Call for Action: A call for a peaceful resolution of the post-electoral dispute in Cote d’Ivoire

Dear Mr. President:

I would like to draw your attention to the current trend of events in Cote d’Ivoire.  As you read this letter, this West African country finds itself under threat of war. A war that although ‘strategically planned’ is certain to result in the death of thousands of innocent civilians, and the disturbance of peace and security in the region.  Encouraged by the International Community, some African nations are planning a military intervention in the country in response to an ongoing, but legitimate political dispute over the presidency. The International Institute for Justice and Development (IIJD) believe strongly that peace and justice must always be preserved, especially in the case of Cote d’Ivoire, where circumstances surrounding the current political crisis have raised legitimate questions regarding the rule of law and thus the validity of an Alassane Ouattara presidency. We call upon your leadership now so that together we can resolve the current political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire without resorting to the use of force. 

Description of Current Situation in Cote D’Ivoire

On October 31, 2010, Ivorian citizens went to the polls to elect their president and to regain their right to inclusive democratic elections after many years of civil war. Although the hope was that Cote d’Ivoire would undergo a fair and peaceful transition in governance, a fiercely contested election results have led to the swearing in of two presidents, whose victories have been determined by conflicting decisions made by two of Cote d’Ivoire’s national institutions:  The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Constitutional Council (CC). The President of the IEC, without reaching a consensus as is required by law, declared Alassane Ouattara winner, while the CC, which has ultimate authority in election matters, declared Laurent Gbagbo victor, after reviewing voting reports and irregularities.

From the very beginning of the electoral process, the Electoral Commission’s lack of impartiality was obvious.  Controlled by political parties, it was intentionally designed that way to satisfy all parties to the 2002 peace agreement in order to end a major civil conflict that had divided the country. The IEC, which is comprised of 461 members, is over 90% pro-Ouattara. Gbagbo’s support is limited to a mere 42 members.  In order to have everybody involved in the peace and political process, President Laurent Gbagbo initially agreed to this composition of the IEC because by law, any decision made by the Commission would have to be unanimous and all votes would have to be made both manually and electronically, ensuring a check upon the system. In addition, Laurent Gbagbo knew that the Constitutional Council (CC), whose head is appointed by the president, had final determination on Presidential and legislative elections in Cote d’Ivoire.  The Ivoirian Constitutional Council is victim of the apparent lack of independence common to most African countries’ justice systems in certifying elections rigged by the ruling party.

Both the IEC and the United Nations (UN) were tasked with overseeing and monitoring the October presidential election; however, there were significant obstacles to the successful implementation of this task, which included serious abuses by pro-Ouattara rebel forces in the North, as well as the IEC’s reported tampering with election results. Northern rebel forces loyal to Ouattara refused to disarm before the elections, as was required by the peace agreement. Rebel forces then prevented substantial UN involvement in election preparation and monitoring in the North. Without any protection, Gbagbo’s northern supporters faced serious pressure and violence from opposition and rebel forces. The few international and African election observers that had access in the North documented cases of murder, beatings and intimidation of pro-Gbagbo voters, and ballots were being supervised, stuffed, and carried by rebel forces, contrary to election rules.

As a result of rebel interference, voting irregularities in the North were significant. In addition, in several districts, the IEC mysteriously reported different voting results from independent, international election monitors. For instance, in the district of Bandama, election monitors reported a total of approximately 150,000 votes for Ouattara; however, the local IEC put Ouattara at 245,000 votes, a 95,000 vote surplus that could not be explained. Also, of the 20,073 manual tally-ups of votes submitted for electronic verification, 2,000 were rejected for over-stating the number of registered voters, which altogether accounted for an additional 600,000 votes. Furthermore, the IEC overstepped its authority in unilaterally invalidating absentee voting ballots from over 28 districts in France.

