Ivory Coast: Gbagbo’s demise mirrors greed for power in Africa

What a shame! Seen on TV screens around the world, half-naked – in a white vest, towel in hand, wiping off sweat from face and arms, face fallen, and lips fidgeting, was a man, Gbagbo, who until his capture, refused to step down from power after loosing a November 2010 presidential run-off in Ivory Coast, West Africa.

Laurent Gbagbo was captured on April 11, in an underground bunker in his presidential residence, together with his wife, Simone, by pro-Ouattara forces, and whisked off to the Golf Hotel – the same venue where Gbagbo had placed under siege as the internationally recognized winner of the elections; Alassane Ouattara used it as his Headquarters. Gbagbo was given a room with a bed in this hotel. It is from this room that the shameful images of a one time President of the World’s biggest producer of cocoa beans – a product used for the manufacturing of Chocolate, were beamed to the rest of the world.

The debate as to whether it was the French forces or the pro-Ouattara forces that captured Gbagbo is of less importance to this author. What is perhaps of more significance is a look at how the greed for power in African countries has disgraced once respected leaders in the continent, reducing them to idiots and taking away the  heroic and reverend image they once occupied in the minds of millions of individuals around the world.

Gbagbo was a hero to many people around the world. A history Professor, Gbagbo went into trade Union activism, and became the first ever Ivorian to openly challenge the first president of the country – Felix Houphouet Boigny – calling on him to carry out political reforms. Gbagbo later defied all odds to launch a political party in 1990, thus breaking the yoke of a one-party system in the country. These and some other scenarios won admiration for Gbagbo in the country. His strong stance against former colonial master – France, made him a nationalist and even pulled more people to his side – not only in Ivory Coast, but also within the continent, especially in regions where anti-French sentiments are high.

But now, Gbagbo has rubbed that image in mud. By refusing to honorably step down after being declared looser of the run-off, he exposed his greed for power, and proved that his activism had just one aim – get to power and top-up treasures for himself and his inner circle. If he was a true leader for the people, he should have saved his face, stepped down and allowed another person to take charge of the destiny of the country; then probably returned to complete what he thought was still to be done, through diplomatic means; or maybe by supporting another candidate during the next presidential election, or even seek re-election depending on what the Ivorian constitution holds.

The manner at which Gbagbo was forced out of office leaves little or nothing to be desired from a man like him. Shame! Take a look at all the killings that occurred just because he was clinging to power. Both the young and the old lost their lives as fighting among the two sides led to the death of over 1000 people. Particularly painful is the shooting to death of seven women in the streets of Abidjan on the ‘International Women’s Day’ by pro-Gbagbo forces. These women had children, husbands and other family members who depended on them on many aspects of life. One even wonders with all bitterness what Gbagbo’s wife, Simone (pictured here) thought of this shameful act.

While this may be a lesson to other African leaders who may want to keep their self-esteem, admiration and honor among the people after their exit from power, it should be pointed out here that leaders like Gbagbo are many in Africa. Similar shameful exits have pushed greedy leaders out of power. At one point, it is the military that have arrested leaders who stubbornly refused to make way for a smooth flow of the country’s destiny. On the other hand, death has had to snatch out life from greedy presidents.

In Gabon, a Central African country close to Cameroon, one time leader, Omar Bongo Ondimba was carried out of the presidential palace in a coffin, as death visited him after ruling the country for 40 years, and before his death, Bongo showed no signs of wanting to let go power. His death only made way for his son Ali Bongo Ondimba to take over.

In Niger, after serving his full terms in office, Mamadou Tandja refused to step down, and rather took moves at revising the country’s constitution – a move that would have allowed him to seek re-election. But he was arrested on February 18, 2010 while at a meeting in his presidential palace. Again, greed for power!

Shame! Shame! Shame to greedy leaders.

Images: Laurent Gbagbo (above) and wife Simone Gbagbo (below)

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