What is the price of hubris?

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 July 2021:

Former President of Cote D’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo recently returned to the country, after the International Criminal Court acquitted him over charges of crimes against humanity. He was greeted by his supporters, who might mistakenly see it as a triumphant return, likened to that of Jesus’ Palm Sunday.

Mr Gbagbo was accused of having his fingerprints and DNA all over “the murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts amid the violence that erupted after the country’s disputed 2010 presidential election” (BBC, January,2019). The civil war ensued after Mr Gbagbo refused to accept the election results, leading to the senseless but avoidable loss of over 3,000 lives. (Photo: Defiant Gbagbo after the elections – with former president Koroma of Sierra Leone as ECOWAS peace envoy).

President Alassane Quattara played host to Mr Gbagbo at the presidential palace on Tuesday, telling Mr Gbagbo “I am happy to see you”. You wonder whether the feeling was mutual, considering that his guest’s ten-year tenancy agreement at The Hague had just been terminated – thanks to his recalcitrance to accept a widely accepted election result against his very host.

No doubt that the front pages of the local papers will be plastered with headlines and smiling photos of these former antagonists.

For all its worth, the perceived relief from all Ivorians will be understandable. But the question many Ivorians and other interested parties would be asking is, why did it require the loss of over 3,000 lives, rape, kidnapping, various inhuman acts, and a sojourn to the Hague, just for this eventual handshake and cosmetic bromance? Why did this builder refuse the stone that became the head corner stone? (Psalm 118:22)

Interestingly, like many political landscapes these days, his supporters will be ready to forgive him, and some will say rightly so.

Mr Ouattara (Photo:Ouattara with French president Macron) said that the turmoil was behind them. But in the interest of national healing and national cohesion, will Cote D’Ivoire not benefit from a Passover of healing virtues? I would not be surprised if a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is implemented.

To all intents and purpose, the country might just need a dose of such a process to ensure that the wounds and pus are expunged from the soul of their traumatic bitterness. Any attempt to whitewash, avoid or brush the regrettable history under the carpet, and without any national extreme unction will achieve nothing but a temporizing effect.

With that said, you would expect that Mr Gbagbo will be contrite in his maiden speech to all Ivorians, for the senseless trip to hell that he put them through. But that would be too easy for the likes of Mr Gbagbo, typical of powered drunk African politicians.

During their joint press conference, President Quattara said that “what is important for Ivory Coast is peace in our country.”  Sadly, Mr Gbagbo’s spokesman – Justin Katinan Kone told people “not to make too much” of the encounter (BBC). As if that was not insulting enough, Mr Gbagbo recently announced “that he and another former president – Henri Konan Bédié – were strengthening a political alliance to oppose President Ouattara”.

So, was Mr Gbagbo shaking hands with a clenched fist? Any sane individual with any atom of humanity would prefer to spend their time at the confession box and live on a diet of the Holy Communion, imploring his maker for forgiveness.

Notwithstanding all the atrocities linked to him, what drives men like Mr Gbagbo to still want a taste of the pie?

This man is 76 years old and well past his retirement age. But like all or most African leaders, the slightest sip from the well of power leads to a politically drunken stupor. When the maximum two-terms presidential tenure of office was promulgated in the recent past, the African continent heaved a huge sigh of relief and widely hailed it as the new dawn of democracy on the continent.

While some like former presidents Ernest Koroma (Photo: Former presidents Obama and Koroma) and Sirleaf Johnson of Sierra Leone and Liberia respectively honourably but painfully adhered to this principle, we have seen the likes of Alpha Conde, Alassane Quattara himself, and many others circumvent and bastardised the constitution of their respective countries, just  to maintain their life support to power.

So, that is what happens “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in society, over a course of time, they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it and a moral code that glorifies it” (Frederic Bastiat).

But what is interesting about politics and especially in Africa, is the paradoxical relationship between the electorate and their leaders. The leaders never fail to convince their respective supporters that they (leaders) are the men of the people. Such relationships are always reminiscent of that between the axe and the forest. The forest was shrinking but the trees kept voting for the axe; for the axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his handle was made of wood, he was one of them.

Wole Soyinka – a Nobel Prize Winner, once said that “only in Africa will thieves be regrouping to loot again and the youths whose future is being stolen will be celebrating it”. Sounds familiar?

What many would have expected Mr Gbagbo to do is to retire as an elder statesman and serve his country as a reservoir of political wisdom to help steer it along the path to success.

So, what drives the likes of Mr Gbagbo to extremes of self-destruction? Hubris – the excessive pride or self confidence in defiance of the gods, which leads to their nemesis.

Mr Gbagbo should be thankful that unlike Slobodan Milosevic who died of “heart attack” in his cell before his trial, Charles Taylor, Foday Sankoh, he has apparently got off lightly. But rather than retire, he plans to form an alliance with a former president to stay in the political arena. He might not be so lucky next time, and his hubris – the ego, will surely get him his comeuppance.

Mr Gbagbo is stubborn, and there can be no pleasure to see the stubbornness of the incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.

But as we have seen all throughout history, no war has ever been won on the battlefield. Battles can be won but not the war. Even with the best of armoury, it all ends at the round table. (Photo: Author – Abdulai Mansaray).