For the election, the IEC was tasked with reviewing and reporting election results and determining the victor through consensus by a designated deadline date, as is required by law. The IEC was also required to report voting irregularities and human rights abuses to the CC, which exercises sole authority over such matters. However, the IEC failed in both regards, first by violating its mandate in announcing Alassane Ouattara’s victory without reaching consensus and well beyond the deadline, and second, by not properly addressing major election and human rights abuses. Shortly after the IEC announced its decision, the  Constitutional Council claimed, after a review of election results and reported irregularities, that incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo had actually won the election, thus invalidating the IEC’s determination—a power it alone possesses under the Ivorian constitution.

When the president of the IEC, Mr. Yousouf Bakayoko appeared at the Golf hotel, which Ouattara had been using as his headquarters, to proclaim well beyond the designated constitutional deadline, that Ouattara had won the election, the IEC had reached a consensus and consolidated the results in only 15 of the 19 electoral areas of Cote d’Ivoire.  No consensus had been reached at that time for four areas under the rebellion’s control, where voting irregularities and violence were observed. However, the results given by the Head of IEC included the contested numbers from the North. By that point, Cote d’Ivoire’s constitution clearly gives the Council final say in determining election results. After examining the claims of irregularities, and analyzing the reports and tallies, the CC partially invalidated some of the fraudulent votes from the northern regions and, after the adjustments were completed, proclaimed Laurent Gbagbo as winner with 51.45% of the vote to Ouattara’s 48.55%. 

The Post-Electoral Dispute

On the basis of the IEC’s results and with increasing support from the International Community (IC), Mr. Alassane Ouattara maintains that he is the elected president. He claims that the CC had abused its authority.  However, in reviewing election results and announcing Gbagbo victor, the CC, which is structured and organized in the same way as the French Constitutional Council, exercised its rights and responsibility as outlined by the Ivorian constitution.  The Council is the supreme authority in these matters. It is vested with the constitutional power to declare an election invalid if improperly conducted, and its decisions are binding on all authorities. Given these facts, Gbagbo has remained steadfast in his assertion that he is the elected president.

The International Response:

From the very beginning of this political crisis, the IC has failed to legitimately address the core issue surrounding this electoral dispute, choosing instead to ignore obvious rule of law violations and to offer unmitigated support to Ouattara. The decision by the IC, as well as the UN (whose responsibility is to remain impartial in contending with such matters), to deny the CC its rights and responsibilities outlined under the Ivorian constitution is completely contrary to the principles of the rule of law and to what the IC has demanded of African nations.  The UN acted particularly incredulously in ratifying the IEC’s provisional results without addressing legitimate claims of human rights abuses and election fraud in the North. The UN’s primary responsibility is ensuring free and fair elections and the protection of human rights. It is expected to respond when violations have occurred, and yet in Cote D’Ivoire, it has completely failed to do so.

The IC’s failure to acknowledge or investigate legitimate concerns raised regarding election fraud as well as the Council’s role in the electoral process is deeply regrettable and counterproductive to establishing an environment for sustainable economic and political development in Africa. Furthermore, the IC, which includes the UN, EU, AU and some ECOWAS members, have also failed to sufficiently justify their decision to support Mr. Alassane Ouattara. They have provided neither legal justification, nor convincing evidence in support of their decision to deny the CC its rightful authority to determine the winner under the Ivorian constitution. Given this fact, the IC cannot justify the use of force against any party to the dispute, particularly since the IC rarely ever took such a strong stance on African issues, even in cases of atrocious human rights abuses.                              

The IIJD’s Contribution:

The International Institute for Justice and Development (IIJD) believes the concerns outlined above to be of critical importance to the people of Cote d’Ivoire, as well as to neighboring countries, the sub-region, Africa and the world.  The electoral process must be fair, transparent and impartial for everyone.  All institutions and individuals involved in administrating and observing elections must be held to those principles.  No institution, be it the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), or the Constitutional Council should be manipulated and/or permitted to bypass those principles.   This is a matter in which justice, a necessary condition for peace and security, must take precedence over political expediency and the narrow interests of a few. International organizations, especially the UN, AU and ECOWAS, should act responsibly to find a peaceful and just solution to the crisis, as dictated by the facts and the best interests of the people of Cote d’Ivoire. 

