Ivory Coast: Perched on a Precipice
Ivory Coast: Perched on a Precipice
Only Working Masses’ Solidarity and Struggle can prevent Catastrophe
Four years after the United Nations (UN) and French army cobbled together a quasi-democratic government under Alassane Ouattara following a 2011 post-election civil war; there is renewed fear that anotherpresidential election scheduled for October might trigger violent crisis. Particularly worrisome is the fact that the division in the country following the war is now sharper than ever.
All the combustible materials that sparked the first and second civil wars are well preserved and primed for explosion. Unless the working class, youths, farmers, urban and rural poor come together to put their stamp on the course of event, there is no guarantee that the long-running power struggle between factions of the capitalist ruling elite egged on by imperialism will not tear the country apart.
Post-reconciliation effort by Ouattara government, modeled after the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Committee of South Africa, has so far failed to ensure a fair and balanced trial of all those involved in human rights abuses from both sides. For instance human right groups have pointed out that none of the commanders of pro-Ouattara rebels (New Forces, FNCI) who were found to have committed gross human right violations during the civil war have been prosecuted. Instead they were absorbed into the army and even promoted.
Deposed president, Laurent Gbagbo, is in prison at The Hague in Europe. His wife, Simone, has just recently being sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in the conflict while many activists of Gbagbo’s party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), are either in exile or in prison. A report from the Ivorian Justice Ministry says 659 pro-opposition civilians and military forces were arrested for their presumed roles in the 2011 post-election violence â€“ 275 of them, including Gbagbo’s eldest son Michel, have been granted provisional freedom since 2012, 384 are still in detention. In addition, over 5,000 pro-Gbagbo youths are said to be in detention. Many of them were arrested after the war because they were involved in activities to campaign for Gbagbo’s freedom. In fact the conditions for a renewed conflict remain.
Illusion of Progress
But to a first-time visitor to the commercial capital of Abidjan, no signs of the fratricidal war of four years ago are immediately visible. In that civil war, over 3,000 were killed and depending on who is making the claims, something between 300,000 to one million people were made homeless and displaced to neighboring countries. Even the 3000 death figure appears understated given new evidence unearthed after the civil war of mass graves filled with bodies.
Today wide boulevards, shopping malls and Ouattara’s flagship project, the newly constructed 1.5 kilometre-long toll bridge across the lagoon, hallmark the transformation in Abidjan â€“ which was a centre of intense fighting four years ago. Its good-natured inhabitants are hospitable to a fault, just like many other African countries. Cocody, where deposed President Gbagbo was holed up and therefore saw heavy fighting as rebels assisted by UN and French air strikes laboured to smoke him out, is today back to being a smart and neat neighborhood. Its well-laid out plateaux are the haunts of European expatriates, United Nations Mission in Cote D’Ivoire (UNOCI) officials and suited Ivoirian middle class men and women. During the customary midday break that characterizes typical Ivoirian working day, street-side cafes bustle with diners consuming plates of the country’s staple attieke and rice. Often a bottle of wine or “Drogba” (a popular beer named after the country’s most successful football star Didier Drogba) is opened to wash down the meal.
But there is not one Abidjan but two. The second is walled off in the shanty towns and slums where poor working people families eke out a miserable existence. In the heart of Cocody itself are tall apartment buildings many stories high, occupied by public sector workers, without any visible sign of an elevator. But that is incomparable to the working class district of Yopougon where thousands of poor Ivoirians live in such destitute condition that brings to mind the slum of Ajegunle in Lagos, Nigeria. Meanwhile in rich districts, pretty condos line each side of the street, many empty and unoccupied.
Here in Yopougon, power cuts are more frequent than in the middle class and rich districts. Nevertheless, the Ouattara government is determined to create a miniature Paris out of this slum. But not by building the residents new decent homes, but by pulling down street-side cafes and clubs which lined the bustling streets of the district in order to widen the road. In consequence, 2,000 jobs were lost and with cafes half-demolished and debris piled up everywhere, the district now resembles something out of a war movie. In the night, street light shines brightly helping to cast on the destruction a somewhat eerie glow.
