Ivory Coast, Africa and the Unanswered Question: What is Democracy that Is Ushered in by Guns, Mortars and Bloodbath?

According to the BBC Radio, 800 civilians were massacred in Duekoue, in just one town this week. Why?

As violence sweeps our world in a whirlwind of wars, angry protests, revenge in Africa and the Middle East, Ivory Coast goes down in smoke, and as if no one is watching, two crazy warring groups massacre innocent civilians as if they were animals. Why? Why are our wars so violent, so senseless, so beyond the real world, and why are African leaders so greedy, so unpatriotic toward their countries, so heartless, and why are our people so easily swayed to violence and wars? Why is ECOWAS or the African Union so incapable of bringing peace to this region for the last almost thirty years? Why is the UN asleep again on this region? Why has the world turned away from the Ivory Coast, pouring all its resources in Libya even while this war in the Ivory Coast needed our attention? Why focus on creating more wars when we already have enough on our hands? Why are Africans so sadly evil to their own people? Why should we always expect the world to help us kill ourselves or save ourselves? Why are Mr. Gbagbo and Mr Ouattara so difficult to understand that it is not democracy if it has to use guns to root itself among the people? With all the sacrificing of innocent Ivorians, how can Gbagbo or Quattara now tell us that either of them is capable of leading such a now fragile nation? Why? Why? Why?

Thousands of Ivorian civilians are now homeless and refugee, crossing over into neighboring countries, looking for a safe place.

I have been silently praying and hoping that Ivory Coast would not descend into wanton bloodbath as we saw in the 1990s to 2003 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and other parts. I’d hoped that this region would at least be spared the horrific inhumanity of rebel warfare so our people can live life as difficult as it is, without massive bloodshed. But hope is never enough when we have been cursed with leaders who do not understand that statesmanship means giving up what pleases you for the rights and good of your people.

Quattara Supporter Ready for war (left: (Sia Kambou /AFP/Getty Images)


Already, one million had fled the embattled capital city & region by end of February

Since the election last year, these two men, both coming from two different regions of the country, Gbagbo, the incumbent President and Quattara, the supposed winner of the election, have been battling with each other to be seated as the legitimate President of the French speaking West African country of Ivory Coast. Both have refused to give in to any call for peace. Both formed a military that supports their wishes to lead the Ivorian people by killing innocent civilians, killing their way into power, in other words. Gbagbo, who is now said to be in hiding has just been abandoned by his Military General as the fighting engulfs the capital, and Quattara, who has been long supported by the UN feels good despite the untold thousands of dead, the million homeless and displaced, many already in refugee camps, and a mad militia on both sides, who make the already vulnerable region more susceptible to future civil wars. What is democracy, I again ask you the blog reader, if it is ushered in by guns and mortar attack on innocent civilians, destruction of infrastructure and the economy, if it produces so much anger, the region resorts to more civil wars? What is a Presidency if it depends on hooligans who have the ability to carve up the citizenry to usher in the new President?


I am certain that the founders of African democracy, those who shed their blood to free Africa of slavery and Colonialism are turning in their graves today. Liberia, that has just emerged from fourteen years of bloodbath under the Charles Taylor led rebel warfare that introduced to our West African region the most violent of all warfare, is now welcoming the new line of home seekers, the new refugee, who arrived speaking yet still another Colonial language the welcoming temporal homeland cannot understand. The only good news is that Liberia understands the language of homelessness, of displacement and dislocation, of terror in the eyes of innocent children, babies, dying of starvation, of old people who are too lame to walk, understands that war is never to be fought while not understanding not to do it again. Yes, but Liberia also understands to lend its experienced rebels who have not learned to stop fighting to the crazy war now raging in Ivory Coast, so now we hear of Liberian mercenaries being hired to fight the war in Ivory Coast. Why are our leaders made the way they are? Where were our leaders made?


Let me conclude on a poem of mine that I wrote during the last years of the 14 year Liberian civil war. Please indulge me for the mere fact that as a poet, I can only express my deepest emotions through poetry, and I still believe in the power of words to heal the broken. Also, here in America, we believe and celebrate poetry in April as National Poetry Month.

