Ivory Coast Wildcards and Propaganda

Here's a response I wrote to G. Pascal Zachary for an excellent entry he wrote about Ivory Coast in the latest entry of his excellent blog Africa Works.

... I think there's a wildcard in Ivory Coast, Ibrahim Coulibaly,
known as IB, or Djibilan, head of the invisible commandos, and the main military
strategist among the northerners ...

He is much more popular than Ouattara and Soro in the north and was
already behind the 1999 coup (but he preferred to put a westerner Guei in power at the time) and 2002 uprising (but Soro ascended to assuming the rebel's de facto public political presidency).

Until he returned this time around as a commander, there was a total military stalemate which has now moved to key parts of Abidjan, reducing Gbagbo to playing the martyr / hyper southern Christian card.

At one point when there was inter northern rebel squabbling, Soro's
side battled IB's side and won, but after a while Soro and Ouattara called for his return.

I think both Gbagbo and Ouattara are in danger right now and are being
very careful about not appearing too much in public, and letting this
be a conflict between two competing armies, and not getting in the mix too much .... But a third faction could stage a successful coup within the IB ranks and derail both their ambitions.

A more immediate wildcard for Ouattara's sake is if the French rapid reaction forces start using their fighter jets, the Abidjan stalemate could be quickly broken. Otherwise it could take awhile, while massacres, revenge killings and lootings persist ...

In terms of propaganda, Gbagbo is a true master, having kept RTI going from a mobile location, but also appearing very shaken, while his wife Simone in the background of this video seemingly much more confident on the ground she stands ...

Curiously though, in a second video, allegedly filmed a few days later and broadcast by state television RTI, Gbagbo is still wearing the same shirt. Propoganda slip?

What I learned from living in Ivory Coast from 2003 to 2006 is that both sides are very good at trying to spin media, facts and recreating reality through videos and testimonies to their advantage and that everything, especially death tolls and reports of violence must be checked directly.

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