In DepthThe QuestionShould the African Union send in troops to resolve election disputes?


Posted on Monday, 31 January 2011 11:33

Should the African Union send in troops to resolve election disputes?

At the close of its summit in Addis Ababa on 31 January the African Union agreed to set up a panel tasked with finding a solution to the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. The leaders of South Africa, Tanzania, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad will be put to work to find a binding settlement. As envoys try to persuade incumbent Laurent Gbagbo to admit defeat, we ask if there could ever be a case for intervention by an African military force.

Join in the debate below on military intervention.


Patrick Achi, cabinet spokesman for Alassane Ouattara, the president-elect of Côte d’Ivoire

The case in Côte d’Ivoire is not just a post-electoral conflict, but an extremely important gauge of democracy in Africa. If we truly want democracy to develop, we cannot allow a head of state who has been defeated to remain in power and hold people hostage by disregarding the law.

?Because of the bad blood between the parties, politicians asked for an independent arbiter. All the political parties agreed on this, so let’s not now give the impression that the international community is meddling in their affairs. The number of votes won by Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara were not announced differently by the Independent Electoral Commission, the UN, [mediator] Blaise Compaoré or the Constitutional Council. The only difference was that the Constitutional Council cancelled thousands of votes for Ouattara.

It isn’t constitutionally empowered to do that; the only thing the council can do is order a new round of voting. Once there is a clear winner, there’s nothing else to be said. So far, Gbagbo has not given us any alternatives but the use of force; his government has rejected every offer. Unfortunately, sometimes, the way towards democracy requires using force. We have tried to do this the peaceful way, but we now have no alternative.


Mawuli Dake, chief executive of The Africa Group Consult and form member of the ECOWAS Vision 2020 team

Africa needs strong institutions, not armed soldiers, to prevent and resolve election disputes. At a time when African citizens are increasingly implored to desist from using violence to express or resolve electoral grievances, it will be unfortunate (and frankly irresponsible) for the leaders of the continent to institutionalise military action or war as the preferred option for seeking resolution to political impasses.

In Côte d’Ivoire, military intervention is a recipe for human tragedy: the only thing that we can be certain about is a tragic human cost. It will require long-term commitment of troops and scarce resources. Wars are expensive and the financial cost is likely to be the most expensive of the various options available. There is a vast array of political, international, institutional and diplomatic tools available for actors in an electoral dispute. As shown from recent experiences, a military intervention in a political dispute is only a first step – sometimes a backward one – of a long process to find a real political solution. Above all, any option that does not ultimately prioritise or ensure the safety and lives of Ivorians is not worth it.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 02:32

Gemma Ware

Gemma Ware

Gemma Ware is business editor of The Africa Report magazine, where she has worked since 2008. She coordinates the magazine's business pages and writes on a range of subjects from the continent's telecoms revolution, to private equity and African stock markets.

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