Corrupt leadership is at the core of Ivory Coast's troubles

Thursday, December 9, 2010; 9:23 PM

No one should be the least bit surprised at Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to permit a popular vote to remove him from office ["Two candidates in Ivory Coast claim presidential win, stirring unrest," news story, Dec. 5]. He came to power amid turmoil 10 years ago and has promised and then postponed presidential elections five times, fearful of exactly the kind of result he faces today. His tenure has been dismal. The country is among the most corrupt in the world, ranked 146th out of 178 by Transparency International.

Abidjan, the former capital - once prosperous and gleaming - is a sad, dirty version of its old self. The U.S. State Department said in a 2008 report that "government officials aggressively used the court system to punish critics." In a 2009 report, it said that "individuals who criticized the government risked reprisal."

Most disturbing, the rift between the south and north has deepened during Mr. Gbagbo's rule, and his arrogant dismissal of the people's will could rekindle the country's civil war.

The international community is talking tough, which is well and good. Until Mr. Gbagbo steps down, his regime should be treated as a pariah.

Christian Hennemeyer, Silver Spring

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