There is evidently progress in public infrastructure. But on the basis of the capitalist market philosophy firmly embraced by President Ouattara â€“a former IMF director, development alienates the poor and often comes at a huge cost. For instance, the new toll bridge opened for the public in December last year was built under Public Private Partnership by France’s Bouygues Group through a joint venture. The project cost a princely sum of 270 million euros which will be paid for in tolls for the next 30 years by the about a 100, 000 vehicles expected to travel by it daily. The toll bridge will cost motorists between 500 CFA Francs and 1000 CFA Francs per trip. For round trips, a motorist would have to shell out at least 1,500 CFA Francs a day amounting to 45,000 CFA Francs (US$ 78) in a month â€“ something beyond the means of most Ivorians in a country where the monthly minimum wage is 60,000 CFA Francs (US$ 104).
Even this wage level was achieved recently in 2013 when government announced a 61 percent increase. Otherwise for 19 years, wages stood at a standstill despite mounting cost of living. But only a few benefited from this wage increase. In March 2015, Ernest Mamadou Meto, the General Secretary of SYNACSCI â€“ a union that organizes contract staff in the health sector â€“ lamented that many of their members receive between 15,000 and 45,000 CFA Francs as monthly pay. With the rising cost of living, even the 60,000 CFA Francs minimum wage is incapable of guaranteeing a decent living standard. Important protests have taken place against the rising cost of food prices and other basic commodities. Alongside this is the hike in price of electricity. The electricity company (CIE) was privatized many years ago and belongs to the same French company, Bouygues, which holds huge swathe of the Ivorian economy.
Ivory Coast economy depends largely on cocoa and coffee exports. While lately progress has been made in crude oil production and gold has been discovered in the North, the agricultural sector continues to be the key driver of the economy. 80 percent of the labour force works on plantations and there are just about 150,000 public sector workers in a population of 22 million. Several thousands more work in the private sector in the docks and ports. But, despite its small size, the working class has shown its power more than once. A civil servants’ strike and associated pro-democracy movements forced the Houphouet-Boigny’s regime to introduce multi-party democracy in 1990. On workers’ day this year, Ouattara in a move to placate a growing strike wave provoked by dissatisfaction over low wages, announced that wages would be unfrozen and deductions paid back.
Against the pro-market policies and repression of the government, big and important struggles have broken out in the education sector particularly. In March and again in May this year, the universities and schools were shut down by strikes of teachers over deductions in salaries and for wage increase. This was accompanied by protests by students of the University of Cocody against the intolerable condition in students’ hostels and the fraudulent renovations which gulped 110 billion CFA Francs (US$ 191 million) with little to show for it. The crisis in the Universities is very acute. Laboratories are denuded of relevant materials for teaching and research. As such, several students especially those in Science faculties cannot graduate. Many of these strikes and protests, like the teachers “strike against poverty”, have been brutally repressed.
There have also been strikes by dockworkers and transport unions. Cocoa farmers frequently embark on strikes in protest over prices. Cocoa farmers, numbering hundreds of thousands of small plot owners, produce 1.25 million tonnes of cocoa year- a third of the global production. But under the yoke of capitalism and imperialism, their share of the revenues from the sale of cocoa beans has been in a steady decline. Over the last 10 years for instance, farmers in Ivory Coast, most of who are impoverished, are paid only between 40 and 50 percent of the world market price of their beans. Much of the profit is creamed off by big business in the confectionery business. In 2014, the total global retail value sales of chocolate confectionery reached a staggering 100 billion dollars â€“ an increase of 20 billion from 2012.
All of these together with massive unemployment, a galloping inflation, rising cost of living and over 50 percent living below the poverty line indicates that the next period in Cote d’Ivoire will definitely see explosion of class struggle.
