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Last Updated: 10/24/2018Was it permissible for The United Nations to authorize humanitarian intervention in the post-election conflict in Cote d’ivoire?
“Sovereignty also entails the responsibility of a State to protect its people. If it is unable or unwilling to do so, the international Community has the responsibility to help that State achieve such capacity and such will and, in extreme necessity, to assume such responsibility itself”.
United Nations (Report 2004b:10-11).
Côte d’Ivoire is one of the oldest French West African colonies of 21.1 million people; even though, the country has been independent since 1960, Cote d’ivoire still has strong ties to France, and the country is the world’s leading cocoa producer. The civil war which took place in 1999 to 2002 deepened the ethnic problem in the country.
On November 28, 2010, a presidential election runoff vote was held between the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, the two candidates who had won the most votes in a first-round October 31, 2010 poll. Both candidates claim to have won the runoff vote and separately inaugurated themselves as president and formed rival governments. Ouattara bases his victory claim on the U.N.-certified runoff results announced by Côte d'Ivoire's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). IEC (Scrutiny, 28 November 2010) . These show that he won the election with a 54.1% share of votes, against 45.9% for Gbagbo. The international community, including the United States, has endorsed the IEC-announced poll results as accurate and authoritative and demanded that Gbagbo accept them and cede the presidency to Ouattara. Gbagbo, however, appealed the IEC decision to the Ivoirian Constitutional Council, which reviewed and annulled it, proclaiming Gbagbo president, with 51.5% of votes against 48.6% for Ouattara. Gbagbo instead claims to have been duly elected and refuses to hand power over to Ouattara. The electoral standoff has caused a sharp rise in political tension and violence, resulting in many deaths and human rights abuses, as response to this situation the and U.N. on the behalf of the Security Council lunched a military humanitarian intervention in the country. Therefore the research question to be address by this paper is that: Was it permissible for The United Nations to authorize humanitarian intervention in the post-election conflict in Cote d’ivoire? Based on our research, we do believe that the UN had the obligation to authorize humanitarian intervention in the post-election conflict in Cote d‘ivoire. Therefore, this paper attempts to providing concretes arguments to support our thesis.
Terminology and the Concept of humanitarian military intervention
The term “Intervention” is sometimes employed in a benign sense to mean simply a “coming between” as when a military peacekeeping force in place a long a ceasefire line between warring armies. However, in the international Affairs” intervention” usually refers to an action by an outside party that significantly affected the internal affairs of a state without that state’s permission or even grudging acquiescence. Don. E. Scheid (2014).
Humanitarian Military Intervention
The term” Humanitarian Military Intervention (HMI)” denote a military intervention into the jurisdiction of a State by outside forces for humanitarian purposes. The humanitarian goal is to protect or rescue innocent people (i.e., noncombatants) from ongoing or imminent, grave, and massive human rights violation that is from mass atrocities. The rationale is not punishment for past wrongs, but prevention. The humanitarian military intervention is conceived to be a “Last Resort” for averting or stopping such genocide, crime against humanity, ethnic cleaning, or mass expulsions. Humanitarian intervention is usually extend also to apply to military actions by outside forces in a failed state even though there is no legal authority to give or withhold consent, Don. E. Scheid (2014).
International Humanitarian Law
This body of law is, synonymous with the law governing the conduct of armed conflict. It addresses both limits on war making method (the law of The Hague) and protection for individuals during wartime or occupation who are not engaged in hostiles (the Law of Geneva). Humanitarian Law offers minimal protections of human dignity for individuals not vis à vis their own governments , but generally vis à vis those power engaged in an armed conflict against those individual state of nationality or residence. Steven R. Ratner (2009),
Formally, the UN( the international community body), on the behalf of the Security Council under Article 43(Chapter VII) has the right to intervene when a state fail to meet the minimal obligations they owe to their citizens in order to protect human rights and to enforce international peace and security when it is threatened.
