WASHINGTON DC - In response to ill-considered reports by the UN and the Roman Catholic Church that squarely put the blame on Assassine Ouattara's IMF-backed New Army for approximately 800 civilian deaths in the town of Duekoue, President Obama has decided he can no longer avoid involvement in this public relations disaster.
The President has authorized an "advice" to editors of major news services to confuse the issue by saying that the deaths were "the result of fighting by rival forces".
The US Information Agency approved the wording on Saturday and the following template was issued for the convenience of editorial staff: "Fighting by rival forces in Ivory Coast has resulted in 800 deaths, as the forces of internationally recognized president Ouattara fight to take the city of Abidjan from the defeated strongman Gbagbo, who obstinately clings to power." Editors have been warned to use the exact wording, with the exception of the number of dead, which will need to be revised upward over time.
Cocoa prices are expected to moderate as the death count climbs, with the expectation that this will hasten the change of government--good news for chocolate lovers everywhere. Ivory Coast is the world's leading cocoa producer.
Bondholders also got a break as the value of bonds defaulted by Gbagbo rose on news of Outaarra's moves. Former IMF employee Ouattara has promised to honor the obligations. Ouattara has strong ties to lending agencies, and has been groomed for his political role for many years. He has the strong confidence of bankers, who are confident that he understands his role and will not bite the hand that feeds him, unlike Gbagbo, who depends more on local support.
The divide in Ivory Coast is mainly along religious lines: Muslim north against Christian south. The Christians have not been cooperative regarding oil leases for newly discovered reserves, and have fallen behind on obligations to the banking community, causing international financial/governmental organizations to lose patience and call for forcible regime change.
The conflict has been presented by some as a good opportunity to curry favor with Muslims. Richard Plantarumor, who worked in the Hearts and Minds Office of the State Department during the administration of President Bush (the younger), said, "It's often said in the Arab press that US leaders think Muslim life is worth less than Christian life. This is our chance to show them that we don't care about life or religion at all. Really, we couldn't care less."
The Obama administration, however, seems to have decided to play down the whole affair until it can be presented as a fait accompli.