Thursday, November 12, 2020

EU and Indifference

 Disputed elections in the Ivory Coast and Guinea, violence in Nigeria: many West Africans hope for foreign support, but the European Union has kept itself at a distance.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara should not have even been on the ballot. But the already two-term leader wanted a third stint in office, and through a legal loophole, Ouattara stood for re-election. Despite bitter opposition and risking peace in the Ivory Coast, the ploy worked. The Ivorian election commission said Ouattara won a staggering 94% of the vote, boycotted by the opposition. The opposition has refused to recognize the election results, and violent protests have already resulted in deaths. Ivory Coast's political crisis is far from over. 

The European Union has hardly reacted. If the EU's inaction seems familiar, it's because it is. In 2020, Guinea's 83-year-old President, Alpha Conde, had the nation's constitution changed, stood for election, and won. There too, violent protests and accusations of voting manipulation were rife. But Brussels had only words of warning for Guinea even though the election's credibility was in question.

Events in Nigeria have received similar treatment.  The government is under increasing pressure as primarily young people led mass protests against suppression, police violence, and state corruption. Police have responded brutally, leaving at least 12 people dead so far. And still, the EU has remained silent.

Many people in affected West African countries are dismayed at the EU's apparent passivity. "This indifference shows the international community doesn't want to get involved beyond a certain point," says Ramadan Diallo, a political scientist at the University of Sonfonia-Conakry in Guinea.

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