This paper is a contribution to the literature on the debate around the UN humanitarian intervention in the civil and military crisis which breakout after 2010 Presidential election in Cote d’ivoire. Against this backdrop, the study is steeped around the following thesis: it was permissible for UN to intervene military in Cote d’ivoire. As a consequence, this paper attempts to follow up elaborate, qualify reasoning on the debate around Ivorian conflicts in an era of humanitarian military intervention by supporting the following points: First, Former President Laurent Gbagbo rejection of the results of the presidential election is wrong, second, Direct violence against civilians, women and children is not permissible, third, Threats to International Mandates and Accountability, and fourth, the escalation of violence and the risk of relapse into civil war. Grounded in the contemporary law of armed conflict and the international human rights law, this study seeks to ascertain failure of the State to fulfil its basic obligation- the duty to protect its own citizens during the 2010 post-election crisis.
Former President Laurent Gbagbo rejection of the Runoff Presidential election results is wrong.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) conducted “Open, Free and Fair” Elections.
The 2010 presidential elections were held within the framework of the March 2007 Ouagadougou Political Agreement, initiated by Gbagbo, facilitated by Compaoré (ECOWAS facilitator), and validated by the United Nations, ECOWAS and the African Union at the request of the two parties to the agreement (see article 8.4 of the agreement). Polling was observed by a 14-member civil society observer group, the Civil Society Coalition for Peace and Democratic Development in Côte d’Ivoire (COSOPCI) and some affiliated organizations, such as the Convention of Civil Society of Côte d’Ivoire (CSCI). It was also monitored by international observers, including the Carter Center and the European Union. Finally, the observers including the United Nations reported that the voting generally proceeded peacefully, openly and transparently, was “generally conducted in a democratic climate”. Consequently, Allassane Ouattara was elected as the President of the Republic of Cote d’ivoire. Nicolas Cook (2011).
Presidential election results have been certified by the United Nations and recognized by the international community.
United Nations certification of the Runoff Presidential Elections
Former President Laurent Gbagbo victory claim has been widely rejected internationally, however, because the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General’s (SRSG) for Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-Jin—based on an independent tally process carried out entirely separately but in parallel to that undertaken by the IEC “certified the outcome of the second round of the presidential election, as announced by the… IEC, confirming Mr. Ouattara as the winner.” (UNOCI, 2010 Presidential Election Report). SRSG Choi concluded that based on his certification, which was “conducted without regard to the methods used and result proclaimed by either the IEC or the Constitutional Council… the Ivorian people have chosen Mr. Alassane Ouattara with an irrefutable margin as the winner over Mr. Laurent Gbagbo.” Gbagbo’s claim has also been rejected because Choi, after closely examining the Constitutional Council’s proclamation negating the IEC decision “certified that … [it] was not based on facts.”(Y.J. Choi, U.N. SRSG, 2010).
International Multi-lateral and Bilateral recognition of the Elected President Ouattara
The international community, including the African Union, the regional body Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union, and the United Nations has nearly unanimously endorsed Ouattara as the victor and called on Gbagbo to step down. On December 18, AU Commission (AUC) chairman Jean Ping, AU Peace and Security Council Chair Ramtane Lamamra, and ECOWAS Commission President Gbeho met with Gbagbo to Reiterate the AU and ECOWAS position that the two organizations recognize Ouattara as President-elect and that Gbagbo should immediately hand over power to Ouattara in order to prevent renewed conflict and loss of life. The AU and ECOWAS, which have both held several high-level meetings to address the crisis, have sponsored several diplomatic delegations aimed at diffusing tensions and convincing Gbagbo to respect the results of the election and cede the presidency. Several governments that recognize the election as president of Ouattara have also bilaterally dropped recognition of the Gbagbo government. Nicolas Cook (2011).
Direct violence against civilians, women and children is not permissible
Attacks Against civilians by Pro-Gbagbo Militias
Security forces under the control of Laurent Gbagbo and militias that support him have, since late November 2010, committed extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and rape, Human Rights Watch reported. An in-depth investigation into violations in the commercial capital, Abidjan, revealed an often-organized campaign of violence targeting members of opposition political parties, ethnic groups from northern Côte d'Ivoire, Muslims, and immigrants from neighboring West African countries, Human Rights Watch reported. Gbagbo has claimed the presidency following disputed elections in November 2010 and retains control of the security forces in Abidjan. "The security forces and militias supporting Laurent Gbagbo are imposing a reign of terror against his real or perceived opponents in Abidjan," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch reported. "The international community must do all it can to protect civilians and increase pressure on Gbagbo and his allies to end this organized campaign of violence." HRW (HRW, report, November, 2010).
