WTF Friday 4/15/11

Dude wtf is a “sex ratio“? Don’t even try to pull that “trust me I’m a doctor” bull.

So Gbagbo got “got“. But why ruin a perfectly good dining room? At least they left the big screen in tact. Football season’s only like 5 months away!

Classic Kristof: “As for the argument that we’re inconsistent in our interventions: of course we’re inconsistent, but would you rather we consistently save no one?” You know what this one is about, but it’s the timelessness, the endless applicability of the statement that really gives it that Kristof shine. Furthermore, nothing beats a well placed “save”.

WTF Monday: Photo Edition

This photo (from MSNBC’s photoblog) of members of Ouattara’s militia posing with Laurent Gbagbo’s wife Simone after her capture today strikes us as seriously not okay.  Her clothes are torn, and the armed men appear to be grasping her by the hair.  It’s not an image that makes us think: “Gee, this situation in the U.N.-guarded Golf Hotel sure looks like it’s totally under control.”

But on second glance, does it look kind of… posed?   And by “kind of posed” we mean “really obviously posed, and in an insanely disturbing way.”  Despite the obvious implication of violence, everyone looks completely calm.  Stoned, even.   And what’s up with Captain pressed-shirt-and-gold-watch?   Did he wander into the frame on the way back from the vending machine?  Nothing like an ice cold citrus Mirinda and a creepy-as-fuck photo op…

No photojournalist is credited, just an agency, EPA. (We’d never heard of it, but apparently it stands for “European Pressphoto Agency.”)  The photo is on their website, along with another one that depicts Ms. Gbagbo lying on the floor at the feet of several militiamen near an overturned coffee table.   The caption says that the photo was taken at the Golf Hotel, Ouattara’s de facto headquarters.

Readers, can you help us out?

This Is Not Good: From Abidjan

Texas in Africa has posted two messages from a friend in Abidjan that are truly chilling:

I don’t know about if this will be technically a genocide, but an aspect that is being missed is that the pro-Gbagbo camp is not in control of anything right now. The armed forces on the street are FRCI and civilians they have armed and they are extracting revenge at an alarming rate. The FDS and Gbagbo forces that are armed are mostly contained and surrounded by ADO forces in one or two tiny parts of the city. The FRCI have been looting our district like mad and banging on our door regularly trying to get inside since this morning. They have a roadblock set up right outside our gate. They completely looted many of our neighbors and are burning houses to the ground in retaliation. Ouattara has no control over many of them anymore at all. There is no central command. A prison was opened yesterday morning and all the 5,000 prisoners freed and armed many who then took revenge on the population.

We saw them rushing into our neighbor’s house yesterday, and then heard the wife screaming in agony for some time, their dog barking like mad. Then massive amounts of gunfire for several minutes. Then no other screams or barks since. We have tried to call them since, and there is no answer. We think they are dead. Similar happened at three other neighbors’ houses. They are patrolling the streets and exacting revenge on any Bete or Lebanese they can find. We have seen bodies in the streets. Several execution style and can hear them laughing and taunting as they do so. A close friend of ours had to be evacuated from Zone 4 (heavily French area) this afternoon by the French. They were the last family left on their street. They told us yesterday that random thugs were waiting outside watching as the French were evacuating people, and then swooping in to loot the houses right after they left. Taking even floor tiles and wiring and roofing from the buildings and then burning what’s left to the ground.

If it is to be a genocide here, I think it will now be from the FRCI side, as Ouattara has no control and many Dioula are angry and wanting revenge. The French and UN are basically saying they can’t help a lot of people anymore. Many are dying right now. We have heard sustained gunfire since 5am yesterday morning. There have been obus incendiaries, RPGs and mortars heard as well fairly regularly. We also heard heavy bombing most of the day today from the downtown region, where they are attacking Gbagbo’s palace.

Our water has been cut, and our power is intermittent. We have enough supplies for several months and are hiding out in a barricaded room in our house in darkness.

