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Ivory Coast Crisis

The African Union (AU) is backed an arms embargo and other immediate U.N. sanctions against Ivory Coast on Sunday November 14, 2004, isolating President Laurent Gbagbo's hard-line government even further in its deadly confrontation with its former colonial ruler, France.

As a French-led evacuation of Ivory Coast builds to one of Africa's largest, French President Jacques Chirac denounced President Laurent Gbagbo's "questionable regime" - and said France would not tolerate much more.

"We do not want to allow a system to develop that would lead only to anarchy or a regime of a fascist nature," Chirac told an audience in the southern French city of Marseille.

Presidents from Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo and Gabon, meeting in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, on Sunday backed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an arms embargo, a travel ban and asset freezes against anyone blocking peace in Ivory Coast.

About the Ivory Coast Crisis

The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, (French for Ivory Coast, although it is also commonly referred to by the English translation of its name), is a country in West Africa. It borders Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana to the west, north, and east, and borders the Gulf of Guinea to its south. One of the most prosperous of the tropical West African states, its economic development has been undermined by political turmoil spawned by official corruption and refusal to adopt needed reforms.

Ivory Coast CrisisThe former French colony and the world's largest cocoa producer used to enjoy a reputation as an anchor of stability and prosperity in volatile West Africa. A buoyant cocoa and coffee industry and an open attitude toward foreigners made it a magnet for workers from neighboring countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ghana.

In the 19th century, Côte d'Ivoire was seized by Louis Gustave Binger, (1856-1936) as a colony for France. It became independent in 1960 and was ruled by Félix Houphouët-Boigny and his party PDCI until 1993. But with the death in 1993 of President Houphuet-Boigny - who had lead the country since it gained independence from France in 1960 - and a downturn in the world coffee prices, politicians seized on long- dormant ethnic rivalries in order to gain power.

Houiphuet-Boigny's successor, President Henri Konan Bedie, coined the term "Ivoirite," or "true Ivorian," - creating ethnic tension among a population that included many immigrants. Bedie was ousted in a coup in 1999, and election violence in 2000 left more than 250 people dead while propelling the current President Laurent Gbagbo into power. Rebels failed to oust Gbagbo in a September, 2002, coup attempt, but they did seize control of the northern half of the country and launched a full-blown civil war.

Plans for a power-sharing government were agreed to in January 2003 and an official ceasefire began in May 2003. The warring factions drew up a timetable for a peace plan, but rebels ignored the deadline for disarmament on October 15, 2004, when it became clear that the political reform they were hoping for in exchange had not been implemented.

Ivory Coast CrisisViolent clashes between the rebels and the government forces resumed at the beginning of November, 2004, when government forces launched an air raid in the rebel-held city of Bouake in an effort to retake the north and killing nine French peacekeepers in the process. In retaliation, French forces destroyed the fledging Ivorian air force.

Rebels: The rebels or “New Forces” are largely made up of two ethnic groups - Dioulas and Senoufos - who are predominately Muslim and have close ethnic ties with Mali and Burkina Faso, countries lying to the north of Ivory Coast. They believe they were being discriminated against in Ivorian politics and want fair elections.

Loyalists: The “loyalists,” or government forces, are lead by President Laurent Gbagbo. They are predominately Christian and populate the government-controlled south. The south of the country is considerably more developed than the north. The region profited from the former boom times of the cocoa industry and generations of political patronage.

Peacekeepers: France and the United Nations have more than 10,000 peacekeepers in the country, seeking to maintain the May 2003 cease-fire.

About the African Union

The African Union (abbreviated AU), founded in July 2002, is the successor organisation to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Modelled after the European Union (but currently with powers closer to the Commonwealth of Nations), it aims to help promote democracy, human rights and development across Africa, especially by increasing foreign investment through the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) programme. Its first chairman was South African president Thabo Mbeki.

African UnionGoals for the African Union include an African parliament and a central development bank. As with its predecessor, the OAU, the African Union is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Pan-African Parliament opened officially September 16, 2004, in South Africa.

The Secretary General, S Ahmed Salim, leads the African Union.