As an organization that promotes the principles of democratic governance and rule of law, the IIJD has a firm position on democracy in Africa. However, given the facts in this case, nobody could say with certitude today that either Mr. Ouattara or Mr. Gbagbo has won the presidential election in Cote d’Ivoire.  That is why we call upon all parties, including the international community, to exercise restraint in order to ensure the safety and security of all Ivoirians and to seek a just resolution of the situation that first and foremost respects the rule of law and ensures that basic democratic principles are protected.  In order to preserve peace and avoid another war in Cote d’Ivoire, the IIJD proposes the implementation of one or more of the following options: 

  1. A complete review of the election results including investigating the irregularities and recounting of all the votes to determine the real winner of the presidential election. 
  2. The reorganization of vote in areas where results have been credibly disputed, including all areas where acts of violence and intimidation by security or rebel forces were observed by objective third parties.
  3. The implementation of a second election or ‘run-off’ throughout the entire country.

The above three options should be organized, supervised and observed by an independent group composed of reputable NGOs, respected and well-known world leaders and other reputable democratic governance professionals. The IIJD strongly believes that implementing one of the above-mentioned options will ensure respect for the rule of law and due consideration for the circumstances surrounding the dispute.  Furthermore, none of these three options should be viewed as too costly, given the price Ivorians will pay if they must again experience war.

Africa has suffered through generations of war, genocide, economic devastation and political chaos. It is time for a new era of American leadership that promotes real democratic reform, justice and the protection of human rights in Africa. We call upon your leadership in resolving this situation peacefully and with due respect for the rule of law.

The whole continent is observing you.  We firmly believe that with your support, the Ivorian people, and all parties to the dispute, will finally be provided what they have been so wrongly denied thus far: a fair opportunity to justice.     

On behalf of the present and future generations of Africans, we thank you for your consideration of our appeal.

With my highest esteem and sincerest consideration,

Benjamin Ngachoko

President & C.E.O


Recipients list

Barack ObamaUS President
Ban Ki-MoonUN Secretary General
Hillary ClintonU.S. Secretary of State
Nicolas SarkozyFrench President
Johnnie CarsonU.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Ambassador Ivan BarbalicPermanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UN
Ambassador Philip ParhamPermanent Representative of United Kingdom to the UN
Ambassador Zhang YesuiPermanent Mission of the PRC to the UN
Ambassador Vitaly ChurkinPermanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN
Ambassador Sir John SawersPermanent Mission of the UK to the UN
Ambassador Susan RicePermanent Mission of the US to the UN
Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes CabralPermanent Representative of Portugal to the UN
Ambassador Hardeep Singh PuriPermanent Representative India at the United Nations
Ambassador Thomas Mayr-HartingPermanent Mission of Austria to the UN
Ambassador Baso SangquPermanent Representative of South Africa to the UN
Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-NgondetPermanent Representative Gabon to the UN
Ambassador Michel KafandoPermanent Mission of Burkina Faso to the UN
Ambassador Nestor Osorio LondonoPermanent Representative of Columbia to the United Nations
Ambassador Peter WittigPermanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations
Ambassador Li BaodongPermanent Representative of  China to the United Nation
Ing. Mirek TopolánekPresident of the European Union
Ambassador Luiza Ribeiro ViottiPermanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nation
Ambassador Nawaf SalamPermanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nation
Ambassador Jorge UrbinaPermanent Mission of Costa Rica  to the UN
Ambassador  Gerard AraudPermanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Christopher H. SmithChairman, House Subcommittee on African Affairs
Dr. Mohamed Ibn ChambasECOWAS CEO
Jean PingChairperson, African Union
John KerryChair US Senate Foreign Relation

IIJD Call for Action: Niger Fragile Democracy at Stake

The International Institute for Justice and Development (IIJD), Inc. calls upon the United Nations and the international community to take a stronger stance against the undemocratic and illegal actions committed by President Tandja towards systematically dismantling Niger’s democratic institutions.

After adopting a new constitution in 1999 that established democratic institutions, President Tandja took office through generally fair and free elections – a milestone in Nigerien history. In the 2004 elections, a test of the new Nigerien democracy, voters chose President Tandja, making him the first democratically re-elected incumbent in the independent country.