Despite ethnic banters often exchanged with surprising lighthearted humour among Ivoirians, the country remains deeply divided. The fault lines are as they were in 2010 â€“ between the relatively impoverished and politically marginalized mainly Muslim-North and the Christian-South which claims pure Ivoirian identity.
Frequent cross-border attacks since 2012 on civilians in villages in western Ivory Coast by suspected mercenaries from Liberia is a sure sign that all is not well. In January 2015, Ivorian troops were attacked in the western town of Grabo which left 2 soldiers dead. The regime has accused pro-Gbagbo political elite, some of whom are on exile in Ghana and other West African countries, of sponsoring the incursion. During the 2011 civil war, Liberian mercenaries fought on Gbagbo’s side. Also after Gbagbo was captured, some of his supporters fled west into neighboring Liberia. But it is also possible that Ivorians in refugee camps in Liberia are involved.
On top of this is the restiveness in the army. In November last year, thousands of soldiers (mainly ex-rebels absorbed into the national army) poured into the streets at half a dozen military bases in Abidjan and Bouake as well as in towns like Korhogo, Boudoukou and Daloa – in a move reminiscent of the military restiveness and mutinies that preceded the Christmas eve coup in 1999 and the civil war in 2002. Their grievances ranged from issues of promotion and demand for payment of 5 million CFA Francs bonus they say each was promised in 2011 while fighting to oust Gbagbo.
Against this political and social tinderbox, President Alassane Ouattara (a Northerner backed by the largely Muslim North) and put into power in 2011 at the tip of the bayonet of UN and French army is putting himself forward for another five-year term. In 2010, he vied with the then incumbent Laurent Gbagbo in an election both sides claimed to have won leading to a civil war that ended with the ouster and arrest of latter. However the bourgeois opposition built around Laurent Gbagbo’s Party the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and half a dozen smaller parties, calls into question Ouattara’s eligibility by alleging he has Burkinabe parentage and citing a xenophobic law introduced into the constitution in 2000 which prescribes eligibility for electoral contest to only those having both parents from Ivory Coast.
While Gbagbo is locked up in prison at The Hague, he remains popular among a section of the population in the South. Opposition political rallies are often punctuated by strident calls for his freedom. One of the reasons for this is the perception that Gbagbo’s ordeal was a result of his opposition to French imperialism and his effort to assert Ivoirian sovereignty. Some have even dared to call him “Socialist”. Alassane Ouattara, himself a former director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is consequently seen by many as an agent of imperialism or the beneficiary of an imperialist plot to keep Ivory Coast as a vassal.
It is true that Laurent Gbagbo, just like Libya’s Ghadaffi, was never fully embraced by imperialism for different reasons including his unreliability. Yet this did not stop imperialism from doing business with him during his time in power neither were imperialist business interests threatened. It was only in the last days of the 2011 civil war that, as desperate measures dictated by the need to maintain cash-flow for his government, Gbagbo “nationalized” and requisitioned some banks including foreign-owned ones. But these were desperate measures dictated by the needs of war and not deliberate policies of government that could make an “anti-imperialist” crown, not to talk of a “socialist” crown, fit successfully on Gbagbo’s head.
In any case, this uncritical and sweeping approach to characterizing Gbagbo, which unfortunately is currently rampant among the politically active layers fighting the undoubtedly anti-poor and pro-capitalist Ouattara regime, does little to clarify understanding of the complex social and political development in Ivory Coast over the last half of a century. Neither does it help to clearly pose the class characters of each of the contending parties that are threatening to push the country over the precipice upon which it is precariously perched.
Paris of West Africa
Up until 1993, Ivory Coast which gained independence from France in 1960 was generally celebrated as a model of stability in French West Africa. Held together for 33 years by its first President Felix Houphouet-Boigny and favored by high economic growth, Ivory Coast managed, while running an essentially capitalist system and a regime friendly to French imperialism, to paper over the potential social and ethnic crisis and avoided the internal strife characteristic of post-colonial African countries.
