This week Ivory Coast’s minister for sports and youth, Alain Lobognon, was pushed to resign as the scandal around the unpaid bonuses for the country’s African Cup of Nations team continues to cause casualties. I have no idea whether the minister is guilty or innocent, but between the treasury, the ministry and the football federation, it’s clear that something has gone wrong. I hope we eventually get the full story on this, and work out where the missing money went. Sadly, as a long time watcher of Ivorian affairs, I’m not 100% sure we’ll ever get the full story (cf stadium stampede). From what I can tell, the football federation has had limited involvement in the affair, though many people think it’s much in need of reform.
My cynical self though has been contemplating the wider question this week about whether Ivorian elites ever really punish themselves, especially when it comes to corruption. You can’t help feeling that misusing public funds is not really considered a great crime, and that you’d probably on the right track to think that almost everyone is either in on it, or protecting those who are. The only other minister who lost his job due to allegations of corruption in the Ouattara regime is apparently thriving in the private sector, and a leading member of the RDR party. On the PDCI side, a leading member of that party lost his job in a corruption scandal in the 1990s when EU funds meant for a hospital got diverted. In all the cases that I know of with the exception of the cocoa trials, the very worst that can happen is that you lose your job, no matter how many millions disappeared. Any talk of long-term disgrace or (dare I say it) prison, doesn’t seem on the agenda. The latter is a place for people who steal mobile phones. Sometimes I even wonder if the real sense of outrage people feel about sending politicians to The Hague, is not because it’s one sided, but because elites actually face the real prospect of imprisonment for their actions.
I’ve known the departing minister for a while, and as I said above, I’ve no idea if he’s guilty or not. On the positive side, he was the first major Ivorian figure that I know of to set-up an account on Twitter, and I suspect he played a strong role in encouraging his mentor Guillaume Soro to join as well. Both of them communicate directly with Ivorians through their posts, in a way that I think deserves applause and I haven’t seen well done by anyone else. As in the past, I suspect his future prospects depend on whether Soro rises or falls in 2020.