Risky Chess Game in Divided Abidjan
Over the weekend, there were reports Alassane Ouattara's Prime Minister Guillaume Soro (also the country's rebel leader) was planning a move to occupy the prime minister's offices in Abidjan with his bodyguards (i.e. rebels, or former rebels, however you want to call them, who are based in Abidjan), while his ministers would try to do the same at other buildings with other rebels. Real gets would be state television, the port, the airport, customs offices and foreign embassies.
Not only do the rebels now occupy the north, they now have a president they support recognized by the international community, who won an election of a united Ivory Coast. But with Gbagbo still in control in Abidjan and the south, Ivory Coast is anything but united, and now a turf war begins in Abidjan.
As ever the counter puncher, today Gbagbo established a cordon of his loyalists on the roads leading to Ouattara's Abidjan headquarters, the Golf Hotel, where his allies come and go, both old ones and potential new ones. The "blockade" was quickly lifted, but it showed what Gbagbo could do, and how he was probably testing a new strategy.
Now the game has changed and the stakes are raised for Ouattara who finds himself back on the defensive.
Ever since the first peace accords in late 2002 with the rebels (who have been seeking an end to northerners being treated as second class citizens), Gbagbo has repeatedly gone on the offense, using his military, militias, young Patriots, and the constitution to block a rebel and outside world offensive against his now 10-year rule, all based on implementation delays and flawed elections.
Gbagbo still holds state media, the port, the southern army, oil and most cocoa fields. Will he keep his grip on these, and will it be enough?
How long will he be able to play this game, as prices and nervousness rise in Abidjan?