Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ivory Coast

Here’s my solution to the electoral and constitutional chaos that has engulfed the Cote D’Ivoire. There are basically four cultural/ethnic groups that are considered to be indigenous to Cote D’Ivoire: The Akans of the South-East and South-Central, of whom the Baoule are the most numerous, and also provided much of the post-independence elite (Konan Bedie, Houphouet-Boigny); The Kru of the South-West (of whom the Bete are the largest sub-group, and who have Laurent Gbagbo as a member); the Voltaic peoples of the North-East (primarily Senoufo and Mossi); and the various Mande-speaking peoples of the North-West (of which the Malinke are the most numerous, and have Alassane Outtara as a member). Also complicating the demographics is the existence of a very large immigrant population, which some commentators say makes up more than half the total population of Cote D’Ivoire.

Rather than having “elections” every five years with predictably tragic results, I suggest instead that the people of Cote D’Ivoire elect an electoral college, which in turn will then go on to select candidates for the positions of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister & speaker of Parliament respectively. These positions shall have term limits of no more than two concurrent terms of five years apiece. Furthermore, there must be an explicit agreement amongst the political elite, of a rotation of power between all four regions of the country. I’ll explain below how the system would work.

Ivoirians invariably vote along ethnic lines (like most Africans) since language/culture/religion are the main markers of identity. Now, instead of having useless “elections” along European lines, I suggest that Ivoirians be allowed to vote for candidates of their own ethnicities in their own regions. Only constituencies in the ethnically-mixed cities would be allowed to be contested by candidates of various ethnicities. So, for example, in the Voltaic North-East only candidates from the Senoufo or Mossi ethnic groups would be fielded, and they will in turn be voted into office by their fellow Senoufos and Mossis to represent the interestst of the region in a Federal govt. This procedure will be repeated throughout the country: in the Akan South-Central, only Akan candidates will be fielded in the elections; and in the South-West only Kru candidates will be fielded.

Now, having selected an electoral college from the various candidates contesting the elections, the Electoral College would then sit down to sort out the sordid business of who would actually occupy the nation’s top four positions. Bearing in mind that there’s an explicit agreement on the rotation of Presidential Powers, it would then be agreed upon, for example, that a candidate from the Mande-Speaking North-west be chosen to occupy the position of President. This candidate would be the most capable and suitable candidate from amongst all the Mande-speaking candidates from the North-West. And he would be the candidate from that region most amenable and agreeable to the other Electoral College members. With an explicit rotation-of-power amongst regions and constitutional term-limits, the other regions will then be assured of having their crack at the Presidency either in five or ten years.

Now, having selected a President from among their members, the Electoral College would then go about selecting the positions of Prime Minister, Vice-President and Speaker of the House, all from different regions of the nation. This would cement ethnic balancing and would allow the “fruits of power” to be tasted by all sections of the political elite, and not just those from one region. So, in the interests of ethnic balancing, Ivory Coast could have a Mande President from the North-West, a Kru Prime Minister from the South-east, an Akan Vice-President from the South-Central, and a Senoufo Speaker of the House (from the North-east)

So there’s my solution. It’s not perfect, nor can it even be thought of as satisfying democratic criteria. And yet it’s an African solution to a rather murky African problem. Ivory Coast has over 65 ethnic groups, with two main religions. It’s important that a workable solution be brought upon the people of Ivory Coast, a solution that spares them the ravages of either civil war or ,even worse, the break-up of their country.