Faso. My research focuses on the distribution of dark matter, and visible matter in galaxies. In simple terms, it must be said that visible matter, that is to say, ordinary matter made up of protons, neutrons, electrons, everything that is observable with our devices, represents only about 5% of the universe — the rest is invisible matter, distribute as follows: 26% dark matter and 68% dark energy.

Dark matter, with its gravitational force is used to explain the fact that galaxies remain close to each other, while dark energy causes the universe to expand faster over time. So we cannot speak of understanding the universe if we only know about 5% of its constituents. So, to understand our universe, that is to say, to be able to account for its formation and evolution, it is essential to understand what dark matter and dark energy are.

Dark matter, as its name suggests, is something that you cannot see with even the most sophisticated telescopes. So far, no dark matter particles have ever been detected, nevertheless, we feel its presence thanks to its impact on gravity. The purpose of my research is to study how dark matter is distributed inside galaxies in order to better understand the formation and evolution of our universe, and therefore, the origin of life on Earth.

Beyond my research, I am interested in the development side of astronomy in Africa. For this, I work at the Office of Astronomy for Development on a project which consists in using astronomy as a factor of development almost everywhere in the world, but especially in the developing countries, by supporting projects related to education, educational tourism and so on.

Speaking of education, it is important to remember that according to the African Union, Africa has the youngest population in the world, with more than 40% of its young people under the age of 15, which will produce a demographic explosion in the next 10 years. This population growth has disadvantages, but also advantages. The downside is that if measures are not taken, such as access to quality education for boys and girls, especially in science, these young people, instead of becoming a source of development for the continent, risk, rather to be a source of socio-economic political instability and conflict, which will further plunge the continent into misery.

However, the advantage of this population growth is that through a well-developed education system, this demographic growth, if accompanied by strong measures both on the side of public policies and the private sector, will be a great source of sustainable development, at the economic and political level of the continent. For this, it is very important to make significant investments in the field of education, with a focus on innovation, science and technology.

It should be noted that today, African graduates mainly graduate from the literary and human sciences fields. STEM students — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — represent only 25% of the workforce on average, according to the World Bank. In addition, women are underrepresented in these areas. Take my case: I am the first woman to obtain a doctorate in astrophysics in Burkina, and even in West Africa. It may sound flattering, but it reveals a rather disturbing diagnosis, despite being a light of hope. Indeed, even if the region has a dozen doctorates in the field, there are almost no women among them.

Unfortunately, this shows that we are still a long way from achieving gender parity in science, and there is still much to do. This requires a change in mentalities and the accessibility of science to women, especially among the underprivileged. It is not unknown that a career in astrophysics requires a course in physics, which is not obvious for women in our societies where the majority of people think that the scientific fields are dedicated to men, and that women must go to the literary streams. This has the effect of discouraging women from opting for long studies, especially in the scientific fields, and even if they opt for them, they tend to give up at the first obstacles, due to the lack of encouragement.

Today, I can say that I have broken this barrier, at my level, and I would like to take advantage of the privilege to inspire and encourage as many young girls as I can, to opt for it.

It is true that today there are efforts being made by several governments to break these stereotypes with, for example, the NEF, the Next Einstein Forum in Rwanda, which is a platform for popularizing science, and which offers opportunities for students through scholarships of the network of women in science, called OWSD, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, which gives opportunities to girls and women in STEM fields.

However, there is still a lot to do, because the representation of women in science is far from being reached. Beyond research, I intend to contribute to the training of young people in science in Burkina Faso, and in Africa in general, by giving courses at universities, and also supervising masters and PhD students. I also plan to take action to popularize science education in general, and astrophysics in particular in countries where access to science is limited. This will serve to motivate young girls and boys, especially young girls, to take up scientific studies. There are also other future actions that I plan to undertake, in collaboration with other researchers, namely the establishment of scientific schools in Africa, particularly dedicated to women; the organization of workshops to enable female scientists to speak about their inspiring work, and cultivate self-confidence. The creation of an astronomy club for children, etc.

In addition to being fascinating as a science, astronomy can also be used as a development tool through, for example, education and tourism. The International Astronomical Union understands this and is making a lot of effort to address this development component in developing countries, and working to achieve a Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.

The typical example, in Sub-Saharan Africa is the case of South Africa, where the installation of telescopes in localities has not only facilitated the popularization of science and the creation of jobs for young people, but also has boosted the economy, and the development of infrastructure in these localities.

