Three months after his defeat in a runoff election, Cote d'Ivoire's former president Laurent Gbagbo unfortunately is showing few signs of acknowledging the November 28 election returns and stepping down.
Surrounded by loyalists in his cabinet and the military, he clings to power and orders a violent crackdown on citizens protesting his continued rule. Now in the latest sign that he is digging in, Gbagbo has ordered a government takeover of foreign-owned banks that had suspended their operations there rather than risk violating international sanctions aimed at removing obstructions to the transition of power in Cote d'Ivoire and legitimate aspirations of the Ivorian people.
Private banks, many of them foreign-owned, have chosen to suspend operations rather than be forced to take part in irregular banking transactions aimed at getting around the sanctions. As the standoff continues between Gbagbo and the man elected to replace him, Alassane Ouattara, the nation effectively has no properly functioning banking system, contributing to widespread damage to the nation's economy.
The nationalization of the banks may in the short-run answer Gbagbo's immediate need for ready cash, but it has serious implications for the stability of Cote d'Ivoire's economy and its appeal for needed foreign investment. The political standoff also has a very real impact on Ivorian citizens, who have long awaited lasting peace and stability. The best hope for the nation is for democracy to prevail and Gbagbo to step down.