I hope that this insanity ends soon. It is absolute anarchy here right now.

And then, from a few hours later:

Things are escalating rapidly. I think there will be revenge killings for a while. And if any pro-Gbagbo forces are able to muster any strength back — they will try to return the revenge again. It is absolute slaughter and chaos here right now. I am hoping the worst is over– at least I thought it would be this morning when I woke up– but unless Ouattara somehow starts controlling the FRCI and his supporters– I think it will continue for a while. And the way I see some of the Twittersphere egging the conflict on– is worrisome. So much propaganda and cheering at the “democratization.” SMS has been suspended (or at least ours is) so maybe this will stop some of the calls for violence, but cells are still working most of the time– and almost everyone here has one– so they can easily connect and find their opponents.

It is nearly 10:30pm right now, and we are under curfew– and the firing has quieted down in the last hour or so. Still some sporadic. I just want to get information out there that things are getting real bad. Anyone on the streets is a target now. Anyone with visible lights or movement in their homes are a target. We have blanketed up all our windows and are hiding out in a room away from all outside walls now so no one can see us.

As all our readers know, Kate and I ordinarily rely on humor to help us face the unthinkable horrors with which our professions bring us into casual contact. However, there are times when laughter deserts me. There is nothing funny about the events described above. Jokes about the respective locations of Libya and Liberia can only get us so far, and messages like these lie considerably beyond that point.

I am so thankful, every day, that I was lucky enough to have been born in a place where I can take the safety and survival of myself and my loved ones for granted. I wish that there was more I could do to give others the same privilege, but moments like this make that goal seem so distant as to be laughable.

Like Laura, I hope that cooler heads prevail, and that Abidjan pulls back from the precipice on which it currently teeters. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Cote D’Ivoire tonight.

It’s Ten O’Clock. Do You Know Where Liberia Is?

We realize that New York Magazine isn’t really known for their foreign policy coverage, but this is still a spectacular fail:

“fighting continues to rage in Libya, thousands of Libyans have crossed the border into neighboring Liberia, a country fraught with its own troubles as it continues to recover from a decades-long civil war. Around 100,000 Libyan refugees have fled to the poor Western African nation. “It’s a serious threat to the stability of Liberia and, I might say, to the stability of all neighboring countries,” said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in an interview. “There’s been a lot of investment for peace in this sub-region; we’re beginning to see the result of that investment,” she added. “If nothing is done to resolve the crisis, all of these efforts will be undermined.”

Adding to the troubles is the flow of Liberian mercenaries into the Ivory Coast. The mercenaries are fighting on behalf of the Ivory Coast’s entrenched leader Laurent Gbagbo— not recognized by the United Nations—as rebels in the north of the country battle for control. “According to what we hear, both sides are recruiting Liberian mercenaries,” said Harrison S. Karnwea Sr., Liberia’s interior minister. “When people have been used to living on violence, they have got no profession to earn their living on.” On Thursday, fighting had escalated in the Ivory Coast capital city of Abidjan where forces loyal to Gbagbo clashed with U.N. recognized president Alassane Quattara.”

We figure the article will have been pulled by the time you guys read this tomorrow morning, but here’s a screenshot:

Yeah, that border between Libya and Liberia has been an endless source of trouble…

(Oh, and just between us? It’s “Ouattara.” Not “Quattara.”)

Update, 4/1/11 9:30am: A corrected (sort of) version was posted late last night. Oddly, rather than just replacing the erroneous Libya references with Côte d’Ivoire, they’ve reorganized the article, which means it now begins with a confusing reference to “Liberia’s already mounting problems.”  Oh, and apparently no one got the memo that Abidjan is not the capital of Côte d’Ivoire and Ouattara is not named Quattara.

WTF Friday, 3/25/11

Not cute. Ok kinda cute but wtf? Dad really does appear to be trying to nestle that thing under the kid’s arm. Or at least I hope that’s his dad. Well, part of me does and part of me doesn’t. Paradox.

