Winds of democracy know no boundaries

Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2000

The following editorial appeared in today's Washington Post:

Fearing that he could not win a free and fair election against major opponents, Ivory Coast strongman Gen. Robert Guei earlier this month got his puppet supreme court to bar all but five of 19 presidential candidates. That brazen rigging of the rules failed, as confirmed by the preliminary official results in last Sunday's presidential elections. Faced with a tally that showed him losing, Gen. Guei suspended Sunday's vote count and declared himself the victor. Then he heard from the people.

Gen. Guei's desperate and contemptuous bid to hold on to the power that he gained by force last December was greeted with anger by Ivorians. Their revolt was emboldened, perhaps, by the international scorn heaped upon Gen. Guei by the Organization of African Unity, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations. But it fell to the people of Ivory Coast to mount and sustain the popular protests that ultimately drove Gen. Guei from power Wednesday. Ivorians' faith in democracy was stronger than their fear of the general's teargas- and gun-wielding security forces. They knew what Gen. Guei had to learn the hard way: that he faces a pariah's future, that the international legitimacy and respect he craved would never be his and that he had to give back the country to civilians who had lawfully won the right to rule.

The people of Ivory Coast have provided another useful reminder that the desire for self-rule knows no boundaries. George W. Bush may believe that Africa is outside America's sphere of interest while Europe is inside. But the winds of democracy blow right through such borders, and right past old thinking.

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