Alassane Ouattara may be the internationally-recognised supreme honcho of Cote d’Ivoire, but he remains an impotent king holed up in the five-star Golf Inter-Continental Hotel in Abidjan. Laurent Gbagbo is still veritably running the show. The army is behind him, and the soldiers have quietly ringed the hotel outskirts, well-armed and ready.
Though still a far cry from the Presidential Palace, the Golf hotel offers a reasonably pleasant refuge. It sprawls adjacent to a beautiful lagoon overlooking the azure Atlantic on one side and the chic Cocody district of Abidjan on the other. For now, Mr Ouattara and his entourage are protected within the hotel grounds by alert--if increasingly weary-- UN peacekeepers.
The Golf Hotel is at the apex of Abidjan’s luxurious establishments – or used to be before the rush of the Ouattara entourage and their hangers-on came in and stretched the facilities. A room used to go for Euros 120, a tidy sum in West Africa. Internet connection for residents is charged at another hefty $20 a day (surely isn’t that too steep?) And there is an 18-hole golf course on the grounds, though I doubt Mr Ouattara ever thinks of the sport in his present circumstances. (Someone might just take pot-shots at him.) It’s not clear who is paying the bills. Most certainly it is not Gbagbo.
The Golf Hotel impostors and their shenanigans there are no doubt a source of daily annoyance for Gbagbo, who has to endure the sight of top-level international envoys trooping in to see Mr Ouattara the moment they leave the Presidential Palace. The cheek! Should it have come as a surprise that Gbagbo’s loyal sidekick, one Charles Ble Goude, the self-styled “street general” and commander of the pro-Gbagbo “Young Patriots,” recently threatened to storm the Gold Hotel and “liberate” it with his bare hands?
But why worry? Gbagbo actually shouldn’t break a sweat over this one-sided tussle with Mr Ouattara, the president-in-waiting. He should not bother rolling in the army tanks to disperse his rival’s entourage from the Gold Hotel. There are easier ways Gbagbo can squeeze out the oxygen from his foe.
Why not cut off the electricity supply to the hotel to start with? Mr Ouattara and his friends look like they fear being in the dark at night, especially with Gbagbo’s menacing soldiers peering in just beyond the perimeter. Plus the most effective thing about a power blackout is that the hotel’s amenities and systems will abruptly grind to a halt: the air conditioning, the washing machines, the boilers, the systems in the kitchens – the works.
Best of all, the nice computers and the internet links Mr Ouattara’s government-in-waiting have been using to communicate with the outside world and to draw up their plans at the “cabinet” tent they have erected on the lawns of the hotel will promptly cease to function. And voila! The president-in-waiting will be left driving blind!
Ggagbo should then follow that up by cutting off the telephones to the hotel. He should also do the same with the cell-phone signals for everybody in that establishment. Those few with satellite phones can be left alone to continue chatting with their French and UN masters. After all, which ordinary Ivorian uses a satellite phone? Since the government-in-waiting retired to the Golf Hotel, they have been doing little other than talking, to themselves and to visiting ECOWAS busybodies.
Gbagbo should not stop there. He should cut off the hotel’s water supply as well. Mr Ouattara looks to be of sartorial elegance, with a French wife to boot. Let’s see how he will look after three days without pressing his clothes – and without taking a bath. The entourage of visitors coming to wish him well will surely dry up.
By the time Gbagbo’s soldiers scale the walls of the hotel and cause the UN posse to flee, the government-in-waiting will all but have collapsed.