Dear Laurent Koudou Gbagbo,
President of Ivory Cost or, Côte d’Ivoire which ever name you choose.
My dear friend, I don’t understand for the life of me why this beautiful piece of land of Africa that you rule does not have an African name. But this is not the point of my cable today and maybe we can discuss this some other time. This cable is only about the damn election that you just held and has put you in the deep sh**t you are in now.
Bonjour! Mr. President:
As a fellow leader of an African country and as one who has muddled his way though messy, riggy, fishy, and troublesome elections, I understand the predicament you are in today. Believe me; I have been in a more or less similar situation of being looked in the face by ouster from power in 2005. It was like death looked me in the face. Every time I listen to the news about you, I am reminded of my own which I always want myself and my subjects and the world forget. I know you have spent your youth like myself fighting for the freedom of your people including spending four years of your life in Houphouet-Boigny’s prison between 1971 and 1974. Our people, who are often thankless, and our political opponents, want to take power without fighting for it like us. They often forget that power in Africa is a payback for ones sacrifices. Imagine fighting your entire youth, remove someone from power, have many comrades killed in the process, and then someone who hasn’t done what you did wants to take it by counting a bunch of paper cards. I still cannot understand the crazy thing Mandela did when he left his shining power after a freakin’ one term. Compare it to the 27 years he spent confined in a dungeon on Robin Island. He is crazy.
The reason I am sending you this cable is twofold. First it is to tell you the mistakes you have committed. Second is to tell you how you can overcome the problem and stick to dear power. Now that you are in a serious problem, I am sure you appreciate any piece of advice from a fellow African leader who has been in your shoes, someone who has been there and done that; you know what I mean? I believe you don’t want to pull off a Charles Taylor. I hate that man for creating a bad precedence for the rest of us.
As you just did in Ivory Cost before the election, I played monkey with democracy and free and fair elections in 2005. My friend, people are thankless and they voted my opponents. Fortunately, I was prepared for any eventualities and succeeded in reversing it. I took that lesson for the next round of election which I held last year. This time, I laughed all the way to the palace with 99.6% of the seats of parliament. A miracle, isn’t it? In your case, you seem to have done a lot of dumb things including not preparing yourself for any bad results. What the hell were you smoking when you set up and election commission that is not loyal to you? Was it really difficult to find some nice men who can play monkey with the ballot boxes and change your opponent’s slight 54.1% lead? Do you really have a PhD in history from Paris Diderot University? To be frank with you, auditing the story of my election successes would have served you better than your degree. Couldn’t you find a few people who listen only to your orders and their tummies from among 20 million of your people to put on the damn Election Commission? How in the world was it so difficult to overturn an 8 point difference with your opponent without anybody finding out about any shenanigans? My dear, I overturned an estimated 75% landslide in 2005 including a 100% rout out in the very capital city where my government and the African Union seat. And you know what? I did it in a country four times the population size of yours. Yes, I know your Constitutional Council has overturned the results issued by the Election Commission but not before making you look like a fool. Duh! What is wrong with you man? Can’t you see that you have put the cart before the horse? Look Gbagbo, we are the second generation leaders of Africa. We cannot afford to behave like Idi Amin Dada or Moboutu or Bokassa or Mengistu who made Africa proud during their time. We have to refine their methods and languages to suit to the age of globalization.
Perhaps the most dummy thing you did is to let your opponent Mr. Alassane Ouattara take the oath of office at the same time you did. Sir, do you have no prisons in your country? Could you not just throw his ass to some French made dungeon somewhere on the outskirts of Abidjan? Is it difficult for your loyalists to kill some people from your ethnic group or a handful of members of your police forces and blame it on Mr. Ouattara and his supporters? If you did this, you could easily accuse him of genocide and sentence him and his collaborators to life. Period. By the way, how are your courts staffed? If it is the same as your Election Commission, you can as well forget it and pull off a Mengistu Hailemariam. Better look for a sanctuary country that will take you. Speaking of a sanctuary country, if you have good money, which I believe you do, I have land I am currently selling at dirt prices to Arab and Asian tycoons and you can come to Ethiopia and own a rice farm of any size your money can buy.
One thing you need not fear for certain is the bluff from the international community. Take it from a guy who has seen their behavior through thick and thin. These people are moral cowards who have no conscience. The more you know them the more you despise them. Often they hold their fingers in the wind to find out which direction they will have to go. The ambassadors of donor countries in your country are there only to build their resumes. Their work is all about themselves. They will succumb soon if they see what they get from you. The only time they will create problem for you is if they think you are weak and vulnerable and your opponents are strong.
The Aid Industrial Complex, the IMF, the World Bank and all the other lords of Africa’s poverty too are pretending. I laughed my heart out when I heard that the World Bank is suspending the loan they promised your country before the election. Just tell them to shove it as I did. In my case too they made a similar rant but they ended up doubling the amount of aid and loan once I successfully suppressed the opposition, threw every journalist and opposition leader in prison and the dust began to settle and fear took over its place. They never threatened me with military intervention like you when I was rounding up some 40 thousand people from Addis Ababa and dumped them in malaria infested concentration camps around the country or when I ordered indiscriminate shooting of unarmed protestors. When I heard some people talk about massacre intensely, I formed an investigation commission into the killings and shut their mouth. These cowards never asked me a question even after my own investigation commission accused me of using excessive force and massacring 200 people and debilitating several hundred others. I heard not even a quack.
