The IMF: “Liberte, Egalite…Just Give Us the Frickin’ Money!”
It was a lively weekend. Down in Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo was ruining the script by holing up in his urban bunker in Abidjan, even though the IMF and their French errand boys had officially declared the upcountry Muslim Alassanne Ouattara the new President.
The French tried to do it the new low-profile way, letting Ouattara’s troops force Gbagbo out, but it looks like Ouattara’s troops aren’t good for much except killing civilians. So the French had to do it themselves in the end: a convoy of French light tanks (they love those light tanks, the French—some of them look like tank turrets on a 1992 Jetta chassis)
Jetta Tank Conversion Kit
smashed their way into Gbagbo’s bunker, dragged him out…and then handed him over to Outtara’s throat-slitters.
The idea is to get the European troops on and off stage as fast as possible, make it look like Ouattara’s doing it all by himself. But the French didn’t even handle that part very convincingly. It’s kind of hard to hide a tank attack in the middle of a crowded city where half the world’s press corps is hanging around commenting on the heat and waiting for something to happen. And those tanks were clearly marked as French Army vehicles. Although maybe it’d be more honest if they re-stenciled them with the IMF logo, with a new motto—instead of the usual French “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” mantra they paint on everything, make up something more in line with their new job as debt collectors for the big bankers. Something like, “Pay up or we break your thumbs,” or something more like the original three-word motto: “Austerity, Usury, and We’ll Break Your Thumbs Anyway.”
The weirdest part is the way the French made a point of handing Gbagbo’s poor fat ass over to Ouattara’s thugs as soon as they siphoned him out of his bunker. They’ve got to assume that Outtara’s men will kill Gbagbo. They’re not squeamish; they just killed a thousand-odd civilians up north, as even their UN/IMF backers admitted. So why make such a big point of giving them Gbagbo?
This being Africa, and French West Africa at that, there are all kinds of possibilities. Like: They didn’t give him to Outtara at all; that’s just a lie to tone down the colonialist feel of the whole episode, with white troops smashing down the presidential palace. Or they gave him to Outtara, but with a bodyguard of French Special Forces who have orders not to let anybody get all Samuel Doe-van-Gogh on him.
Samuel Doe, Meet Prince Johnson
Maybe Gbagbo’s still in French hands and they have other plans for him—a job teaching Cicero in one of those fancy high schools the French love so much. That’s where the poor dweeb belonged anyway, some nice quiet teacher job. Word is, it was his dragon of a wife who pushed him into politics and out of his depth.
Or maybe Gbagbo is a liability, a big mouth prone to blabbing about all the sleazy deals he cut with the IMF and Paris while he held power. In that case, making a big show of handing him over to Outtara is your classic Pilate move: “Employees must wash hands after throwing Coastal-Tribe Leader to the pangas.” In a day or so, the French will be shocked, shocked, shocked to learn that Gbagbo’s body head has been hacked open like a drinking coconut.
Ordinarily I’d bet on some duller, slower method, like sending him into exile and letting him drink and eat himself to death. But this Ivory Coast thing has had a weird feel to it all along; sort of rushed and messy, as if they’re making it up on the spot. The other feature you see in it is a surprising lot of violence, with no apologies and no flinching. Somebody out there wants it finished fast. I’ve never seen the western press less interested in a nice juicy massacre than they were in the ones Outtara’s forces have been doing on the way south to the sea. The UN has a reputation for being flinchy and weak, but not this time. They shrugged off the massacres and hugged Outtara twice as tight.
I’d still bet against Gbagbo getting murdered within the next few days, but I wouldn’t bet an arm or an ear on it.
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