Human Rights watch documented gang rapes of five women by members of the security services, and in one case, a member of a civilian militia. The victims included a 16-year-old girl and a woman who was eight months pregnant. In two cases, the husbands of the victims were murdered shortly afterward or at the same time. The attackers voiced a clear political motive, in several cases telling the rape victims to report their "problem" to Ouattara. All of the documented attacks were in Abobo in the days after the December 16 march by RHDP supporters. HRW (HRW, report December, 2010).
Displacement of civilian population
UN aid officials have estimated that up to one million Ivorians have been displaced by the violence, with some internally displaced and others forced to flee into neighbouring countries, particularly Liberia which is hosting 135,000 Ivorians. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that thousands of refugees poured into neighbouring countries, with close to 150,000 Ivorian refugees speeded across 12 countries in West Africa. The agency noted that the ongoing fighting in Abidjan is driving more civilians into exile in Ghana. Some 2,000 Ivorians have crossed into Ghana in the last week, bringing the total there to 7,200. Further east of Côte d’Ivoire, some 2.300 Ivoirians arrived in Togo. (UNCHR, March 2011 Report).
Air attack of civil population crow area (markets, hospitals, houses, public building etc.)
Daily Air Attack on public servant buildings and Houses
The war resumed as military planes, namely Russian-made Sukhoi jets, Helicopter gunships were used to attack administrative building, killing 20 civil servants people, and marked the first time in nearly a year that government helicopters were used to attack positions on the frontline. On February, 2011 Attack on fire has broken out at Ivory Coast's treasury, destroying financial documents in the main city, Abidjan. Nicolas Cook (2011).
Systematic armed attack on women marches
Security forces pro-Gbagbo in Ivory Coast have shot dead at least six women marching in support of Alassane Ouattara in the main city of Abidjan, witnesses say. The women were taking part in a march, organised by Mr. Ouattara's RHDP political alliance, known in French as "Operation Gbagbo Degage" (Operation Gbagbo Clear-off).BBC News( March 3, 2011).
Attack on Markets
On 17 March 2011 - The United Nations peacekeeping operation in Côte d'Ivoire expressed outrage after armed forces allied to the defeated president Laurent Gbagbo shelled a market in a neighborhood of the commercial capital, Abidjan, killing 25 to 30 women and wounding dozens more. The mission, known as UNOCI, reported that it has since sent a robust patrol accompanied by human rights experts to the Abobo district of Abidjan, where the attacks were reported. At least six projectiles were filed by pro-Gbagbo forces on and around the market, the UN mission reported. Reported by UNOCI. (ONOCI, March 17, 2011).
Killing of innocents civilians
On January 11, two civilians and three police officers were reported killed during a reported security force raid on the pro-Ouattara neighborhood of Abobo in Abidjan in which widespread shooting was reported by the Local Red Cross Agency. Fears grew for the safety of civilians in this tense economic capital on Thursday as the violent standoff between Ivory Coast's two rival presidents threatens to degenerate into full-scale civil war. A spokesman for the UN mission in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) said Thursday that 18 people have been killed nationwide in the past week, bringing to 410 the number of fatalities since a disputed election in November last year. Recalcitrant strongman Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to cede power to internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara in a stand-off which has plunged the world's top cocoa producer into a bloody crisis. "In the current flare-up of violence, born of the political impasse," ONUCI has recorded "an increase in the number of victims," said spokesman Hamadoun Toure. He was addressing journalists in Abidjan at the weekly press briefing of the 10,000-strong UN mission. "Following violent confrontations in many parts of Abidjan and the interior of the country, our human rights division has documented 18 new deaths, including four women, bringing to 410 the number of people killed in the country since mid-December 2010,» Hamadoun Toure added. He emphasized the plight of children who faced being "attacked physically, killed, maimed for life and often forced to leave their families and abandon school to escape the fighting.
