Military action in Ivory Coast will spell danger for Africa

IF THE Reuters report is correct, and one hopes it is, then President John Atta Mills spoke for millions of silent voices in Africa when he said "military option will not solve the problem in Ivory Coast. Ghana is not taking sides, and Ghana will support any government".

Ghana has always been the first in sub-Saharan Africa!

It is not by accident that Ghana has taken this position. Ghana was the first to win independence in 1957. It was also the first to qualify for the World Cupquarterfinals.

It has been the first to organise three consecutive free, fair and peaceful elections on the continent. And now it has claimed its first position and said the right thing about the crisis in Ivory Coast.

Now that Ghana has spoken, other African leaders should follow suit and take a stand and stop the United Nations from setting a dangerous precedent for settling election disputes in Africa. It would be extremely dangerous for peace and security in Africa if the UN and not the national courts and the African Union (AU) were to send troops to removeLaurent Gbagbo.

More presidential elections are due in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe in the next few months and years. Will the UN also send in troops to settle the expected disputed elections in these countries too?

Using or misusing the UN system and the European Union (EU), former British prime ministers Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown tried for almost 10 years to cause a regime change in Zimbabwe.

Their actions may have delayed a peaceful transition in Zimbabwe when the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) appeared to side with Robert Mugabe.

Africa is a baby relative to the West in terms of liberal democracy.

It took Britain and other developed Western countries almost 300 years and two world wars to nurture their democracy. By contrast, Africa is barely 50 years old as independent nations.

To demand that Africa should suddenly practise perfect liberal Western democracy is the same as demanding that a baby should stand up and run before it can walk. As Kwame Nkrumah once said, Africa would rather misrule itself than be ruled by the West.

As President Barack Obama said in Accra in July 2009, Africa does not need strong men, but strong state institutions.

Instead of planning to send in troops to Ivory Coast, the UN and the EU should be drawing plans to help African countries to develop independent institutions of state that will be above petty politics and outlive an incumbent. Any foreign military action in Ivory Coast would split the country and the AU.

It will also destabilise West Africa for decades.

  • The writer is executive director, Democratic Institutions for Poverty Reduction in Africa (Dipra) in London.