March 22, 2007

ARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, reports on the significant progress towards peace in the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire since a peace agreement was signed on March 4, 2007, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, between the government of President Laurent Gbagbo and the “Force Nouvelles” rebels led by Guillaume Soro, who seized control of the northern part of the country following a failed coup attempt nearly five years ago.

In a column last year, Dr. Pham argued that America’s interests as well as her principles demand that the U.S. be more actively engaged in this “forgotten corner” of the globe, especially—as he documented in another column—the abdication of leadership to the United Nations bureaucracy and the neocolonial ambitions of France, the former colonial ruler, has benefited neither Africans nor Americans.

The current article observes that while “peace accords in African civil conflicts have a notoriously short shelf life, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the Ouagadougou accord,” namely, “the peace agreement came out of direct negotiations between the two principal forces in the conflict,” “the way forward was not found in the usual set piece international conferences which are little better than choreographed media circuses with little substance once the global luminaries who parachute in leave for the next stop on their itinerary,” the Ouagadougou accord went into considerable detail on the most divisive issues (national identity, the composition of the military, political power sharing, and elections), and the accord itself is forward looking with unambiguous benchmarks. Thus the article concludes:


The Ivorian leadership and people have themselves come to the realization that, in Guillaume Soro’s words, ‘continuing the war does nothing but augment the number of victims’ while holding credible elections would be, in President Gbagbo’s words, ‘the victory of the whole Ivorian people.’ In a neighborhood where Guinea is still dancing at the precipice (and threatening the hard-won peace of Sierra Leone and Liberia) and Nigeria seems bent on hurtling itself into the abyss (thus taking with it not just the region, but the global energy markets), the U.S. and its international partners owe it to themselves as well as to Ivorians to ensure that the hope engendered by Ouagadougou accord for Côte d’Ivoire and for Africa does not slip away.


To read Dr. Pham’s article, “Good News from Côte d’Ivoire,” click here.