Power and water cuts
On March 2, 2011, international radio stations, including the BBC, were taken off air without explanation. Electricity and water were then cut off in northern Ivory Coast - a region traditionally opposed to Mr. Gbagbo. In an official statement, the electricity company has denied any responsibility for the power cuts, saying they were a direct result of armed men taking control of the distribution centre on Monday. Our correspondent says few of the millions of Ivorians who live in the north have any other means of generating electricity in a country that normally has very reliable supplies. Hospitals are already reported to be struggling and humanitarian agencies are working out how to respond.
To sum up this session, we can argue that in particular, based on most the leading investigations by Human Rights Wash, the claims of world renown journalists and UNOCI reports, the Former President Force methods and especially, its indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure, cutting electricity and water networks and sometime direct attacks on noncombatants (especially women) were morally and in most cases, legally wrong. I argue that the Military action of the former President constitutes graves violations of human rights and war crimes as defined by the international humanitarian law.
Threats to International Mandates and Accountability
Direct attack on UNOCI peacekeeping force
The Gbagbo government has accused UNOCI of collaborating with the Ouattara force and on December 18, 2010 demanded that UNOCI peacekeepers along with a French force that supports UNOCI immediately leave the country. Gbagbo Government official report (Television ivoirienne” National T V announcements”, December 18, 2010). The increasing tension and a rise in anti-UNOCI sentiment, which has taken the form of public demonstrations spurred by pro-Gbagbo media and party militants, has resulted in several physical attacks on UNOCI peacekeepers and has hindered their movement.
On April 2011, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Côte d'Ivoire reported that one of its patrols was attacked by forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo in a suburb of the city of Abidjan, sparking an exchange of gunfire and pro-Gbagbo forces repeatedly fired rocket-propelled grenades against UNOCI personnel inside UNOCI compound in Abidjan. Reported by UNOCI (UNOCI report, April 2011).
Attack on Foreign Embassies
Dec 21.2011 (Reuters) - Nigeria has evacuated all its diplomats from the Ivory Coast and will bring out its other citizens there after its embassy was attacked, the government said on Tuesday. "We had to evacuate all our diplomats because our embassy in Cote d'Ivoire was attacked," Nigerian foreign minister Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia told reporters. Arrangements are also being made to evacuate Nigerian citizens in that country." Reported by REUTERS (REUTERS, December 21,210).
Attack on journalists
A group of journalists trying to drive into Abidjan were fired on repeatedly by militias. A spokesman for the UN mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) said there had been shooting near the presidential palace, where Mr. Gbagbo was believed to be staying.
The escalation of violence and the risk of relapse into civil and ethnic war
Attack on Villages and town inside the country
On the March14-16, the Phehe village near the main City Abidjan was burnt down displacing all the inhabitants, nearly 10, 000, mainly women and children. OCHA (report, 2011). On April 8, 2011 – The United Nations human rights office said today that its investigators have found more than 100 bodies over the past 24 hours in three different towns in strife-torn Côte d’Ivoire, with some of them appearing to be ethnic killings. UN report (April 2011). In mid-April another 100 people of the Dioula ethnicity, including some women, were reportedly killed by pro-Gbagbo forces who were in control of Duékoué at that time. Rupert Colville, OHCHR’s spokesperson in Geneva, told reporters that the victims are believed to have been mostly or all of Guerre ethnicity. The Guerre have traditionally been supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power despite the UN-certified victory of Alassane Ouattara in November’s presidential run-off poll.
Direct attacks on foreign Embassies and journalist: Threat to international peace and security
Human Rights Watch report seeing men beaten to death with bricks, clubs, and pieces of wood, or shot by members of pro-Gbagbo militias who had created unofficial checkpoints. Numerous Ivorian residents from Mali and Burkina Faso also described being targeted by the militias. One person from a neighboring country living in Abidjan was burned to death and two others were nearly beaten to death on December 3, as residents in the area were celebrating what they believed was Ouattara's presidential victory. HRW (HRW, Report December 2011).
