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“Why Isn’t Anyone Intervening In Ivory Coast?” They Already Are.

One of the arguments made for NATO’s staying out of Libya is the “Well, what about Ivory Coast?” argument. This implies that nobody’s doing anything to stop the bloodshed and strife that has followed Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to honor the results of the election that voted him out of power. Except that there already is outside intervention in Ivory Coast, and has been for some time. From —

Presidential Elections

Côte d’Ivoire has been plunged into turmoil following incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat after losing the 28 November second round of election  to his opponent, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.

Facilitating the implementation of the 2003 peace agreement by the Ivorian parties

Having determined that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire continued to pose a threat to international peace and security in the region and acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council, by its resolution 1528 (2004) PDF Document of 27 February 2004, decided to establish the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) as from 4 April 2004. UNOCI replaced the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI), a political mission set up by the Council in May 2003 with a mandate to facilitate the implementation by the Ivorian parties of the peace agreement signed by them in January 2003.

In other words, UN peacekeepers are already in Ivory Coast, and have been since 2006, when they came to help set up the free elections Gbagbo was trying to avoid. He’d tried to order them out of the country in December, after he lost the election, and when they refused to leave, he declared them to be on the side of the “rebels” (aka: the people who won the election) and thus fair game for his troops, as most recently shown by this attack on a UN helicopter, even though the UN is officially neutral in the conflict and is trying to minimize bloodshed.

The UN presence is very likely why Gbagbo has been steadily losing his grip on the country, and why the winners of the election are likely to be able to claim in fact what they won at the ballot box four months ago.

UPDATE: There are good reasons for the UN’s neutrality. There is concern that his opponent, Alassane Ouattra, may have been involved in massacres committed by forces under his command:

But the killings could call into question how much control Mr. Ouattara has over his forces and, if further investigation proved their involvement, tarnish his reputation overseas, where he is perceived to hold the high moral ground in the standoff with Mr. Gbagbo.

UPDATE:As it turns out, a “no-fly zone” would be pointless as neither side has an air force to speak of anyway; the government has ninety planes, but only six to eight of those might still be operational. (Even if it weren’t pointless, it would require carrier-based support as the closest NATO bases are a few thousand miles away. By contrast, the Mediterranean has NATO bases throughout; planes from Sicily can be at Libya in thirty minutes’ time.)

Also, the idea that we’re not interested because Ivory Coast doesn’t have oil? Oh yes, it does. In fact, it’s arguing with Ghana over who owns some particularly choice offshore oil fields. (Oh, and the Sudan has oil too, which the Chinese are busily developing even as they turn a blind eye, same as does the West to Darfur; that’s why their digs at the West on Libya are a touch hypocritical.)

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