The Sphinx of Violence, By Owei Lakemfa
I am more concerned about the recurrent violence in Cote d’Ivoire where mutinous soldiers seized parts of the country, including the northern city of Bouake, to push for the payment of allowances covering the period they were a rebel army. It was on the backs of these mutineers that President Alassane Ouattara rode to power…
The seasonal hurricane, ‘Military Mutiny’ is tearing through Côte d’Ivoire, while the more devastating Hurricane Trump has again touched down in the American White House tearing through the American society and world politics. The epicentre of the latter hurricane is that President Donald Trump, the American Commander-in-Chief and Twitter-in-Chief, revealed classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and that country’s ambassador to the United States (US) Sergey Kislyak. Some tremor followed with sacked FBI boss, James Comey claiming that at a meeting in the White House on February 13, Trump had asked him to shut-down a federal investigation into former National Security Adviser (NSA), General Michael Flynn’s liaison with the Russians.
The alleged disclosure of classified information which may be injurious to American interests and put its agents at risk, raised a firestorm in the country, especially amongst exasperated Republicans who rather than thinking as members of the ruling party, actually feel like outsiders.
In an attempt to deflect the attacks from his boss, the new NSA, Herbert McMaster had declared: “The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation. At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”
But Trump who insist on writing the script, playing the lead role and directing any drama he features in, took to his favourite toy, the Twitter, to virtually confirm the allegations. “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
Trump is a strong leader who assumes that as the executive president of the world’s most powerful country, he can say anything or do whatever he likes. He is a president who is his own foreign affairs minister and intelligence chief; there are reports that like President Nixon, he might be taping the conversations he has with people.
Trump feels that as president, he has the fundamental right to decide what information he wants to reveal and to whom. There are those suggesting that if Trump has a loose mouth, sensitive information should not be disclosed to him, but this will be unconstitutional.
The Ivorian military remains fractious, and what should worry Ouattara more is that the mutinous soldiers are supposed to be his supporters; he has nothing but France to fall back on. He needs to get Gbagbo returned to the country, a free man, as a sure step towards reconciliation, to release all political prisoners and reverse his anti-people policies.
There are also reports that the Israelis leaked what transpired between Trump and Lavrov in the White House. Is this an indication that Israel is spying on the White House, or are there rogue American intelligence officers using Israel to disclose or check embarrassing leaks by Trump?
I have read about fears by some Africans that Trump might have revealed secrets to the Russians and I am amused; if he did, what business of ours is that? Why should Africans take analgesics for the headache of Americans? If Trump is passing sensitive information to the Russians, would that be radically different from earlier Russian president, Boris Yeltsin who was behaving like Trump? I do not see how Trump’s behaviour has become an African problem to the extent that one of my friends took to Facebook saying we should pray for Americans in this their trying period. I am sure he is joking or why would Africans pray that the Americans and Russians should never agree? How is that in Africa’s strategic interest? Would it increase our GDP or lead to prosperity? It is like crying more than the bereaved. If it is true that such disclosure can compromise American security and burn valuable spy asset, that is the business of the US, and not ours. I don’t think Africans should lose sleep over Trump; our elders say it is the mother that gives birth to a troublesome child that has the responsibility of straddling him; it is the Americans that produce a Trump Presidency that have the primary responsibility of checking it.
If I have any concern, it is about his erratic nature – in one breathe he says he is president of the US, not of the world, then next, he is bombing Syria and Afghanistan. Who knows, he may one day try his hand on deadlier weapons. This is the fear, not whether he is building a good rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Perhaps such romance may lessen tension around the world. In any case, who knows, there may be a plan to impeach Trump in favour of Vice President Michael Pence.
I am more concerned about the recurrent violence in Cote d’Ivoire where mutinous soldiers seized parts of the country, including the northern city of Bouake, to push for the payment of allowances covering the period they were a rebel army. It was on the backs of these mutineers that President Alassane Ouattara rode to power; they had waged a ten-year civil war, and insisted he had the right to contest for the presidency, and when they thought he was being denied the presidency after elections, they, backed by French power, fought their way to the Presidential Palace and seized the then President Laurent Gbagbo. President Ouattara rode on the tiger’s back to power, now he runs the risk of ending up in its belly. The mutineers who had carried out a similar operation in January, are like lions who have tasted blood – they want more. In the unfolding scenario, a coup is not unlikely even when the mutineers say that is not part of their agenda. For the former rebels, this is payback time and the president has no choice but to go source the funds from wherever he can get them.
President Ouattara is his own undoing; he believes and worships the god of France, hoping that with the French, he will remain in power. Like they have done to many African countries, the West tells Outtara he is doing a fantastic job in Abidjan with increased foreign direct investment and the growth rate, when these do not translate to better living for the people. For an elderly man of 73 who came to power following a fractious and bloody struggle, the basic step expected of him was to work for national reconciliation. Rather, he keeps the divide, and ensures that there is no reconciliation by sending his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo to Europeans to be jailed, imprisoning his old opponents and hauling youth who disagree with his government into prison. The Ivorian military remains fractious, and what should worry Ouattara more is that the mutinous soldiers are supposed to be his supporters; he has nothing but France to fall back on. He needs to get Gbagbo returned to the country, a free man, as a sure step towards reconciliation, to release all political prisoners and reverse his anti-people policies.
Owei Lakemfa, former Secretary General of African Workers is a Human Rights activist, journalist and author.