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Ivory Coast insight from a veteran analyst

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Ivory Coast insight from a veteran analyst

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An Africa expert at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris spoke to euronews about events in Ivory Coast.

Laurence Alexandrowicz, euronews:
Philippe Hugon, in your view, why has Laurent Gbagbo gone to extremes refusing the inevitable?

Philippe Hugon:
It is because he is a fighter, who, I believe, thinks that he won the elections. He wants to appear as defender of a second independence. He is a go-all-the-way person. He has been a resistance fighter all his life. He was put in prison during the time of Houphouët-Boigny, and he is not letting go. Now, evidently, the tables of force have turned against him.

euronews:
What image of Laurent Gbagbo will Ivory Coast keep?

Hugon:
Laurent Gbagbo played an important historic role. He was extremely courageous in his fight against Houphouët-Boigny. He fought against apartheid, which will have won him friends in South Africa and Angola. In this sense, he will remain a figure of opposition. However, his presidency has not been qualified a great success. Elections were delayed for five years and in the end he did not accept the verdict of the ballot box, and so his image has certainly been tarnished.

euronews:
Will Alassane Ouattara be providential for Ivory Coast, as many people would like to think? Frankly, are we sure that he will be better for his country than Gbagbo?

Hugon:
He will have to show what he is capable of as head of state. He is a good technocrat. He was a deputy director of the International Monetary Fund. He is well familiar with economic affairs. But he will have to take on enormous challenges. Disarmament is one of them. He will also have to build a government of national unity, restore confidence and a collective will to live among Ivorians. Then the whole economy needs to be put back on its feet, not to mention the daily necessity of preventing violence and humanitarian crisis.

euronews:
Can Alassane Ouattara legitimately be a reconciliation president, considering that his troops are already accused of mass killings during their advance on Abidjan?

Hugon:
That’s certain, but to earn that stature it’s imperative that there be an effort of remembrance, the equivalent of a truth and reconciliation commission, and that crimes that may have been committed by one side or another be spoken of.

euronews:
Paris is involved in three wars, in Afghanistan, Libya and Ivory Coast. Why this commitment at the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s term as president? For electoral reasons?

Hugon:
It is true that a warrior stance, military commander in chief can have a positive effect on public opinion. I don’t believe that is the main motivation. I believe that Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to partly disengage from Africa, to normalise France-Africa relations — France-Afrique some people have called it — and finds himself facing the classical dilemma: must there be indifference or interference? History will decide whether he was right or wrong.