The current context in which we, notably the COVID-19 pandemic, reminds us of how important science must occupy our lives and our education system. This importance must convince the African authorities that it is more than necessary to devote a large part of national budgets to the support and the promotion of studies and of scientific research, because investment in human capital remains a secure means for the growth of a country. Above all, we must understand that to get our continent out of underdevelopment, we will have to review our way of executing these programs, focusing on education, training in science, technology, and innovation, especially space science, could not only increase our human potential, which is a source of sustainable development, but also enable the management of our natural resources and thus impact the economy in the continent.

Africa has an immense amount of natural resources, essential to the development of industry. It is necessary to arrive at a point where these resources are exploited, first for its development, by women and men trained on the continent and with compatible techniques.

Thank you for offering me the opportunity to share my thoughts on the necessity of education in science in Africa.

*Unedited remarks delivered to an international online conference organized by the Schiller Institute, April 25-26, 2020

Read: West Africa’s First Female Astrophysicist

Our Humanity is Enriched by the Splendor of a Young African Scientific Mind

Marie Korsaga is the first female astrophysicist in West Africa.
Marie Korsaga is the first female astrophysicist in West Africa.

This is a wonderful, beautiful interview about West Africa’s first female astrophysicist, Marie Korsaga, from Burkina Faso. This young woman breaks all the stereotypes. Much of our western culture does not appreciate science. Science, discoveries by the human mind, the power of hypothesis, is the driver of civilization’s growth. Science, not money, is the underlying source  of economic value. Science demonstrates, and celebrates our uniquely human powers, which no other living creature possesses, or could ever posses. We are truly in the image of the Creator when we are exercising the higher scientific powers of our creative mind. I strongly believe that the world would be better off if we had more of youth becoming scientists (and engineers). 

Excerpted questions and answers:

Where does your passion for astrophysics stem from?

From an early age, I have always been interested in the phenomena of the universe, such as the appearance of life on earth and shooting stars. I also enjoyed watching documentary films on astronomy, especially on the Apollo missions. But at the time, I never imagined that I would become an astrophysicist, because astronomy was an unknown domain in Burkina Faso. Besides, I had never met — let alone talked to — an astronomer in real life before my doing my degree.

Growing up, I intended to become a civil engineer because I also like construction. When I did my degree, astronomy had just been integrated as an optional subject in physics in Burkina Faso, and I seized this opportunity. My interest in scientific subjects allowed me to excel more easily in the subject and to pursue my postgraduate studies in astrophysics.

In a continent where there is a lack of water, electricity and even food, does opting for astrophysics ignore the fundamental problems facing the region?

Since astronomy is a science that requires a vast field of knowledge, it enables skills to be developed at the local level. For example, if you take the telescope construction project in South Africa, which is one of the biggest projects in astronomy, it was established by engineers, computer scientists, technicians. So, in addition to strict astronomy, skills are developed that can be used effectively in other sectors.

An astrophysicist is someone who is almost a complete all-rounder in science — someone who has skills in physics, engineering, programming. All this is what makes people describe astronomy as the mother of all sciences. As well as being fascinating as a science, astronomy can be used as a development tool through, for example, education and tourism. The International Astronomical Union understands this and is trying hard to address the development component in developing countries, working to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The typical example in Africa is the case of South Africa where the installation of telescopes has not only popularised science and created jobs for young people, but also boosted the local economy and infrastructure. Burkina Faso could well draw inspiration from these success stories and position itself as a centre of excellence in West Africa.

Read: West Africa’s First Female Astrophysicist

AU Chairman, and African Leaders Congratulate China’s “Dark Side” of the Moon Landing

China is Making History with Moon Landing

January 8, 2019

Senegalese President Macky Sall congratulated China for the success of its Chang’e-4 mission to deploy a lunar rover on the far side of the Moon, when he met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Jan. 6. Senegal, which is currently co-chair of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). This was the last stop in Wang’s four-nation tour of Africa that began in Ethiopia.

According to Xinhua, Sall said that “this major technological breakthrough has shown that China is taking the lead in the field of technological innovation…. China’s African friends are proud of its achievement.” He added that they hope to strengthen their cooperation with China in scientific and technological innovation.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat had said much the same thing, when he met with Wang on Jan. 4 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the AU has its headquarters. Expressing his congratulations on the successful landing of the Chang’e-4 lunar probe, Faki told Wang, “for humans, the Moon is out of reach, but with its super-scientific capabilities, China has successfully achieved this landing event, making history.” He, too, said that Africa, as a friend of China, is happy about its success, and hopes that African countries will strengthen cooperation with China in science and technological innovation.