While guaranteeing higher prices for farmers and stimulating production, Houphouet-Boigny (himself a Cocoa farmer) managed to use some of the proceeds from the country’s chief export â€“ Cocoa – to attain a social and economic progress far higher than other former French Colonies in the region. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Ivory Coast was called the “Paris of West Africa”. Its prosperity attracted thousands of migrant workers from other African countries including Mali and Burkina Faso. For different political reasons including securing electoral support of foreign immigrant population, Houphouet-Boigny favored a policy of granting nationality to foreign immigrants resident in Ivory Coast. But this also ensured that during this period of economic growth ethnic or religious differences were generally kept in check.
For 20 years, the economy maintained an annual growth rate of “nearly 10% – the highest of Africa’s non-oil exporting countries”. But much of this went to enriching Houphouet-Boigny and his corrupt ministers. Corruption was rife under his three decade one-party rule. So much was the wasteful spending that the President decided to convert his native village, Yamoussoukro, into the country’s political capital â€“ an ambitious project that gulped millions! Amid many elegant structures, its massive Roman Catholic Basilica which is taller than the Basilica of St. Paul’s in Rome cost a total of $150 million (The Crisis in Ivory Coast by Lansana Gberie, 2004).
By the 1980s, Houphouet-Boigny’s hold began to weaken as a combination of dramatic slump in the world market prices of cocoa and coffee and drought led to shocks in the Ivorian economy and a threefold increase in the country’s external debt. This led to social crises. The Ivoirian working class entered the scene with a teachers’ strike in 1982. Other unrest continued. In 1990, civil servants called a strike. They were joined by students “protesting institutional corruption”. To appease the mood, the regime granted multiparty democracy in 1990 and Houphouet-Boigny ran for a seventh five-year term as president at the very old age of 90. But he was not to finish this term. He died in 1993 and with his death; all of the crises that lurked just below the surface of Ivorian society blew into the open.
Here it must be quickly pointed out that the tendency towards breakup is typical of all class societies, at least on the African continent, initially ruled by “strong men” or benevolent dictators like we saw in Libya. For a period, these strong men can manage through a “carrot and stick” tactics (reward and repression) to keep centrifugal forces in check. However unless the end to their regimes is championed by the working class uniting the rest of the oppressed masses and youth behind it and under a conscious socialist programme to build a just, democratic and egalitarian society, their exit whether by death as in Ivory Coast or through imperialist meddling in what started as genuine people’s revolt as in Libya can easily set the countries on the path of ruination.
In any case, it was the departure of Houphouet-Boigny from the scene that set in motion the chain reaction of crisis exposing the fragility of capitalism in the neo-colonial country. But this is also connected to the crisis of world capitalism. The low growth of the 1980s and 1990s and Africa’s declining share of world trade severely impacted on commodity-exporters like Ivory Coast and even oil-producers like Nigeria and Angola. This meant that capitalist regimes after Houphouet-Boigny’s did not have favorable economic growth to embark on the same level of ambitious social programmes nor enough to buy off dissent when they occur.
Desperate to hang on to power and to keep other rivals at bay, appeals to base ethnic and nationalist sentiments became the only option available to Houphouet-Boigny’s successors including the self-styled socialist, Laurent Gbagbo. The concept of “Ivorite” or pure Ivorian citizen emanated from Henri Konan Bedie who took over after Houphouet-Boigny and ran a capitalist government notable for its corruption scandals and crass repression. This concept was designed to bar Alassane Ouatarra (a former prime minister) from contesting the 1995 presidential elections.But just as when a child plays with fire, he risks burning the entire village. This xenophobic slogan was taken up by Robert Guei who deposed Bedie in 1999 through a military coup led by non-commissioned officers. He introduced it into the constitution making it a legal condition for eligibility to contest in the 2000 presidential elections thus alienating the North of the country and laying the basis for the violent turn of events in Ivory Coast.