The IIJD believes that the steps taken by President Tandja in recent months, however, have compromised his democratic credentials, undermined the legitimacy of his mandate, and betrayed the faith of the Nigerien people who twice elected him. President Tandja, nearing the end of his time in office, has sought to amend the constitution to abolish the limit on presidential terms, allowing him to rule indefinitely. Article 36 of the 1999 constitution specifically mandates that a president, elected for five-year terms, is eligible for only one re-election. Article 136 further specifies that “articles 36 and 141…of the present constitution cannot be subject to any revision.”

Upon being sworn in, President Tandja pledged to “respect and enforce respect for the constitution.” In 2007, the President interviewed with Le Monde and made it clear that he would “step down after his 2nd term.” As late as March 2009, the President – in speaking with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France – reaffirmed that he would respect the current constitution and step down when his time in office expired in December 2009.

President Tandja’s actions since that time have clearly been unconstitutional and illegal. The Constitutional Court on May 25th,2009 ruled that any referendum to create a new constitution would be unconstitutional. The next day, President Tandja dissolved the Parliament, becoming the de facto sole authority in Niger. On June 2nd, he signed a decree appointing a committee of only a small handful of politicians to write a new constitution. The Constitutional Court twice more reaffirmed that a referendum seeking to amend presidential term limits would be illegal. On June 29th, President Tandja dissolved the constitutional court. That same day, President Tandja invoked Article 53 and assumed emergency powers.

The IIJD is concerned by these recent actions that are reminiscent of Niger’s more authoritarian era. President Tandja’s drastic actions to stay in office have been accompanied by a blatant disregard for Nigerien civil society and far-ranging suppression of dissent. President Tandja’s administration has categorically ignored requests by the National bar association to respect the Constitutional Court rulings.  Women and independent journalists protesting the recent events were dispersed at various points leading up to the referendum. State media carried only pro-referendum and Tandja messages, while a private TV station that broadcast a message critical of the President was temporarily shut down. The Administration has ignored protests from the Democratic and Social Convention (CDS), a former coalition partner of President Tandja’s National Movement for the Development of Society (MNSD) in parliament. The CDS withdrew its eight ministers from the cabinet, calling upon the President to respect the Constitutional Court’s verdict. The international community must strongly oppose such actions and use its influence to restore democratic practices.

The democratic gains that Niger has made since being embroiled in an era of coups and re-coups have been worthy of praise and set an example for its neighbors. Recent events, which demonstrate disregard for the other branches of government and for democratic procedure, have compromised such gains and jeopardized Niger’s democratic legacy. President Tandja has severely weakened, and perhaps destroyed, the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary. In dissolving both the Parliament and Constitutional Court, he has disrupted the balance and separation of powers that the IIJD believes are integral to a stable and prosperous democracy. President Tandja’s referendum seeks to create an entirely new constitution written, not by a legislature, but by a five-person panel appointed by the President. If the results of the illegal referendum were to be upheld, it would allow President Tandja unchecked executive powers for an indefinite number of terms.

Niger is only one in a series of African countries in which the executive has flouted the constitution and the established democratic institutions in order to maintain power. The IIJD strongly believes that the United Nations, along with the rest of international community, must do everything in its power to ensure that Niger’s democratic gains are protected and that a strong message is delivered: countries that blatantly disregard their democratic principles will not be condoned nor ignored. Without action, Niger is heading back towards the instability that plagued its people in past decades. President Tandja’s administration is placing Niger’s peace, stability, and opportunity for possible long-term prosperity in severe jeopardy.

With Niger’s hard-won, yet still vulnerable democracy poised for possible destruction, the IIJD urges you to take firmer action to restore the constitution and its proper procedures.

With my highest esteem and sincere considerations,

Benjamin Ngachoko

President and CEO

International Institute for Justice and Development

IIJD Call for Action: Mr. Paul Biya’s threat to democratization in Cameroon

We are writing to ask for your desperately needed help in response to the urgent threat to democracy that is currently occurring in Cameroon.  As Paul Biya continues to push for a modification to article 6.2 of the constitution that would allow him to extend his tenure beyond 2011 so too does the voice of the Cameroonian people clamor ever louder for permanent respite from his tyranny.