Xinhua reported that Wang, in responding to Sall, said that China’s achievements are also achievements of developing countries, “stressing that developing countries have the right and ability to achieve rapid development in the field of scientific and technological innovation.”

Between those two stops, Wang visited The Gambia and Burkina Faso, two countries which had only established relations with China in 2016 and 2018. Cooperation through the Belt and Road Initiative was on the agenda in each stop, as was China’s commitment to helping bring peace to Africa, which is fighting off terrorism. Wang told AU Commission Chair Faki, and Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and Foreign Minister Alpha Barry, in particular, that China will “soon” provide its $45 million commitment for the anti-terror force of the Group of 5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), plus additional support for equipment as well as equipment for the fight against terrorism. One Burkina Faso newspaper called Wang’s pledge “a breath of fresh air,” because while the G5 Sahel counter-force is backed by the United Nations Security Council, international funding has been way below commitments.

Traditionally China’s foreign minister makes the first overseas trip of each year to Africa.

{China Daily} Reflects on Chang’e-4 Mission

In an article headlined “Exploring Outer Space for Benefit of Mankind,” the semi-official {China Daily} takes stock of the significance of the ongoing Chang’e-4 mission.

“The successful landing of China’s Chang’e 4 probe on the far side of the Moon on Jan. 3 marks a significant step forward in the exploration of outer space and paves the way for future space missions…. Both the country and its people have a good reason to take pride in this pioneering achievement, which contributes to the efforts to learn our homes planet’s satellite, the Solar System and the universe beyond…. Following the Chang’e 4 mission, China is expected to quicken its steps in exploring outer space.

“In recent years, each significant achievement made by China’s space industry has drawn global attention. Although its space industry is comparatively young, China’s commitment to the exploration of outer space has always been crystal clear and consistent. It is committed to the principle of using outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes the militarization of or an arms race in outer space. Its door is open to international cooperation in space exploration….

China’s commitment to international cooperation demonstrates its unwavering belief that outer space is a common home for all humanity and that its space
dream is part of the dream of all humankind.”

East-West Railroad Would Transform African Continent

This is an interesting and useful article. I have stressed for decades the urgent need to construct both an East-West and a South-North Railroad. A high-speed transport grid that Africa should have completed decades ago, is essential for the well-being and economic growth of Africa. Such a transportation network, integrated with several hundreds megawatts of electrical power, would create an infrastructure platform that would be transformative; producing the conditions for African nations to finally eliminate hunger and disease. These projects are possible now with the expansion China’s New Silk Road, initiated by President Xi Jinping, which has changed the strategic geometry of the world. For example. At the February Abuja conference to ‘Save Lake Chad’ at which I participated, the Head of States endorsed the mega Transaqua project; an inter-basin water transfer proposal to recharge Lake Chad. The Transaqua concept had been in circulation for over thirty years, but with no progress until ChinaPower become involved.  As I advised the participants at this conference: now is the time for Africans to think big!   

Can China Realize Africa’s Dream of an East-West Transport Link?

The Jamestown Foundation-Publication: China Brief Volume: 18 Issue: 6

Map of a proposed trans-Africa highway network, ca. 2003 (Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

African development hinges on a maddening paradox: its greatest asset—the sheer size and diversity of its landscape—is also the greatest barrier to its development. Landlocked countries are cut off from ports, and the difficulty of moving goods from country to country weighs down intra-continental trade (only 15% of African trade is within Africa. (African Development Bank, 2017) African consumers bear the brunt of these difficulties. [1]. Costs are driven up by a host of factors: tariffs, border delays, corruption. But the biggest challenge is that no streamlined transport route exists between West and East Africa – only a decaying and underdeveloped road and rail system which pushes up costs and drags down efficiency.

Several ambitious schemes have been proposed to link Africa’s east and west coasts, some of which are closer to full realization than others. Most notable in this respect is a plan to expand the existing Trans-African Highway 5 (TAH5) into a true cross-continental road and rail link, the early stages of which China has helped bring to fruition where Western consortiums failed. Likewise, Chinese investment in African infrastructure through Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) may help create expanded sub-regional linkages, particularly in East Africa, that could help facilitate the emergence of an eventual, true East-West link in the long term. However, in the short-to-mid-term, the obstacles to a truly robust set of East-West transport links are formidable, and it is unlikely that China’s involvement will be a panacea.

Read entire article: Can China Realize Africa’s Dream of an East-West Transport Link?