By stoking ethnic feelings, Bedie set in process a chain of process culminating in the current situation. Ethnic and xenophobic attacks started. People who had managed to live in peace over the course of history started to hate and kill themselves. In 1995, Burkinabes were killed in plantations at Tabou, in south-west part of the country, during ethnic riots. All of this led to and has nurtured ever since a feeling of alienation and discrimination by the people from the North today. Meanwhile, people originating from foreign African countries are a large part of the Ivorian population. Many of the migrant workers who came to work in cocoa and coffee fields are from Burkina Faso and Mali â€“ countries which share a similar ethnic stock and also often the Islamic religion with Ivory Coast’s Northern population. Through intermarriage over two generations or more, they have since been assimilated into Ivorian society.
Gbagbo: A Lesser Evil?
The military junta of Robert Guei, initially welcomed by the population soon became unpopular. It lasted only 10 months. Hurriedly a new presidential election was planned for the year 2000 with Junta’s head, Robert Guei, putting himself forward for election. To ensure his victory, he barred his immediate predecessor, Henri Konan Bedie, and many other key opposition figures from contesting. Particularly using the “Ivorite” law, he disqualified Alassane Ouattaraâ€“ the most popular challenger. This left only Gbagbo as the only viable candidate against him.
Gbagbo’s party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) â€“ a potpourri of nationalists, activists and “socialists” – was formed in 1982 and Gbagbo himself had contested unsuccessfully against Houphouet Boigny when multi-party democracy was introduced in 1990. Gbagbo had acquired fame as a nationalist and opponent of Houphouet-Boigny’s regime and its corruption and wastes â€“ a reason for which he was imprisoned several times during the 1980s and early 1990s. He was also a member of the National Trade Union of Research and Higher Education and participated in the 1982 teachers’ strike. Against the background of the widespread desire for an end to Guei’s military junta, Gbagbo swept the polls.
Here it must be stressed that the 2000 election itself was in a way a demonstration of the similar pattern of events repeated during the 2010 elections. The large population of the North boycotted the election in protest at Ouattara’s disqualification. Just as in the 2010 elections, Robert Guei disputed the results citing “massive fraud”, disbanded the electoral commission half-way into a vote count that had put Gbagbo ahead.
But he could not hold onto power as a powerful mass uprising broke out. Barricades appeared on the streets and protesters marched onto the city centre defying deadly volleys from Guei’s army. The military rank quickly disintegrated as fighting broke out among rival factions in the Akouedo barrack, east of Abidjan. Few days later, Guei fled the capital leaving Gbagbo to take power. Having come to power at the head of a mass movement and since he was the only one with a clear mandate to ensure a sort of stability in the country, France which had initially joined Ouattara in calling for new elections had no choice but to embrace Gbagbo and hope for the best.
Playing the ethnic card
For obvious reason, Gbagbo coming to power did little to assuage the feeling of alienation of the Northern population. One, he is a Southerner. Two, the disqualification of Ouattara using the “Ivorite” law had favoured Gbagbo. As pointed out above, even though a mass movement brought him into power, it was a movement both restricted to the South as the Northern population boycotted the election and without a programme that could have united the working class and poor throughout the country.
To make matters worse Gbagbo regime did nothing to abolish this xenophobic law. Instead his regime found the law particularly useful, just as the FPI is doing now, in attacking foreigners under the guise of defending Ivorite nationalism and sovereignty. For instance in the days and weeks after Gbagbo took power, for calling for new elections, Ouattara supporters who are mostly Northerners were hunted down, arrested and killed by security forces. Even Ouattara himself had to take refuge in the residence of the German ambassador.
In 2002, a plan to demobilize some military units under the pretext of reducing cost of running the state backfired. The real reason appears to be because of the fact that the 750 soldiers had been recruited into the national army by Robert Guei and the need to undermine his influence. The soldiers mutinied leading to a coup attempt. When the coup failed and they were driven off from Abidjan by the national army, the mutinous soldiers dug root in the Northern town of Bouake and from there took control of the rest of the North.