Greater pressure must be exerted by the international community on this corrupt government and it’s tyrannical leader to scrap their plans for modifying the constitution.  Biya has already revised the law once to extend his mandate; he will do it again to maintain his iron grip on power.

The demonstrations of the past couple of months following Biya’s initial proposal to modify the constitution in December are symptoms of the growing discontent of the people of Cameroon.  We have seen these demonstrations grow in strength and number, the most violent occurring just a few weeks ago before once again being suppressed by Biya’s brutal forces of order.  As his tyranny grows so too will the anger of the people; if democracy suffers another wounding blow the reaction will only grow ever stronger.  For this reason we implore you to heal these wounds before they become untreatable and the country descends into civil war.

Action on your part now will be far more achievable and far less costly as opposed to later intervention when matters have reached boiling point.  Please do not stand by to watch another potentially peaceful and prosperous African country go the way of her sisters.  International aid is already stretched to its limit; African soil is already saturated with blood.  Please intervene now before a flood of misery and destitution drains the life out of Cameroon.

Paul Biya has been in power since 1982.  In that time the economy’s growth rate has more than halved despite Cameroon’s wealth of natural resources.  He has plundered these resources for his own gain; he has brutally oppressed the people he should be protecting.  He is responsible for the destruction of his people’s freedoms and rights: the inalienable right of his people to free and fair elections, the right to free speech, the right to free and fair trials, the right to free movement and the right to life.  Paul Biya will continue to fight for power with more determination than ever.  If democracy prevails he knows that he shall be held accountable for his actions.

Hilaire Kamga, representative of the civil society platform and currently in the USA campaigning for Cameroon, is calling for an independent enquiry.  We at the IIJD fully support his call for a review, in line with the democratic process.  Kamga equally criticises those who believe that a change can only be brought about by violent means, by insurrection, revolution or even a coup d’état.  Such regime change is endemic to the history of modern Africa yet has rarely proven to yield positive change, merely replacing one violent regime with another.  It is not simply that the head of this corrupt system in Cameroon must go but that the whole system must change.  If not, a new man in power will become just as corrupt as the last, a victim to this untenable system.

Kamga says “We have to find the means of avoiding the worst by constructing realistic mechanisms that are efficient and credible, that may permit the citizens to find confidence in their country without being drawn into dead-end political options”

The only way to bring about real positive change in Cameroon is through democratic means.  A constitution should not be changed if it is to the detriment of democracy and the negation of the rights of the people, but to ensure the independence of the executive, legislative and justice branches of government, to ensure a free and fair legal system, to increase the transparency and accountability of the branches of government and to ensure the fundamental need for free, fair, and frequent elections.

When the system starts to function in a democratic manner it will become its own defense against corruption and tyranny.  We encourage an independent enquiry into the modification of the constitution and for a pressure to be put on Biya to call a halt to his project of tyranny.

We believe that the constitution of Cameroon is in need of modification but this must only be done in the interests of the people. The modification of article 6.2 will only allow Paul Biya to continue to plunder Cameroon for his own gain and continue to send Cameroon spiralling into the dark ages.  By continuing to provide financial aid to this regime foreign governments are only lining the pockets of corrupt government officials and paying for the brutal suppression of a people, smothering their calls for freedom and justice and precipitating the decline into poverty and misery. Action must be taken now.

If something is not done Cameroon will descend into civil war. If demonstrations have been violent before the change imagine the chaos if the change is implemented.  The people of Cameroon will not back down in their fight for a free and fair democracy and fair and transparent system of justice in their country.  We must ensure that their fight and their energy be a peaceful one to end this tale of woe.

