Cote d'Ivoire, Africa and the Policy of the "Third Man"

By Ruth Nabakwe
Paris, France

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 8, 2002

President Gbagbo
The Policy of the "Third Man" consists of western countries using Africans against fellow Africans with the objective of serving Western interests.

It's not only Africa that suffers from this phenomenon. When France was under German occupation during the second world war of 1945, some French nationals collaborated with the Nazis against occupied France, just as some Jews betrayed their fellow Jews to Hitler's nasty reign of terror against the Jews.

As Algerians fought for their independence from France in the 60's, fellow Algerians known as the "Harkis" fought fellow Algerians alongside French troops to deny Algerians their independence.

Some African chiefs collaborated with European and Arab slave traders to sell their fellow Africans into slavery in the 15th century.

The Man who pulled the trigger against Congo's Patrice Lumumba was a fellow Congolese acting in connivance with Belgian and American interests.

The current Burkina Faso President Blaise Campaore is widely believed to have been used by certain Western interests with help from his friend Charles Taylor of Liberia to assassinate his friend and former charismatic and honest Burkinabe President Thomas Sankara. Upon Sankara's murder, Compaore became Burkina Faso's President to date and continues to be accused of being behind the destabilization of several West African states.

The Policy of the "Third Man" has been used by external powers against Africa since colonial times and continues to hold sway with as much force in the third millennium as if no evolution of mentalities in relations between Africa and it's former colonial powers have ever occurred over the years.

What does all this mean for contemporary Africa ? First, that the enemy within is more difficult to combat than the external enemy simply because he is your brother, your President, your son, your daughter, your most confidant of friends or advisers. During colonial times Africans fighting for independence and against European domination had a common external enemy and so there was unity of purpose in freeing the continent from the chains of bondage.

Today however the enemy of Africa is first and foremost Africa's own brother, or even President and his ministers who are ready to be bribed by external powers with a few million dollars against their own countries interests.

At the leadership level the problem could perhaps be resolved if Africa groomed a new breed of leaders( not the Madeleine Albright's type of new breed of leaders (God forbid!)as represented by the Kagame's, Musevenis, and the Zenawis who all ended up being a disappointment to Africa as they ended up fighting hard to please Wall Street and other Western interests to the detriment of those of their countries and the continent), but a truly principled, patriotic leadership that is driven by the desire to serve Africa and it's people first as opposed to the majority of the current breed, a greedy lot with no qualms about giving priority to external interests simply because they just cannot hold their corruptible, greedy, self -centred nature in check.

Resolving the problem at personal level really depends on each individual African and how he or she perceives herself or himself vis a vis the society in which they live. The questions each individual African should pose to gauge his or her standing on whether they are principled or corruptible individuals could be a good barometer to judge themselves and if need be make the necessary resolve to change for the better in the interest of Africa, Africans and their children's future. Would I be willing to betray my friends just to earn a favour for myself? Would I accept a million dollars just to give a contract to a less competitive company bidding for a tender knowing that such an act would have serious ramifications for the country? These are just some of the questions that can help individuals give themselves a critical self analysis because the reason why Africa continues to suffer is partly so much related to how we as individual Africans perceive ourselves and our responsibilities in society.

Take the current crisis in Cote d'ivoire where some 750 rebellious soldiers are holding the country to ransom calling for the resignation of President Laurent Gbagbo and the holding of fresh elections. Reports say that they now control 40 percent of the North and Central parts of the country as the crisis threatens to tear the country apart.

Ivorian economist and political scientist Nicholas Agbohou attributes the crisis in his country to " La Politique du Troisième Homme" ( The Policy of the Third Man).

For Agbohou Cote d'ivoire's former colonial power France was using some Africans to fight fellow Africans in Cote d'ivoire.

"This is a strategy that many Western countries have used over the years against Africans and this is because they easily find malleable people in Africa who can be bought to serve their interests."

Agbohou says that in all societies there are always people who are traitors and it was these kinds of people who could sell their conscience with no holds barred. Since Africa is poor it is easy for the rich West to find such traitors.

Agbohou, a vehement critic of French Policy towards Francophone West Africa charged that France often applied the Policy of the Third Man in its relationship with West African countries and that explained why the region was rocked by conflicts.

"France often uses the policy of the Third Man to sideline any African leader who does not accept to be submissive to Paris," Agbohou charged.

Today in Cote d'ivoire, President Laurent Gbagbo is in power against the wishes of the conservative French Right the Ivorian economist contended.

According to him, Gbagbo managed to remain in power without major problems in the initial years simply because the former socialist government in France of Lionel Jospin was closely allied to Gbagbo.

"But now that the French Right under Jacques Chirac is at the helm in France and Jospin is no longer on the political scene it is evident that the reactionary Right which is now in power and which has often regarded Africa from a 15th century perspective has never wished to see any change in Africa in the interest of Africa," Agbohou asserted.