At first I thought this said “dessert news.” Would have been appropriate. Jokes aside, let’s keep Utah in our hearts and prayers.

Another misunderstanding on my part, I thought for sure this was referring to a political party. Wrong again, it’s an actual party.

In Which I Become the Lame-O at the Party Who Brings up Law, When Everyone Else Is Having Fun Talking About Coups and Peacekeepers

In the course of writing our last post, Kate and I couldn’t help but notice the surprising lack of legal analysis of the situation in Cote D’Ivoire. There is plenty of political commentary, (not to mention the odd call for a coup or two), but if someone has done a careful analysis of how Ivorian law applies to the events of the last few weeks, we haven’t found it. Which is a little odd, no? Call us biased, but it seems like law is an important thing to take into consideration when determining whether someone is president or not.

I was able to find an English translation of Cote D’Ivoire’s Constitution. And, reading through it, I am left wondering if Gbagbo’s claim to the presidency is perhaps stronger, as a matter of law, than has been portrayed by the chorus of international condemnation. (Note: I am definitely not an expert in Ivorian law, so take all this with a spoonful of salt. If any of you readers are, or know someone who is, I would love to hear from you/them.)

From my admittedly-limited analysis, it sounds like the legality of the situation really comes down to whether the Constitutional Council has acted legally – and whether there is a way to overturn their decision, even if they didn’t. Under the Ivorian constitution, the Constitutional Council has sole authority to determine the results of presidential elections, and to decide disputes about election results. (Title VII, Art. 94.) They also get to swear in the new president, (Title III, Art. 39).

In this case, the Constitutional Council has sided entirely with Gbagbo. They overturned the election results proclaimed by the electoral commission, and nullified the ballots from several northern districts on account of fraud, handing Gbagbo a majority. On December 4 of last year, they also administered the oath of office to Gbagbo.

It is not clear what procedures the Council is required to use when coming to their decisions, or if they were followed here. The constitution merely states that “the rules and organization and functioning of the Constitutional Council, the procedure and the time periods in which it has to decide” are to be left to the “organic law” (ordinary statutes and rules, rather than the constitution itself.) I couldn’t find an online resource stating what those rules are. So, I can’t comment on whether the Council acted in accordance with its own rules in this situation. It’s unclear to me, for instance, whether they were permitted to discard certain districts’ election results without further investigation, or whether they properly followed their procedures for reaching a decision (are they supposed to vote? is some sort of quorum required?).

However, that may not matter, because under the terms of the constitution, the Council’s decisions are final. Under Title VII, Article 98, “the decisions of the Constitutional Council are not susceptible to any recourse. They [are] imposed on the public powers, on every administrative, jurisdictional, [and] military authority and on every physical and moral person.” In other words, even if the Constitutional Council did not follow its own rules, it’s not clear that there are constitutional means by which their decision can be challenged.

It seems to me that there is a distinct possibility that this is a Bush v. Gore-type situation: even if Gbagbo was not the winner of the democratic elections, under Cote D’Ivoire’s constitution, he is now that country’s president for a new term. The Constitutional Council had the authority to decide the election, and they decided it in his favor. They also had the authority to administer the oath of office to the new president, and administered it to Gbagbo (so that the oath that Ouattara took is just a gesture, not a legal basis for claiming the presidency). And, even if those decisions were corrupt and improper, it is not clear that that actually makes them invalid under Ivorian law.

If that is the case, should it make us re-think the international community’s universal calls for Gbagbo to step down and allow Ouattara to assume the presidency?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments – I don’t know that much about the situation there, so I would love to hear more from those of you who do, especially if you can shed some more light on the law behind all this.

Shockingly, We’re Finding It Hard to Get Behind Paul Collier’s "Just Stage a Coup, Man!" Plan for Côte D’Ivoire

Chris Blattman links Paul Collier’s new Guardian column on Côte d’Ivoire this morning and asks for comment.

