Reports that President Robert Mugabe is among African leaders chosen to mediate in the Ivory Coast crisis are surprising to say the least.
We understand the African Union (AU) decided to appoint President Mugabe and a panel of leaders to join Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the Ivory Coast crisis.
The panel includes presidents Jacob Zuma (South Africa), Jonathan Goodluck (Nigeria) and the President of Mauritania among others and African Union Commission chairperson Jean Ping said the mediation already undertaken by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was part of the process towards achieving the realisable goal of peace in Ivory Coast.
Ping told a news conference Friday night the over six hours of deliberations by various African heads of state meeting in the Peace and Security Council of the AU decided the Ivory Coast crisis could not be mediated by one person but by a battery of leaders who will give various perspectives towards ending the deadlock.
Ping said the multiple issues arising from the crisis require an African approach to deal with the problem in Cote d’Ivoire. Odinga will be part of the panel to be set up by the AU Peace and Security Council, according to Ping.
We believe the inclusion of President Mugabe in this panel will only serve to bolster losing Ivorian presidential candidate and incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who was quick to draw parallels with the Zimbabwe situation soon after he lost the election.
Gbagbo said his situation was similar to that of Zimbabwe, where a losing President Mugabe entered into talks and eventually, remained as head of state.
He then hinted that he would welcome any talks that will help his country find a lasting solution.
If one’s vote does not count in determining who will lead the nation — which is the most elemental dimension of democracy — elections will become meaningless, democracy will lose its lustre, and the future will be riddled with widespread unrest and instability.
This is why we wonder why the AU would appoint President
Mugabe onto a panel charged with diffusing tension, while he is fomenting discontent at home, with his calls for elections.
While it is not in our interest that Ivorians should continue to be dragged into an unending crisis that is on the brink of full-blown civil strife in Africa’s key cocoa producer, it is imperative to appoint leaders with an impeccable track record.
We believe the situations in Kenya, where Odinga himself is sharing power with Mwai Kibaki, and Zimbabwe are not in themselves good models for the AU to adopt.
With this action, what the AU has managed to do is to dilute the influence of others leaders who firmly believe in democracy. True, the mission of the AU must not be about imposing democracy or free and fair elections but “they are about avoiding a much greater disaster”.
The AU must find other means of dealing with the Ivorian crisis. It is such decisions based on comradeship that makes such organisations lose credibility and a mockery of themselves.
The AU is fast becoming another club of peers, which does not firmly believe in the freedoms of its citizens as a continent, but is meant to prop up despotic governments in the making across Africa.
It is such decisions, where leaders have in the past failed to caution their colleagues, that have led to tensions in Tunisia, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and Somalia among others.
What does AU see in President Mugabe that everyone in the world is failing to see? Where does this leave us? What of emerging democracy?
We doubt if Mugabe will be able to impartially carry out his duties as a mediator with skeletons in his cupboard.
Besides, President Mugabe has already made up his mind that he does not recognise Allassane Ouattara after Gbagbo sent his envoy to Zimbabwe recently.
Instead of bringing the two warring parties together, the panel may fight over the modus operandi, as President Mugabe does not recognise Ouattara. In this regard, Ouattara must contest Mugabe’s inclusion in the panel.