I am afraid your only problem may be your rich offshore oil reserves. That is a bit worrisome. These guys love oil as much as they fear terrorists. You need to identify the key players and promise them cheap concessions in your part of the Guinea Gulf. Call Exxon. Give them a better offer than what Mr. Ouattara can. The drill baby drill guys in the West will support you. Also make sure you promise to supply the chocolate factories in Europe with cheap cacao. Don’t be afraid of Barack Obama. He talks good about Africa but looks the other way when push comes to shove.
If you stick to your guns you can end up pulling a me, Meles Zenawi. In a worst case scenario, you can pull off a Kibaki or Mugabe and end up with a coalition government which, in my view, is much better than pulling of a Charles Taylor. Your tugs are doing the right thing now. I hear that they are roaming the cities at night knocking doors of your opponents and kicking their asses and disappearing them. This is good since it creates fear. You should not be in any moral dilemma about creating fear. Fear cripples people. When people fear they will force themselves to fake love for you. Also spend as much money on people. Although your people are 50 times richer than mine, I presume you can buy them. Ask the underclass of your people to demonstrate in your support and condemn the human rights groups that keep accusing you. Offer the participants good per diem expenses. Why do you care? It is government money. It could cost you only a year’s worth of Cacao revenues. Call the Chinese and seek ask for support. They are our future, baby.
I hear that some people are talking about mass graves. Make sure nobody sees any of it or deny it vehemently when asked. Make sure that devil’s advocate, Human Rights Watch, doesn’t set foot in your country. Accuse them of trying to replace the French as colonial masters. Outlaw all civil society organizations. In the case of people killed by your forces, tell the world that they were killed while trying to rob banks and supermarkets.
Since you are an African I presume you belong to a tribe. In my country we call them nations and nationalities depending on their numbers. The people in your tribe should be told unequivocally that they are going to suffer if you are forced to leave office. They will believe you if you scare them enough. Put the army and all security institutions in charge of members of your tribe. I know you have been at war with tribes in the northern part of your country. Accuse them of terrorism. Since most of them are Muslims your accusation can fly easily.
One big mistake you the leaders of ECOWAS member countries make is that you have not manufactured terrorist groups of a threshold size in your neighborhood. You see, the West would care less about democracy in areas where Islamic terrorism is reported. The anti terrorism bandwagon is not only a good cash cow but also a good shield against the wrath of your own angry people. In my case, poor Somalia is a gift from God. I cried wolf and Terrorist when a congregation of Moslem clerics began to provide peace in the country for the first time in two decades – that was ominous. I invaded the country claiming that they are terrorists. The West supported me and loved me. I ousted them and ended up manufacturing a more potent and radical terrorist group- the Al Shabaab,. In addition to becoming my cash cow, the Al Shabaab has now cemented my relationship with the West. Al Shabaab is my baby you know. You may have heard some leaks that they buy weapons from my generals some years ago. See how it works? I know these Westerners sometimes call me a bastard. But you know what; history is witness that they treat their own bastards very well. So never worry being referred to as a bastard by these people secretly. You simply need to work hard to give them the impression that you are their bastard. Why can’t you understand this Gbagbo? Look, I did my undergraduate and graduate studies while running the country. What has your ass been doing studying full time in Paris to seek all this advice from me?
Once everything is in place and the dust settles and you are in power, talk about economic development. Statistics baby, statistics. Cook it up baby, and feed it to your people. They love it. Tell the world you have grown the economy by 10% or more – Not 9% or less. You have to make it double digit to make it mouthful and aid flows like a mighty river. The donors are starved for success stories that they can tell to their tax payers. If people question data accuracy, tell them the World Bank and the IMF have testified affirmatively. The WB and IMF cowards wouldn’t speak against your statistics in public even when they know you are lying. And, plan baby plan, and Plan for the sky. Nobody is going to hold you to account if your plan for the sky and end up in the ditch. You see, if you cannot dazzle your people you can baffle them with bull sh**t and get away with it.
And oh yes; make sure every tribe (please call them nations and nationalities) in your country dances and sing in stadiums and auditoriums and streets until they turn the dust to clouds. Equality of nations and nationalities, baby. It doesn’t matter what and how much they eat and how much power you give them; they dance happily. They will feel full on their tummies when they see themselves dancing on TV. Talk about the economy whenever your people speak about their dignity or democracy. Have you heard about the theory of the Developmentalist State? It is purely neo communist- the nanny state, you know what I mean?. But don’t call it that. Say only that you don’t like neo liberals whether anyone understand what you mean or not. You can find a lot of bull in French philosophy to baffle people by, and at the same time, make yourself look like an accomplished intellectual. I will get back to you for more once you weather this storm. I hope you will come out of this safely to make Africa proud.
Hung in there baby! Soldier on!
The writer Fekade Shewakena, can be reached at: Fekadeshewakena@yahoo.com