Did the world get it wrong in Ivory Coast?
If you're interested in Ivory Coast, then I urge you to read this stubborn, provocative article. If you're interested in Africa, in conflict resolution, in the nuances and limitations of democracy, then take a moment to consider Thabo Mbeki's thoughts on how the world (allegedly) messed up in Ivory Coast. There's a lot I don't agree with here. But the questions he asks, or implies, are important.
I remember sitting in a restaurant in Abidjan a couple of months ago, viscerally aware that war was coming - was inevitable - and discussing with other journalists whether this was somehow acceptable, whether it was a price worth paying for democracy to prevail.
Fuelled by some decent French wine, the discussion churned on into the night.
The first round of the election had already confirmed that, after years of conflict and political foot-dragging, the country was fairly evenly split. Would a winner-takes-all result heal old wounds? Or would it reopen them? Was it still "too soon" for such an election, however carefully negotiated and monitored? Or can "excuses" always be found by those contemplating defeat?
To some these are absolute issues. For others, the defining issue was the unknown - the nature of the price Ivory Coast was about to pay. Could a short, surgical offensive (as if such things exist in places like this) remove Laurent Gbagbo, restore democracy, chasten other African throne-clingers, and put Ivory Coast back on the path to prosperity and peace? Or would war (I think we all assumed Gbagbo would lose it eventually) deepen those divisions and make reconciliation less likely in the long term?
These questions are still being answered, of course. My heart tells me Mr Mbeki is wrong. My head is still asking for more information.