GHANA’S immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. J.B. Danquah, has stressed the need for the presidential claimant in Cote d’Ivoire, Mr Alassane Ouattara to assure forces loyal to Mr Laurent Gbagbo of their safety and job security, should power change hands in that country.
He said negotiations to resolve the Ivorian political crisis can hardly materialise without a firm and an open assurance by Mr Ouattara, to guarantee the personal and job security of members of the conventional armed forces aligned to embattled President, Laurent Gbagbo.
“Keeping mute over this important issue has been a major contributor to the stalemate in convincing Gbagbo to leave,” Lt. Gen. Danquah said in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Kumasi.
He said ECOWAS and the rest of the international community might be doing their best to negotiate the peaceful exit of Gbagbo but no one should run away from the fact that soldiers supporting the incumbent
feared for their job security and as a result were poised to protect the man in power even to the point of death.
The Cote d’Ivoire situation, he noted, was not just political, but military as well.
Ivory Coast currently has two forces – the Conventional Forces and the New Forces.
While the Conventional Forces control the south where Gbagbo’s authority holds sway, the New Forces made up of elements of the regular military and rebels operate in the Ouattara- controlled north.
Lt. Gen. Danquah, who was the commander of the Ghanaian battalion (Ghanbatt 2) during the Liberia war, cautioned against attempts to use force to remove Gbagbo saying that would result in serious civilian casualties.
“In Liberia, many civilians lost their lives and looking at the Ivory Coast situation, it could be very disastrous if the military option is considered.
“Dialogue is, therefore, the answer but even then, the right things must be done,” the retired general said.
He noted that Ouattara would have to go all out to integrate the two forces and this would demand training and retraining of the forces, if he assumed office.
He expressed regret at the journey Cote d”Ivoire had travelled politically and called on African governments to respect the mandate of the people no matter the circumstances.
Lt. Gen. Danquah said in Ghana when the people decided marginally, the incumbent government accepted the decision and left quietly and called on other African governments to learn from Ghana’s example.