Named for ivory, later stripped clean,
the country began to sprout cocoa,
though in copses by a few rivers
the forest elephant drooped still its tiny
frame and trunk through the bulrushes.
I recall the fine tarmac and dirt
paths we drove to meet Headman
and Elders, to bring books and receive
a rooster, a hen. Agriculture, land
husbandry, how can I forget
the moutons with their Djula herders,
and Dozos, hunters with amulets
that can deflect bullets?
Yet what are these few memories
worth at market in Cocody
or Treichville, now that the Army
has blocked nearby streets
and prepares to lay siege
to the Golf Hotel where Ouattara
and his government have registered
guarded by Peackeepers
waiting for the current
occupant of the Presidential Palace
Laurent Gbagbo, to accept defeat,
go into exile, or continue
to order the Army and his gangs
to fight; what price shall we place
on power? His foreign homes
are under threat, the squeeze
has begun, when will the Man
come out of the palace
to face the people
who denied him at the polls?
What value suffrage?
Whose army is stronger?
Sad to recall that Gbagbo
was once a legend, a philosopher
and hero of the Left, the chief
opponent to the sometime
benign dictatorship of Houphouet-Boigny.
Go with dignity. Hold your head high.
Don’t forget the family, the assets,
the invitation to be an elder statesman
to the continent, not reviled in history
as Mobutu, Charles Taylor, Idi Amin Dada.
Indran Amirthanayagam, le 20 de Decembre 2010