The poem, “Broken World,” expressed my anguish at the time with the difficulty of ending the bloodbath in my country. I was very sadly angry, but it was inspired most particularly, by my deep love of the Ivory Coast as one of my favorites of the countries that border Liberia. It was a day in Feb., Super Bowl Sunday in America, and of course, being the mother of boys and girls, my older boy, just a teenager then, probably, in 2001 or 2002, I had to sit there in my livingroom and enjoy the game in my then Kalamazoo, Michigan home. It was only after the game that I realized from news broadcast that a plane had crashed and killed 169 people in Abidjan, a country, that had given sanctuary to tens of thousands of my country people during the still raging civil war then. This was where on my way home in 2000 to and from burying my mother who had just died, I stopped and of course was stranded due to missing  my outbound plane to the US, for days in a beautiful hotel in Abidjan. The people were gentle, loving, patient and kind to me. I loved them despite my horrible French. I wrote the poem, “Broken World,” in tears that all these people had died, but in the poem, you will note that I was writing about other deaths, the wars that were destroying the region, the wars in my country, and the wars in Africa. The poem was published in my third book of poems, The River is Rising, and is copyright by Autumn House Press, 2007.

Broken World 

———-By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

To every winning team, many more will lose—
Many defenders, goalies, line backers, dribblers, attackers,

ball catchers, and now one lone, winning cup from which
no one will ever drink. To every war, there are no winners.

To every living, many more dead will go unmarked.
So many lives lined up for death; so much of what took

forever to build, goes up in some cloud. So many buried
alive or executed- a stray bullet, accidentally passing.

So many players who never knew the name of the game
they played, yet they played, without even knowing they

were playing until someone found them dead by the road
side. Today, here is St. Louis Rams, walking away from

the Super Bowl, carrying the Super Trophy. Tennessee
watches with a tearful eye. But below the deep Atlantic

in Abidjan, a plane has just gone down. One hundred
and sixty-nine, gone down, and all this time, I was here

watching what Americans call Super Bowl. I do not know
the game; it is not even my game to lose or win, but my

heart pounds hard for the game. Sometimes, I can feel
my skin slowly becoming American. Is life a game you can

win or lose? Will winning warlords ever know the extent
to which they have lost their war? How can anyone count

those who have won and those who have lost our war?
How can anyone travel from town to town, from country

to country, from refugee camp, to refugee camp, counting
our living? How could we dig up each shallow mass grave

for all the tens of thousands who were never counted?
Why should anyone want to count at all? Show me the trophies

of our war, so I will take you to a field, where all
the massacred still gather at night to bind open, bullet

wounds even though they are already dead. When warriors
come home from war, carrying on their hands, trophies

of booty, all the bullets from their weapons, gone, do
we ask them to show us their scars? The after-war-Dorklor,

with all its drumming and dancing was never meant
to be merry- not even in their jubilation at victory.

You have only to watch the dancing warriors’ feet to know.

——————(copyright: The River is Rising, Autumn House Press, 2007)

LINKS OF INTEREST:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12947232

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12929625

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12068131

Photos copyright:

  • Ivory Coast Fire:   Issouf Sanogo / AFP – Getty Images,
  • Ivorians flee city:  InformAfrica
  • Conflict Emergencies in Ivory Coast: © Didier Assal/MSF
  • Pounding on Abidjan: Reuters
  • Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
  • Residents of Abidjan suburb Abobo gather after women demonstrators are slayed:


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5 Responses to “Ivory Coast, Africa and the Unanswered Question: What is Democracy that Is Ushered in by Guns, Mortars and Bloodbath?”

  1. Gina Says:

    No, Miss Patricia, there is power in all of your words (not only in your poetry). Your questions should be read to the President. How to get this to him?

  2. poetryforpeace Says:

    Thanks, Gina. I wish we could send it to him, but I have no strings to pull. Sadly, but we’re doing our part, you and I, and God will do his along with a million others who care. I hope those who do not know that this was one of the most beautiful and most peaceful countries in Africa being destroyed will know and help raise their voices so help will get to those suffering people.

    Patricia

  3. Kathy Stinson Says:

    Patricia, I agree with Gine about the power of your words. Your love of west Africa, your frustration and anger with its countries’ leaders, your fervent desire to see an end to the insanity, all come through in this post. What can peaceful people do but speak out, and I know, because of what some of my Liberian friends tell me, that you speak for how many west Africans feel. I’ll post a link to your blog post on Facebook to help show people who follow me there a viewpoint they won’t see in our news coverage of what’s happening in Ivory Coast. Peace to you.

  4. poetryforpeace Says:

    Kathy,

    Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement and support. It means a lot to me, and of course, I’m honored by your love for my country and of course, also for West Africa. I just read an update on you and the children’s book project for Liberia. Hopefully, we will meet one day in Monrovia. I will be traveling to Liberia this summer and once a year for the next three years for the purpose of completing research and doing other projects like writing workshops, etc. Still need to work on that. Thanks for posting the link to your facebook page. I like to do the blog, but cannot bring myself to sending the word out to friends, so this will be so helpful.

    Again, thanks.

    Patricia

  5. Kathy Stinson Says:

    I hope we’ll meet one day too.


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