That French Foreign Affairs minister Dominique de Villepin recently talked of "continuity" in French policy with Africa raised what Agbohou described as "chilling prospects" of the old negative rightwing habits of mercenaries rearing their ugly heads in Africa through the so called France-Afrique networks that are still alive and active.

The Ivorian economist/political scientist charged that the French right-wing that still nursed desires of the Houphouet Boigny era, a time when Cote d'ivoire was truly "a reserved domain" of France per excellence, has never come to terms with the fact that a new generation of leadership with fresh mentalities and new ideas under President Laurent Gbagbo was now in power in Cote d'ivoire.

"It is sad that the French rightwing is against President Laurent Gbagbo who was democratically elected. It is clear that Paris does not wish to sufficiently assist Laurent Gbagbo but we are not surprised because President Chirac is on record as saying that democracy was a luxury for Africans," the economist stated.

The economist saw what he described as some incoherence in Paris with regard to Abidjan because on one hand the right claimed that there was no democracy in Cote d'ivoire yet the perceived lack of it "should be a good thing for Chirac since he claims democracy is a luxury for Africans."

However Agbohou saw "hidden motives" behind what he saw as allegations by Paris that Cote d'ivoire was not democratic.

"In reality, Chirac and his rightwing are exploiting the Policy of the Third Man through Ouattara to put fire in Cote d'ivoire," he charged.

According to Agbohou the French rightwing is against President Gbagbo simply because he is a patriotic leader who wants to respond to the development needs of Cote d'ivoire by instituting some profound policy changes.

"Before the arrival of Gbagbo to power there was for example a ministry in charge of raw materials and he immediately abolished it because for him it was foolish to have a ministry fully charged with exporting raw materials because he believes that Africa cannot develop by merely selling its raw materials but by transforming them into manufactured produce on the ground in Africa," Agbohou observed.

"When the West see such a leader who wants to implement economic, social and industrial revolution in Africa they get scared because it means he will first of all liberate his country economically and the example will be emulated by other African countries."

To stop such progressive minded African leaders, the West will do all in its power to stop such leaders from going too far by formenting all sorts of conflicts that would get rid of them in power, the Ivorian economist/political scientist said.

Black -skinned mercenaries well financed by Western countries are used as is the case of the rebellion in Cote d'ivoire to sow the seeds of conflict that would help achieve Western countries objectives.

Africa is all too aware that patriotic African leaders on the continent have always been assassinated such as Patrice Lumumba ,Thomas Sankara and others, he added.

He said that Ivorian President Gbagbo is having problems with the ruling French rightwing party simply because he has a socio- economic,cultural and development blueprint for Cote d'ivoire, which when implemented would respond to the real needs of the Ivorian peoples and this irked the powers that be in the French capital.

"President Gbagbo is too independent minded for France and has often declared that the paternalistic policy of the past of seeing France as papa (the daddy of African countries) was not in vogue under his rule and that is why he feels free to go to China, Italy, Spain... etc to cultivate fresh links in the interest of Cote and this attitude has not been well received by Paris officials who want leaders they can control and manipulate in Africa," Agbohou observed.

"France is not too happy with Gbagbo's independent attitude because Paris considers Cote d'ivoire to be it's exclusive reserved domain, yet Gbagbo seeks to detach Cote d'ivoire from such mentalities and build stronger ties with whichever other countries in the world it chooses in total sovereignty," the economist/political scientist claimed.

Agbohou, a close confidant and ally of President Gbagbo was often privy to the Ivorian leader's inner circle.

He charged that "a sinister externally manipulated plot" against President Gbagbo was therefore in the offing since Gbagbo was not favoured by the current rightwing leadership in France.

According to him, "The idea is to use the current rebellion to force Gbagbo to step down and hold Fresh polls".

Observers say President Gbagbo lacked a strong political base and the necessary financial clout ,factors that observers say could work against him in the event of an election that pitted him against former political heavyweights President Henri Konan Bedie who heads the Democratic Party of Cote d'ivoire (PDCI) and Alassane Ouattara, a former Prime Minister under Houphouet Boigny and current leader of Rally for Democracy (RDR) party.

A former assistant director general in charge of the Africa department at the World Bank Ouattara also possessed what analysts say was the financial clout that matters in vote-getting in Africa and had strong support in the rebel-held Northern zones of Cote d'ivoire where he hails from.

The hidden plot against Gbagbo therefore comprised of forcing Gbagbo to hold Fresh polls in which former President Bedie who was overthrown by late army general Robert Guei in a coup d'etat would "with French help" become President.

Bedie who lived in exile in France soon after his overthrow and only recently returned to Cote d'ivoire, was widely believed to be a favourite of the French rightwing party under Jacques Chirac.

"To the rightwing, Bedie incarnates the Houphouet-Boigny mentalities that were malleable to French interests".