Use of Mercenaries and Civil combatants
Ivorian’s News Papers revelations” (Soir Info, 16 March 2011), “Gbagbo wants return to war: 300 mercenaries trained at Akouedo military camp” (Le Patriote, 14 March 2011), “Balance sheet of Gbagbo trip to west: 500 million and distribution of weapons to militia” (le Front, 21 March 2011). All they help to do is harden the position and galvanise support for of the belligerent. In a related development, the five-member UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries discussed recent events in Cote d’Ivoire and warned that mercenaries are still very active in Cote d’ivoire where they have been recruited to attack civilians. “The issue of mercenaries is still alive,” said the Group’s Chair-Rapporteur, José Luis G-mez Del Prado, at the end of the group’s 12th session in Geneva, where it examined country situations involving the use of mercenaries. “We are especially concerned about the reported involvement of mercenaries in serious human rights violations,” he stressed. UN (working Group 12th Session report, Geneva, March 2011).
Use of TV National Station, News Papers and websites
The Gbagbo government and its supporters have taken an uncompromising stance with regard to what they see as Gbagbo’s legally binding, incontrovertible electoral win. They have pursued diverse efforts to ensure that he remains president. The public relations campaign has included a grassroots media outreach effort by Gbagbo supporters, who have distributed government and pro-Gbagbo press articles and blogs, in some cases promoting vitriolic rumors and conspiracy theories. The latter have included various alleged French and/or foreign mercenary-backed plans to oust Gbagbo, in some cases with putative U.S. assistance, and allegations of military collusion between the FN and UNOCI. The campaign has also employed the use of official Ivorian government websites and foreign lobbyists to make the government’s case. New York Times (NYT, December 22, 2010).
To conclude this section, we note that there were additional evidences, and investigations by local national and international leadings newspapers, human rights watch, Journalists, UNOCI reports that Gbagbo forces conducted numerous attacks that were indiscriminate, disproportionate and otherwise unjustified against foreigners, diplomatic missions, journalists and entire villages. In addition auxiliaries’ supports were proved. I argue that those attacks on their nature and targets were an attempt to international peace and security as defined by the international humanitarian law.
The “Last Resort”: The UN humanitarian military intervention
Belated calls for refraining from human rights abuses and dialogue
In late December, 2011 the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stating that “no longer can heads of State, and other actors ...commit atrocious violations and get away with it,” wrote to Gbagbo “reminding him of his duty under international law to refrain from committing, ordering, inciting, instigating or standing by in tacit approval of rights violations.” Similar letters were sent to the heads of key Ivorian security services.
Speaking on behalf of the Security Council, Néstor Osorio, the Permanent Representative of Colombia, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for Mach, 2011, expressed grave concern over continuing “loss of life and attacks on civilians” in Côte d’Ivoire and called for dialogue. He told BBC reporters that the “the great difficulty is the absolute reluctance of Mr. Gbagbo to recognize the legitimacy of Mr. Ouattara.” BBC (BBC report, Mach 2011).
Human Rights Watch report: Crimes against Humanity by Gbagbo Forces
The three-month campaign of organized violence by security forces under the control of Laurent Gbagbo and militias that support him gives every indication of amounting to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch reported. A Human Rights Watch investigation in Abidjan indicates that the pro-Gbagbo forces are increasingly targeting immigrants from neighboring West African countries in their relentless attacks against real and perceived supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who is internationally recognized as having won the November 2010 presidential election.
As Human Rights Watch reported, the crisis escalated since the end of February 2011, with clashes between armed forces loyal to Gbagbo and Ouattara in the western and central regions of the country, as well as in Abidjan, the financial capital. Armed combatants have committed war crimes, including executions of detainees and targeted killings of civilians and destruction of their property. The killing of civilians by pro-Ouattara forces, at times with apparent ethnic or political motivation, also risks becoming crimes against humanity should they become widespread or systematic. No one has been held accountable for the attacks, which have left hundreds dead, and neither side has even publicly denounced abuses by its own forces. "The time is long overdue for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Gbagbo and his allies directly implicated in the grave abuses of the post-election period," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. During a recent 10-day mission to Côte d'Ivoire focusing on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Abidjan since mid-February, Human Rights Watch conducted an in-depth investigation, including interviews with over 100 victims and witnesses to grave abuses.
