NICOLAS KOUDOU, Prof of Economie
By Celestin Ngoa Balla, US Africa News. Updated 2015-03-17
Usafrica News: While living in the US, as you have for over thirty years, you say you followed closely the trial of the former [Ivory Coast] First Lady Simone Gbagbo [sentenced on March 10 to 20 years in jail for her role in the violence following the 2010 elections] and several others imprisoned after Gbagbo’s fall in 2011. Do you think justice has been served?
Dr. Nicolas Koudou: The ingredients of a fair trial in the proceedings against the former first lady were missing. And I say this, because in Ivory Coast we have at least 60 ethnic groups, not counting ethnic subgroups. But all the jurors were of northern origin. There has never been tangible evidence against the accused, and, to support my thinking, you will see that the man who led the FPI [Ivorian Popular Front, Gbagbo’s center-left political party] for more than 12 years, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, was acquitted the same charges. Simply because he has shifted his allegiance in favor of the regime. The current Minister of Justice was an active member of the rebellion, and most of the same people who call themselves pro-Gbagbo judges are well known as big supporters of the Abidjan regime. Is that justice? I see this sentence as a very dangerous precedent for reconciliation among brothers in this country and especially for the future of Ivory Coast.
Usafrica News: Would you have preferred that Simone Gbagbo be tried in The Hague, where her husband and Charles Ble Goude already are?
Dr. Nicolas Koudou: I don’t even know why Mrs. Gbagbo, President Laurent Gbagbo and the Minister Ble Goude should be tried in The Hague. When one reads the charges against the sons of our country at the ICC, you see that it is often said that they are co-perpetrators of the post-election crisis. But they forget that it was the French army, UNOCI [the United Nations Operation in Ivory Coast], and the Ivorian rebellion Dozo militias that intervened in the post-election crisis. In other words the post-election crisis had its origins in the rebellion. Why is it only one side that is being judged the ICC? Where are the direct perpetrators of the crimes? Why are Gbagbo’s generals living in style, with some of them holding diplomatic posts, while the co-perpetrators are at The Hague? What status do we reserve for the French army that killed many Ivorians in front of the Hôtel Ivoire and destroyed the Ivorian government’s aircraft in November 2004? The Hague is a cabal, an injustice not only to Africans but to the dominated peoples of our modern world. No developed country is a member of the ICC. So I see this institution as a weapon to dominate the weak. The Hague is an injustice and another shame, like the slave trade. In my opinion, Mrs. Gbagbo should not be tried in The Hague because I do not know exactly what one would charge her with, and if she was charged, the preference would be that she be judged in the land of her ancestors.
Usafrica News: This verdict came a few weeks after the representative of Amnesty International in Ivory Coast expressed the disappointment of NGOs with the results of the Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation. Can you comment?
Dr. Nicolas Koudou: Well, I'm not surprised by Amnesty International’s remark because, from observation, the NGO came to realize that what they expected from the regime was just the opposite of what happened. Gradually, as time passes, the international community will understand the false promises made in what is a typical case for Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast is suffering a great injustice and sooner or later the truth will win out. There has never been a Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation in Ivory Coast, but it pretends to the world that it has existed. When we know that both sides fought and one camp is undergoing injustice.
Usafrica News: And it is in this climate that the Ivory Coast is about to have presidential elections. Are you worried?
Dr. Nicolas Koudou: I do not know if it is an act of pessimism that drives me, but I know to be realistic. An election in Ivory Coast in 2015 with Ouattara as the RHDP [Rally of Houphouétistes for Democracy and Peace party] candidate would be even more catastrophic than in 2010. Because in my opinion, according to the Ivorian constitution Ouattara was disqualified because he did not fulfill the conditions required to be eligible (see Article 35 of our Constitution). This battle has to be won first, and then, for those who do not know Ivorian politics, only supporters of the RDR [Rally of the Republicans, the governing party of the country] administer the elections in Ivory Coast: for example, the Interior Minister Ahmed Bakayoko, minion of President Ouattara, who will be in control of the election; then, Issouf Bakayoko is President of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the man who proclaimed Ouattara the winner in front of his headquarters in 2010, in front of journalists from the international community; and the little brother of Minister Bakayoko is the director of the Ivorian television, he’s the one who will announce the election results. And finally, Koné Ahmadou, former deputy spokesman and adviser to [former Prime Minister] Guillaume Soro, is the Chairman of the Constitutional Council. In light of my analysis, I would say that 2015 is cause for concern in Ivory Coast.
Usafrica News: What do you think of Alassane Ouattara announcing a revision of the Ivorian constitution?
Dr. Nicolas Koudou: This constitution was approved by more than 80 percent of Ivorians, in 2000, including supporters of President Ouattara. I do not know how Mr. Ouattara can argue for the right to bring up revision of the Ivorian constitution. These are only wishes he brings up but not a reality. In a word I do not think that the revision of the constitution is the order of the day in Ivory Coast.
Usafrica News: Alassane Ouattara is seen as someone who is trying to achieve an economic miracle in Ivory Coast. As an economist, do you share this view?
Dr. Nicolas Koudou: Mr. Ouattara is known as an economist. He knows that the purchasing power of Ivorians fell more than 65%, and the unemployment rate is in double digits. Cocoa prices per kilogram were reduced by 50%, when over 75% of the Ivorian population depends on agriculture; when we know that this is the country's main economic activity, with 40% of the world market. Given this performance, I would not say that the country is experiencing an economic miracle. But we can recognize the efforts of the Ouattara government in building the HKB Bridge, also known as the third bridge, in Abidjan; the Bouaflé Bridge; the Bassam highway; and construction of Man Regional University. I also recognize its efforts in cleaning up dangerous neighborhoods in Abidjan. We still need to upgrade the village roads that are an ordeal for users and can sometimes delay movement of foodstuffs to supply the markets of Ivorian cities. The distribution of drinking water, electricity, and the cost of living--all this is causing suffering for the population being described as experiencing an economic miracle, because the purchasing power of citizens has decreased in the last five years.
Usafrica News: We are noting the silence of the international community, who moreover were very vocal at the time of the post-election battles in 2011. Is this a sign that the Ivory Coast isn’t doing as badly as all that?
Dr. Nicolas Koudou: No, we can also see the problem of the West from another angle. Perhaps they are feeling leery of getting involved at this point in the process and thus have nothing to say. But if they have a conscience, I think they are in the process of internal suffering. I say that because they often tell African leaders not to change or revise the constitution of their country and I think that it is also an indirect message for the Ivory Coast.
Usafrica News: What do you say to those who think that the Ivorian diaspora does not get involved enough to advocate or move things forward in Ivory Coast?
Dr. Koudou: Our compatriots must know that often our leaders, for personal reasons of their own, do not encourage the opinions of the diaspora. In the west we fulfill our professional responsibilities on merit. We want to contribute to the development of our country as well, but also need to have those already in place to encourage us. Far from our home countries, we do not have enough of a reading of national policy to contribute actively. But we need our fellow citizens to understand that we represent a symbol of our respective countries through the positive image that we embody in the west. If you trust us we can become more involved to get things done in Ivory Coast. For example, a diaspora conference could be held in participating countries and could organize in committees, and at the end of the conference the recommendations of the various committees could be used to adjust the country's development strategy. Because we all know that there is strength in organizing.