When Gbagbo returned to the country after the coup had failed, he called for a sweep of the shanty towns where many foreign workers reside, displacing and arresting large numbers of them. Renewed attempts by the rebels to invade Abidjan forced the French army, which maintains troops in the country and had initially hesitated, to intervene partly to rescue foreign citizens but also to preserve Gbagbo regime. A ceasefire line was established and maintained by French forces which until 2011 demarcated the country into rebel-held North and government-controlled South. Pushing the xenophobic frenzy into new heights, Gbagbo created the Young Patriots as a sort of grass root mobilization of morbid southern ethnic hatred and sponsored attacks on all foreigners â€“ white and black.
Playing the ethnic card in Ivory Coast as Gbagbo and the FPI unfortunately did is literarily lighting fire on a dry field during a harmattan season. Since independence and until 2011, the country had been ruled by capitalist elite from the Southern part of the country. Consequently the South constituted a privileged ruling elite that dominated the country’s government, civil service, the academia and the business sector. As well as the ethnic division, the largely southern Christians are a minority, around 20 to 30% of the population. The mainly northern Muslims are the largest single religious grouping comprising between 35% to 40%, with the remainder of the population following traditional beliefs. This potentially explosive mix was added to by the estimate that around 70% of the foreigners who moved to the Ivory Coast were Muslim. In 2002, of the then 16.5 million people living in Ivory Coast, there were an estimated 3 million Burkinabes, 2 million Malians, 500,000 to 1 million Ghanaians and over 250,000 Guineans plus tens of thousands of Liberian refugees.
Xenophobia, and of course the fact that for all of his “socialist” rhetoric Gbagbo ran a capitalist government that bowed not one time or two to imperialist-dictated policies of privatization, forever distances him from the genuine ideas of socialism. The credo of the socialist movement is that immortal call of Karl Marx: Workers of the World Unite! Therefore a genuine socialist leader would have opposed the xenophobic Ivorite law and fought for equal political and economic right for all people resident in Ivory Coast.
A genuine socialist leader would also have stood for building an independent movement of working people and youth with a political and economic programme that aim to benefit the workers, farmers, youth and poor masses of both the North and the South. This would mean effectively breaking with imperialism, whether French, American or Chinese, and taking into public ownership, the key sectors of the economy (the ports, industries and banks) with compensation paid on the basis of proven need and establishment of a monopoly on foreign trade. This would be linked with a genuinely democratic workers and peasants’government armed with a socialist plan to take the wealth off the 1 per cent and ensure that society’s wealth is equitably distributed to lift the downtrodden out of poverty and destitution.
An overhaul of the land tenure system and a genuine agricultural programme would be needed to ensure that all Ivorian farmers and resident foreign African plantation workers have access to land, state support with equipments and fertilizers, cheap credit and a fair share of the proceeds. A socialist state would set up model collectivized farms run by democratically constituted committees of agricultural laborers and their unions to demonstrate the advantages of collectivized agriculture compared to private ownership and tilling of small plots. Only this kind of programme could have broken the impoverished Northern masses from their own ruling elite figures, like Alassane Ouattara, who are merely using them as cannon fodders to get themselves into power. But by playing the same ethnic card, Gbagbo helped to lit fire on the ethnic-soaked tension in Ivory Coast.
But it is not only Gbagbo; all bourgeois politicians are guilty of playing the ethnic card. Ouattara himself has since gaining power pursued a dangerous policy of “rattrapage ethnique”. This means that many Southerners were kicked out of their jobs in the administration and public companies to be replaced by Northerners. In the cocoa-growing West and South-West of the country, the native land owners have also been kicked out by Northerners (which includes people from neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea Conakry). Now to bind the Northern population more to himself; Ouattara now frequently raises fear of bloody reprisal if the opposition is ever allowed to seize back power.