Residents from Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Niger gave detailed accounts of daily attacks by pro-Gbagbo security forces and armed militias, who beat foreign residents to death with bricks, clubs, and sticks, or doused them with gas and burned them alive. Human Rights Watch believes that Gbagbo and several of his close allies are now implicated in crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court (ICC). HRW (HRW Report, March, 2011).
Security Council Resolution 1975
Upon escalation of the conflict and rising civilian casualties, regional leaders urged the Security Council to give UNOCI a stronger mandate. The result was Resolution 1975 (March 2011), which tasked UNOCI, along with the aid of French troops, with "impartially implementing its mandate, to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence...including to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population." The UN Security Council deemed that civilians were under threat of imminent violence: pro-Gbagbo forces repeatedly fired rocket-propelled grenades against UNOCI personnel and used armored carriers equipped with machine guns to fire indiscriminately at civilians. UNOCI had the right to use force in self-defense and had the mandate to protect those citizens and do what they could to destroy the weapons. United Nations (Resolution 1975 (2011)”; Adopted by the Security Council at its 6508th meeting on 30 March 2011).
Gbagbo Falls in Abidjan on April 11, 2011
As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon clarified on April 11, 2011 "The United Nations, together with [French] forces, have...been trying to prevent heavy weapons from killing the civilian population, and we really had to defend the United Nations peacekeepers' safety and security...This is exactly what we did in accordance with the Security Council mandate." Gbagbo was captured and arrested on 11 April 2011 when his residence was stormed by French Special Forces and FRCI forces” Forces Republicaines de Cote d’ivoire” loyal to Ouattara. Reported UNOCI (Ban Ki-moon Press Conference, April 11, 2011).
More than two years have passed since Côte d'Ivoire's post-election crisis. Former President Gbagbo was arrested alive but later investigations by international organizations and nations humanitarian agencies and NGOs reveal that more than 3000 people were killed during this post-election conflict. By Genocide Watch report (GW, 14 February 2012).
This raises the issue of the right time for Humanitarian intervention: How many people deaths, how much human rights violations and which level of threat to international peace and security need to reach to cross the line for a humanitarian intervention? Who has the rights to reports to facts or evidences to the Security Council? These are not simple issues. They are also not only political issues. They are the occasions of deep moral struggle, because they are matters of life and death. If someone is looking for an understanding or answer of these issues, or for guidance about them, in this report, he will not find it.
The picture of the Cote d’ivoire post-election conflict has shown that Laurent Gbagbo who lost the Runoff the Presidential election in Cote d’ivoire engagement in a civil and military war against Alassane Ouattara the elected president was wrong. In the light of the just war theory we can easily figure out that it engagement in the war did not fulfill any principle of just war theory (either the just ad bellum nor the just in bello). Therefore his attack against combatants or non-combatants, civilians’ infrastructures, diplomatic representations, peace keeping troops had to be considered unjust, unlawful and immoral because he had no license for doing so. The humanitarian military intervention was permissible to step him down in order to stop, the ongoing violence in the country, the graves human rights violations and the threat against international peace and security. This intervention also helps to restore the democracy in the country and open the way for economic prosperity for a better life of Ivorian people in the coming years. This intervention has also serve as an example for the others African countries for the coming elections. Therefore, it can also be analyzed as a failure of the international community to not intervene on the rights to save the lives of more than 3000 people who died during this post electoral conflict. Lessons should be learnt from this case and applied for future post-electoral conflict in Africa. Laurent Gbagbo and his “Pro-Gbagbo leader’ Charles Blé Goudé are now been trail in the ICC (international Criminal Court) for War crime and Crime and Crime against Humanity. Alasane Ouattara is ruling the country as President and the country has an “Economic Boom”.