U.S. Christian Conservatives Back Brutal Ivory Coast Despot
The international community has turned its back on embattled Ivorian dictator Laurent Gbagbo. Having lost an internationally certified presidential election last November to his bitter rival Alassane Ouattara, Gbagbo simply decided he would ignore the will of the people. Not only did he refuse to step down and cede the presidency to Ouattara, he commanded his loyal forces to slaughter innocent civilians who dared oppose him. Already wracked by years of civil war, this once-prosperous West African country, the world’s largest cocoa producer, experienced a new wave of violence as an insurgency based in the northern part of the country gained momentum and pushed towards Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s foremost metropolis. Gbagbo has brutally attempted to crush the rebellion, but with little success. His forces have targeted people with northern-sounding names, foreign migrant workers, even UN staff. As many as one million refugees have fled the violence in what many observers consider to be a far worse humanitarian crisis than the one in Libya. Yet there is no NATO military intervention in sight, nor will there ever be.
While Gbagbo has found himself reduced to the status of international pariah, he is not completely friendless. Salon.com’s Justin Elliott reports that prominent American Christians, including a Senator who doubles as an evangelical missionary (so much for separation of church and state), have lined up in support of the ruthless dictator. Gbagbo, after all, is also an evangelical Christian. Ouatarra is a Muslim. The friendship between Gbagbo and US evangelicals is a unholy holy alliance that is holding firm even as the dictator’s atrocities come to light.
The relationship between Gbagbo and US evangelicals goes way back. The tyrant’s number one supporter is none other than the most influential US Senate Republican on African affairs, Oklahoma’s James Inhofe. He’s been to Ivory Coast nine times and knows Gbabgo personally. Inhofe, who is also an evangelical missionary, says it’s “mathematically impossible” that Gbagbo lost the election. Inhofe has written to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling for new elections in Ivory Coast, even as Gbagbo slaughters his own people.
Former US Congressman Bob McEwen (R-Ohio) is being paid $25,000 a month to lobby Washington on behalf of the Gbagbo regime. McEwen continues to support Gbagbo, despite all the evidence of human rights abuses.
Then there’s televangelist Pat Roberts, whose Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) has featured pro-Gbagbo programming. CBN reporters have painted the tyrant as an admirable man and devout Christian. “Everybody says this man is an evil thug who needs to go,” Robertson said. “That’s not true. He’s a Christian, he’s a nice person, and he’s run a fairly clean operation in the Ivory Coast.”
Gbagbo’s relationship with America’s evangelical luminaries extends all the way to the banks of the Potomac. Gbagbo and his wife Simone have attended the National Prayer Breakfast, a big annual event hosted by a hard-core evangelical group called the Family, or the Fellowship. The secretive organization promotes its fundamentalist agenda both in the US and abroad; it has infamously backed legislation in Uganda that would mandate the death penalty for homosexuals.
Perhaps its a match made in heaven (hell is more likely) for all involved. Gbagbo, the tyrant, backed by the tyranny of ignorance and intolerance of the American Christian fundamentalists. Both deserve nothing but the utmost scorn. Unfortunately, one will still be around long after the other is ousted.
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