Thank you for your commitment to this urgent issue

Yours Sincerely,

Benjamin Ngachoko

President and CEO

International Institute for Justice and Development

List of Recipients

  • Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General
  • Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State
  • Gordon Brown,  UK Prime Minister
  • Jendayi Frazer, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Africa
  • Peter Ogego,  Ambassador of Kenya to the U.S.
  • Ambassador Jean-Maurrice Ripert , Permanent Mission of France to the UN
  • Ambassador Wang Guangya, Permanent Mission of the PRC to the UN
  • Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN
  • Ambassador Sir John Sawers, Permanent Mission of the UK to the UN
  • Ambassador Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, Permanent Mission of the US to the UN
  • Ambassador Johan C. Verbeke, Permanent Mission of Belgium to the UN
  • Ambassador Jorge Urbina, Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN
  • Ambassador Dr. R. M. Marty M. Natalegawa, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the UN
  • Ambassador Zachary Dominic Muburi-Muita, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kenya to the UN
  • Ambassador Mirjana Mladineo, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Croatia to the UN
  • Ambassador Michel Kafando, Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso to the UN
  • Ambassador Le Luong Minh, Permanent Mission of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to the UN
  • Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo,  Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa to the UN
  • Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias, Permanent Mission of Panama to the UN
  • Ambassador Mr Giadalla A. Ettalhi, Permanent Mission of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the UN
  • Ambassador Marcello Spatafora, Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN

IIJD Call for Action: Democratic Hopes for Zimbabwe Threatened by Government Repression

The recent developments in Zimbabwe have given rise to concern about human rights and the advancement of democracy in the country. The IIJD has been closely following the situation in Zimbabwe and calls for the stakeholders in the international community to take a stronger stance against the systematic dismantling of democratic processes and silencing of opposition by the Mugabe administration.

IIJD Call for Action: The Central African Republic on the Verge of Collapse

The IIJD calls upon the United Nations and the international community to recognize and take action on the alarming situation that is currently developing in the Central African Republic (CAR). For many years the CAR has been teetering on the edge of chaos and recent developments have only led to a more inevitable collapse. In a country now overrun with violence, fear and lawlessness, only a swift, deliberate and concentrated United Nations, African Union, and local government effort will be able to create peace and stability. With the lives of hundreds of thousands of Central Africans now in danger, immediate action is necessary.

IIJD Call for Action: Fatou Jaw Manneh Remains in Gambia

UPDATED: The IIJD continues its call for action to release journalist Fatou Jaw Manneh, who was held by the Gambian government on charges of sedition after giving a critical interview accusing the president of inaction and betrayal. The day before her trial recommenced on June 27th, her charges were amended “to false publication with intent to cause alarm and fear in society and uttering seditious words.” This provides hope for those working to help Manneh, because according to The Gambia Echo, amending a charge translates to a lesser penalty in the case of conviction. However, this amendment also indicates foul play on the part of the prosecution that knows it cannot win on the original charges of sedition and so is moving to a misdemeanor charge that it feels it can win.

On June 27, the second prosecution witness, Mr. Basiru Gassama, completed his testimony against Manneh, reading excerpts of the interview for which Manneh was charged with sedition, citing her criticism and frustration with the Gambian president Yahya Jammeh and her insinuation that he should be replaced. However, it became apparent in his testimony that he did not posses the vocabulary necessary to understand the meaning of many of Manneh’s comments, and merely understood that she was criticizing his president in a way he didn’t agree with. In an important development, the judge in the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court has ruled that the charges brought against Manneh are offenses in the Gambia, and that it should be transferred from the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court to the Banjul Magistrate’s court according to the Daily Observer in Banjul. The Judge in Kanifing felt the jurisdiction of the Banjul Magistrate’s court is better equipped to hear the case because that is where the article was first read and where the sedition charge was first voiced. The trial continues in Banjul, and Fatou Jaw Manneh remains in the Gambia as her trial moves forward.

Click here to read the Letter to the Gambian Ambassador to the UN – April 2007

Click here for an update on the Freedom of Speech Tried in Gambia – May 2007

IIJD Call for Action: Presidential Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

In light of recent developments after the elections in the DRC, the IIJD calls upon the international community to set high standards for future elections. Doing this will ensure that other countries will not have the same difficulties that the DRC is having right now.