How Ouattara is walking a dangerous path toward polarisation

Côte d’Ivoire: Defusing Tensions

“President Ouattara, the new government and the entire political class must resist the temptations of abusing power…” opines Comfort Ero, ICG’s Africa Programme Director.

President Alassane Ouattara’s coalition is walking a dangerous path toward polarisation by repeating mistakes made by previous governments that could ultimately lead Côte d’Ivoire back to crisis.

Côte d’Ivoire: Defusing Tensions, the latest report from the International Crisis Group (ICG), examines President Ouattara’s struggle to move the country toward better governance after the post-electoral conflict in 2011 that caused more than 3,000 deaths. Ouattara now faces fierce resistance by supporters of his imprisoned adversary and former president, Laurent Gbagbo, while the security apparatus remains highly disorganised. The International Criminal Court’s unsealing of its arrest warrant against Simone Gbagbo, the former president’s wife, will further fuel their perceptions of biased justice.

“Recent news of widespread human rights abuses by the Ivorian military showcase how little progress has been made”, says Gilles Yabi, ICG’s Project Director for West Africa: “Ivorian forces are divided between former government and rebel forces, while the dominant position of the latter poses an obstacle to real reconciliation.” Adding fuel to the fire, the military competes with thousands of traditional Dozo hunters who are helping secure the country on their own terms. This configuration of a military and militia apparatus working for the government is not well accepted and generates tensions, often compounded by intercommunal land disputes.

In the west of the country, frustration is rising and is encouraging young people to keep their weapons as a guarantee of survival. Prospects of change are minimal. The dialogue between government and opposition has stalled, shattering hopes of reconciliation. Meanwhile, hardline supporters of Gbagbo exiled in Ghana and accused of plotting attacks from there still hope to regain power or at least undermine peace in their country.

A vicious cycle has set into action. The presidential party’s hardliners are now firmly convinced of their need to consolidate their military victory and maintain a repressive stance toward all representatives of the Gbagbo regime. There is no solution in sight if the political class refuses to learn lessons from the past. It is now repeating the very attitude that led the country to the brink. Ouattara’s prime focus on economic growth to reduce unemployment and poverty is welcome, but it cannot be a substitute for national reconciliation.

To halt the downward spiral, the government of Côte d’Ivoire has to encourage initiatives to promote coexistence between members of the Gbagbo regime and rebel forces within the national army. This may happen through training, public utility work or joint exercises. “President Ouattara, the new government and the entire political class must resist the temptations of abusing power and of pursuing policies aimed at reversing the discrimination they faced under the previous regime”, says Comfort Ero, ICG’s Africa Program Director. “It is high time for African organisations and the wider international community to publicly and firmly denounce the current Ivorian regime’s dysfunctions”.

International Crisis Group

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