Opportunities for Socialism
There are big opportunities for building a genuine socialist movement in Ivory Coast. Among the politically active layers seduced by the anti-imperialist rhetoric of Gbagbo and the FPI, pan-africanist and “socialist” ideas are popular.
Gbagbo himself was a trade unionist in the 1980s. His party, the FPI, was rooted in the very soil of Southern Ivorian society. In the 1980s and 1990s, the FPI orchestrated popular resistance and opposition against Houphouet-Boigny’s one-party rule. Trade unions and student movements were closely affiliated with it. The Student Federation of Cote d’ Ivoire (FESCI) for instance was created by the FPI in 1990 and the party drew many of its leading figures and activists from its ranks. It was a powerful, radical and fighting platform for students’ education rights and for democracy in the latter part of Houphouet-Boigny’s regime and much of the 1990s. However, when Gbagbo came to power, it became a pro-government mouthpiece and enforcer on campuses.
Activists campaigning that FESCI should return back to its tradition of struggle were frequently beaten, assaulted and even killed. Under the Gbagbo regime, some of these activists were detained in prison. This led to a revolt and the emergence in 2011 of a new Students Union called LIGES. It is not an accident that this revolt in FESCI was led by the most energetic fighters who at the moment are showing the most promise for the ideas of genuine socialism. During the Gbagbo years, some of them were either in prison or perpetually on the run from pro-Gbagbo thugs.
In short, all of these created the unique condition in Ivory Coast where many activists easily refer to themselves as “socialist” even if all it means is a pro-Gbagbo political standpoint and nothing more. Generally these are good, even though not necessarily the best, starting point for a conversation about what the genuine ideas of socialism are and how to begin to fight for it. But the ideological distortions caused by Gbagbo and the FPI weigh like an Alps on consciousness; breaking from it is the first task towards building any genuine socialist movement.
This would mean in the first instance helping the layers of activists to have access to the genuine ideas of Marxism and explaining clearly why Gbagbo and the FPI are not a lesser evil nor do they represent those genuine ideas of an egalitarian society. Rather to continue to have sympathy for Gbagbo or the FPI means justifying xenophobic pogroms under the false pretext of anti-imperialism and alienating the workers and poor masses of the North who are in many instances even more impoverished than those in the South. Socialists must argue that the Northern workers, youth and poor could unite with their Southern counterpart on the basis of a fighting programme to struggle for equal democratic rights and a genuine improvement in living standards for all whether southerner or northerner. But at the moment,they are queuing up behind their own ethnic ruling elites because these appear to offer them the best possible protection from the xenophobic hordes of the South.
This means calling on trade unions,student unions, agricultural workers organizations and pro-masses’ organizations (many of which are allied or sympathetic to either Gbagbo or Ouattara) to break their links to any of the capitalist elite but fight energetically for the economic and social interests of all their members â€“ Southerners and Northerners alike. Instead of putting hope in any of the political parties that stand for the interests of different competing factions of the capitalist elite, genuine socialists should launch a campaign for the formation of a socialist workers and poor farmers party to unite the working masses and poor of North and South around demands for improvements in their conditions and economy which must be linked with a revolutionary struggle to end capitalism and enthrone socialism.
Obviously, accepting a class approach as outlined above is no mean task for elements whose involvement in political struggle is also intertwined with the horrors of two fratricidal civil wars within a decade. But there are also new layers on the campuses, in the communities and in the workplaces who can be easily drawn to a programme of struggle that emphasizes the need for class unity against the rich elite on both sides of the divide. In any case the very survival of the country itself depends on this sort of unity in struggle. The dangers in the offing are grave and only a correct fighting programme by the working class, youth and the urban and rural poor can help to avoid catastrophe. If the layers now moving towards the genuine ideas of socialism are steadfast enough, they would see in due course that the class approach is the most fruitful one.