Because of the membership of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara), Morocco has chosen to be the only African nation that is not a member.

The AU's first military intervention in a member state was the May 2003 deployment of a peacekeeping force of soldiers from South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique to Burundi to oversee the implementation of the various agreements. The mission was known as AMIB and has since been taken over by the United Nations, which has designated it ONUB.

Origins and History

The African Union originated in the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was established on May 25, 1963.

The idea of an African Union began with the vision of a "United States of Africa" of controversial Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, who, frustrated by developments in the Arab world, has in recent years largely given up his long-held ideologies of Arab nationalism and Pan-Arabism, even publicly forsaking identity as an Arab, preferring instead the label African. Having now taken up Pan Africanism, and from Libya's position of relative wealth within the African economy, Qaddafi plays an important role in African affairs, dispensing liberal amounts of foreign aid on cash-poor friends across the continent, where he has long enjoyed a better reputation than in other areas of the world.

The heads of state and heads of government of the OAU issued the Sirte Declaration on September 9, 1999, calling for the establishment of an African Union. The Sirte Declaration was followed by summits at Lomé in 2000, when the Constitutive Act of the African Union was adopted, and at Lusaka in 2001, when the plan for the implementation of the African Union was adopted.

The African Union was launched in Durban on July 9, 2002, by its first president, South African Thabo Mbeki, at the first session of the Assembly of the African Union. The second session of the Assembly was in Maputo in 2003, and the third session in Addis Ababa on July 6, 2004.

Current issues

The AU faces many problems, from the HIV epidemic and poverty to many civil wars.

In response to the ongoing Darfur crisis in the Sudan, the AU has deployed 300 soldiers, mostly from Rwanda, to Darfur to protect the AU observers. As of 2004, it is considering the deployment of up to 2,500 peacekeepers to the region.

Ivory Coast crisis (AFP/Philippe Desmazes)

Two children look through the barbed wire of an UN barrage in Bouake.

As of 2004, current conflicts also include the:

- Algerian civil war,
- Congolese civil war,
- Somali civil war,
- Second Sudanese civil war and
- Second Ugandan civil war.

Members

The African Union has 53 members, covering almost all of the continent of Africa.

Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Organization

The African Union is modelled on the European Union and has a number of official bodies:

Pan-African Parliament, to be in South Africa, composed of elected representatives from the five regions of Africa, and intended to provide civil-society participation in the processes of the African Union.

African Commission, composed of 10 commissioners (including a chair and deputy chair) and staff. As the secretariat of the African Union, it is responsible for administrative issues and co-ordination of African Union activities and meetings. As of 2004, the chairman is Alpha Oumar Konare, former president of Mali.

African Court of Justice, which will rule on human-rights abuses in Africa.

Executive Council, composed of ministers designated by the governments of members states. It decides on matters such as foreign trade, social security, food, agriculture and communications, is accountable to the Assembly, and prepares material for the Assembly to discuss and approve.

Assembly, composed of heads of state and heads of government of member states. The most important decision-making body of the African Union, it meets once a year and makes its decisions by consensus or by a two-thirds majority. The current chairman of the Assembly is Olusegun Obasanjo, president of Nigeria.

Permanent Representatives' Committee, composed of nominated permanent representatives of member states. It prepares the work for the Executive Council.

Peace and Security Council, proposed at the Lusaka Summit in 2001; a protocol to establish this group has not yet been ratified. It will have 15 members responsible for monitoring and intervening in conflicts, will be advised by a council of elders, and will have an African force at its disposal.

Economic, Social and Cultural Council, an advisory organ composed of professional and civic representatives.

Specialized Technical Committees on: Rural Economy and Agricultural Matters; Monetary and Financial Affairs; Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters; Industry, Science and Technology; Energy, Natural Resources and Environment; Transport, Communications and Tourism; Health, Labour and Social Affairs; Education, Culture and Human Resources.

Financial institutions: African Central Bank, African Monetary Fund, African Investment Bank

Languages

The African Union promotes the use of African languages wherever possible in its official work. Its other working languages are Arabic, English, French and Portuguese.

Source: wikipedia.org


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