Then Ouattara who Agbohou charged, was "being used by Paris" in the current rebellion, would become Bedie's Prime Minister. Ouattara took refuge in the French embassy soon after what started out as a mutiny broke out in the capital Abidjan. The mutiny later matured into a rebellion with the rebels later announcing the creation of the Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire (MPCI).

According to the scenario described by Agbohou, the age factor would limit Bedie's Presidency who after several years in power would step down and hand over the seat to Ouattara.

Although Bedie and Ouattara do not see eye to eye, since Bedie in 1999 used the "Ivority" (Ivorian identity) concept to exclude Outtara from vying for the presidency, it was suspected that Paris has been trying behind the scene to patch up differences between the two with the sole objective of later getting them to serve French interests.

On Monday, French Foreign Affairs minister Dominique de Villepin urged Gbagbo to agree to sign a ceasefire agreement with the rebels. Minister Dominique de Villepin's statement is regarded by Agbohou as playing well into the scenario of the plot against Gbagbo, which is intended to force Gbagbo to accede to the rebels' demands to step down and hold fresh polls.

Earlier at a Press conference in Paris, Ivorian ambassador Raymond Koudou Kessie told journalists that Cote d'ivoire would not accept to negotiate with the rebels if the themes of discussions were centered around rebel calls for the democratically elected President Gbagbo to step down and the holding of fresh elections in Cote d'ivoire.

"You have heard the rebels say that they want to topple Gbagbo and want fresh elections. If these are their demands then there is no room for negotiations with the democratically elected government of President Gbagbo. We cannot have talks with rebel arms pointed at Gbagbo," he said.

Reports Monday quoted Ivorian authorities insisting that they wanted the rebels disarmed before any negotiations could take place.

Asked about allegations made by the Ivorian authorities alluding to the involvement of external elements in the crisis, Ivorian ambassador Kessie said that Ivorian prime minister Affi N'Guessan had "evoked explicitly that internal groups in collaboration with external elements were involved".

Some of the rebels are deserters in the Ivorian army who sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso. What we are asking ourselves is that is it possible for to be exiled in aneighbouring country and come back fully armed, well organized, massively financed then cross the border into Cote d'ivoire without raising the attention of authorities in the country you took refuge?," the Ivorian ambassador queried.

He said the rebels were strongly armed with highly sophisticated weapons and had massive financial assistance, factors which according to the ambassador were evidence of foreign involvement in the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire.

"The terrorists could also be mercenaries using Ivorians, Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Liberians," he stated.

Reports Monday indicated that an envoy of the Ivorian rebellious soldiers was in France to explain the "objectives of his movement" (MPCI). The rebel's criticism of Paris was seen by African observers in Paris as attempts to hoodwink international public opinion into thinking that Paris had nothing to do with the evolving crisis in Cote d'ivoire despite official denials to the contrary.

Agbohou insisted that Africans must understand that they live in a world without pity. The real salvation for Africa can never come from external powers but would only come from Africans themselves.

"In a world where major blocs are in formation such as the European Union (EU) NAFTA for the, the United States, Canada and Mexico, ASEAN in Asia intended to confront the major economic challenges through the force derived from unity, Africans must understand that they would forever remain poor if they allow themselves to be manipulated against their own people and would be crashed by the big powers as long as they remain dis-united," Agbohou warned.

According to him, the love that France has for Africa was the same love a cat has for a mouse and as long as Africans do not understand that and begin to work together as Africans in unity without destabilizing their neighbours they would forever be poorer and poorer as the rest of the world forges ahead.

"Africans must learn to be united because if there is an African leader who thinks he is loved by France and so becomes easily manipulated to cause trouble for his neighbour, he is committing a grave error of judgment because as Africans the West have put us all in the same casserole of exploitation, manipulation and all other tactics intended to ensure Africans serve their interests without reservations.

"It is time that the black skin became impermeable to prevent the Policy of the Third Man gaining access to impede the true unity of Africa and Africans."

He asserted that African leaders could only face the onslaught of the West if their people were behind them but as long as they ignored their own peoples interest in favour of defending Western interests they would have no one to defend them when the West in their proven fashion "dump them" after they were no longer useful in serving their interests.

"The genuine security for African leaders lies in defending their people's interests but as long as they continue to be myopic by being used to destabilize their neighbours in pursuit of Western interests they will forever be at the mercy of the West that never wants to see Africa regain it's true economic independence," Agbohou further asserted.

He said the rightwing France was against Gbagbo simply because Gbagbo had chosen to work for the interests of Ivorians.

Examples abound in Africa of "dumped Western stooges" in the likes of the Mobutus, the Savimbis and others whose survival thereafter becomes impossible because their people were never with them in the first place and so could not defend them in their greatest hour of need as they never responded to the development needs of their people.

According to Agbohou, Africa today needs a new breed of leaders ready to sacrifice for the unity and development of Africans because they have everything to gain in that unity that places the superior interest of Africans and development goals as defined by Africans over those of the West. Divided we fall, united we stand, he asserted.

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