One of the largest deployments from the largest war machine since the second world has just ended with the “coalition of the willing”, withdrawing quietly from Afghanistan. And some will say, with their tails between their legs, from an ill equipped but well organised and resilient Taliban. Bad news for the world again.

So, what was the need for all the loss of lives in Ivory Coast, only to return with a photo of a handshake? It is time Mr Gbagbo realised that that one cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.

Mr Gbagbo may be too stubborn to forget and too proud to apologise. But it is this trait that might just make him a victim of his delusions. But like all stubborn people, you can’t even persuade them for their own good. As they say, “that chicken that doesn’t heed sheeee, will heed the stone. We only hope that peaceful Ivorians won’t pay the price this time.

Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room. Go get you Covid vaccine. Vaccine dae save life.


  1. That we subjected ourselves to the jurisdiction of ‘the other’ in resolving governance disputes stripped us bare of any illusion of sovereignty. Not a single African (sons and daughters of the soil) should have been subject to ‘an other’s jurisdiction. That it occurred and is ongoing is disgraceful!

  2. The Francophone countries in West Africa are bound to keep 80% of their reserves in France, furthermore, the gas and electricity supply in Cote d’Ivoire is controlled by France. Bagbo’s crime was asking to renegotiate the contract. If we think war crimes tribunals are fair,then Africa is lost indeed. Blair and Bush committed the greatest war crimes in the past 100 years and completely devastated Iraq, not mentioning Libya, where the slavery and genocide of blacks was carried out. Where is the war crimes charge? No my friends, this is a public relations stunt for guillible Africans. Africa can still be viewed as the savage continent, while more dastardly crimes are carried out elsewhere.

    • Leo, yep! you got it 360. No stunt. A few years ago, the ‘francophone West African leaders agreed to bin the French currency and adopt their own. The deal was done and sealed. Well, Macron was more busy wrecking the project from behind the scenes than promote it. That concept is either dead or, at best in comatose.

      The ICC is a mere colonial tool of control. Contrary to the statutory mandate of free hands to investigate and prosecute, the five permanent members of the United Nations security council cannot be charged for crimes committed anywhere required by the Rome charter. However, they influence prosecutions and outcomes; they also refer cases for prosecution. We all know that why Gbagbo, Kenyatta, and his deputy were discharged. It’s all about politics and western interest – a new way to exercise power and puncture your foes.

  3. The idea that we chose our African leaders through the ballot box is a fools errands. Sometimes African leaders, that express the desire to make their countrys less reliant from out side help, and more control over their country’s destiny, leaders like Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Robert Mugabe, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Mohamed Morsi, Gaddafi, Tafawa Belewa, Nkrumah,Ahemed Seaku Turay, Agustine Neto, Samura Machel,Idi Amin, laurent Gabago, Joseph Kabila, Yayah Jammeh, Charles Taylor,Jacob Zuma, Dadis Camara, they will either end up dying a violent deaths, in coups, or spending long stretches of times in prison, or if they are lucky enough sent away packing, and living a comfortable life in exile.

    But if you look closer, maybe apart from Charles Taylor who was only interested in taking over power from Doe, but have no clear sense of how to run a government, the one thing the rest of them all have in common, they wanted their countries to be fully Independent from all foreign Western interference in the internal affairs of their own countries.For some of them, they never realised their dreams of making their countries economically self sufficient,because some of our past Colonial powers that gave us independence, refused to relinquish complete political, social and economic control in this countries. Hence there is still some legitimate debate out there in the open, as to whether our countrys are fully independent. And when we cast our ballots, are we just taking part in a process that have already been decided for us in Paris, London, or Washington. The recent experience of the opposition in Chad in calling for an early election, after the death of the present military junta leader’s father Idirss Debey, there was a whiff of double standards applied to bear on the opposition to allow his 34 four year old son Mahatma Deby to take after him.

    Even though under different circumstances, the French will be the first to condem military coups in their former colonies and making the case to the return to civilian rule. Failing which sanctions will follow. To the eyes of the French, that are part of operation Barkhane, the code name given in the deadly fight against Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region, with Chad’s military help, perhaps the strongest and most experienced desert fighting military machines in the whole of West Africa, continue support from Chad was vital and that what’s matters above all principles of democratic norms.The French under Macron were in no mood to break that chain of support. Same with the Ivory Coast. When Gabago the then president of Ivory Coast wanted to rock the French boat, or French buiness interest perhaps one of the largest foreign direct investment in the West African region, little did he know he was shaking a bees nest. And former French President Sarkozy needed to put Gabago in his palce. And for many African leaders, that place is a special cell room reserved at the international war crimes tribunal at the Hague. The presidential suite. Now Gbagbo is back, despite his warm embrace to his fomer arch rival Alassan Ouattara, there is very little love lost between them.

  4. This article appears to present the views of the Ivory Coast civil war through a foggy lens. One should not forget that it was the French troops tbat put Quattara in power and continue to support him even when he violated the constitution to stay in power. Today Quattara continues to play to the tune of France. On the other hand, despite the accusations, Gbagbo was fully acquitted in th Hague and as such is fully entitled to play a role in his country’s future.

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