Ivorian state television’s evening news closed its coverage of Hilary Clinton’s brief visit with biting criticism of Clinton’s security detail, which – as always these visits – alienates the local press, keeps them about 200m away from the action and even then searches them from head to toe. We saw the usual poker-faced, sunglasses and earpieces bouncers arguing with airport officials. According to the report, few journalists bothered covering the official departure (bizarrely we also never actually heard Clinton speak in the local tv news coverage of the press conference, but that’s a different matter).
The contrast with local security here could hardly be greater. On Tuesday, several hours before Clinton left the airport, I drove into the Ivorian military base at the airport without a single security check, request of papers, etc. The same was true when I left that evening – not a single security control. Yesterday I went to the presidential palace, twice – the first time with only a verbal exchange with a guard (no papers or car search) and secondly, when there was only a cursory glance inside my large bag about 5 minutes before I went into the main palace building and I was face-to-face with the president who shook my hand and wished me a happy new year.
I guess the reasoning is that in this part of the world rebels don’t use bombs, snipers, and surprise attacks – if they attack they’ll come in a convoy of pick-ups and try to fight their way in. Until that changes, I suppose security will be as lax as ever. Still, the new national army are worryingly lax and Gbagbo’s presidential security was far stricter.