Collier suggests that the best way out of the Ivorian election mess may be for “regional authorities” to “request” that the national army “remove Gbagbo in an orderly fashion.” We’re pretty sure there’s a word for what happens when a country’s army removes the chief executive, regardless of how orderly the process is.

We’re a little surprised that Paul Collier is full-on advocating a coup. We’d also be a little surprised if “regional authorities” went for this plan, considering what said regional authorities have to lose personally if open international support for military coups becomes standard procedure.

We couldn’t quite figure out how best to pithily frame our objection, though. Here are some contenders:
  1. “Ivorian Population Has Clearly Gotten on the Wrong Side of Paul Collier.”
  2. “Collier to Ivorians/West Africa: ‘Democracy Shmeshmocracy.'”
  3. “Paul Collier Cleverly Advocates Coup in an Attempt to Drum up Clients for His Coup-Insurance Scheme.”
  4. “Rich Countries Get Constitutions, Poor Countries Get Paul Collier.”
  5. “No, Seriously, the Conditions Under Which a National Army Can Remove a Leader Is a Constitutional Matter.”
  6. “For Reals, Though, According to the Ivorian Constitution, the Whole Thing Hinges on Whether the Constitutional Council Acted Legitimately in Overturning the Election Results, and Under No Condition Is There a Role for the Army in Contesting That Determination.”

Please indicate your preference in the comments, or offer alternatives.

Weird Stuff: Today in Genocide

Hey Internets, long time no see. On the list of things I’m going to try to be better about in 2011 is “occasionally showing up to my own blog.”

Meanwhile, a collection of improbable genocide and war crimes related news stories for your end-of-the-year enjoyment:

  1. Alleged war criminal Goran Hadzic may be attempting to finance his life on the run through the sale of a Modigliani oil painting said by Serbian authorities to be worth millions of euros.
  2. Guardian columnist declares Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir misunderstood, not such a jerk after all (h/t: Atlantic Wire).
  3. Academy Award winner / Carrier Pigeon of Peace George Clooney launches genocide prevention satellite surveillance service.

And in less improbable genocide-related news, Côte d’Ivoire’s new ambassador to the United Nations, Youssofou Bamba, has warned the international community that his country is “on the brink of genocide” following no-longer-the-President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to hand over power to actually-the-President Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the Nov. 28th runoff election. For an excellent overview of why we should take his statement seriously, see Jina Moore’s new post on the situation.

WTF Friday, 12/17/2010

Thanks to Nathan for starting us off this week: “I thought you might continue the thread of Haiti-related WTF Friday posts with this gem. Directly after Paul Farmer writes a piece in Foreign Policy criticizing the reconstruction effort because the Haitian government has only been given 0.3% of the aid money (the rest going to the Interim Commission, etc.), Sec. Clinton gives a speech about her “growing frustration” with the Government of Haiti’s failure to coordinate the reconstruction efforts, which Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon follows up by saying the international community ‘cannot do everything.’ I guess the government was supposed to make that 0.3% go a long way…”

IPS reports “U.N. Deplores Escalating Violence in Côte d’Ivoire.” This is a sharp turn from their regular stance of “condemning” violence. Either way, the U.N. appears to have consistently been “not down” with violence. Well, sort of

Lastly, sorry for some of the unfortunate links on the bottom of this page (you’ll see), but these pics are just classic Jong-Il.

WTF Friday, 12/3/2010

Mind boggling results in the Ivory Coast presidential election. Alassane Ouattara, the opposition, won the most votes, but Laurent Gbagbo, has been declared the winner due to voting irregularities. The AP found at least one man who has been driven absolutely batshit by the turn of events.

Wikileaks has outted Christopher Dell, former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, for talking trash about Morgan Tsvangirai. Apparently the Zimbabwean Prime Minister is “not open to advice and indecisive.” Wikileaks, making “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” more relevant than ever before.
The same website has reported that the Latin American unity summit ended with Hugo Chavez and Alvaro Uribe nearly coming to blows over a dispute about border trade with Raul Castro playing peacemaker. Evo Morales somehow resisted getting a few knees in.