Three years after civil war, how close is Ivory Coast to reconciliation?

Abidjan. Photo published on the blog "18 mois aux éléphants".

Three years after the post-electoral crisis that has sent Ivory Coast into civil war, how far along is the country on the path to reconciliation? Have former combatants been reintegrated? Are partisans of former president Laurent Gbagbo still excluded from society? What do students, who represent Ivory Coast’s future, think of their universities? Our Observers answered all these questions.

“Former soldiers are still waiting to be integrated”

Moussa Doumdia is a journalist and the head of the National Union of Ivorian Journalists (l’Union nationale des journalistes de Côte d'Ivoire) in the western city of Man. He spoke about what has become of the former combatants who fought for President Alassane Ouattara in the Forces Nouvelles during the post-electoral crisis. Today, they scrape by while they wait for official reintegration.

Last year, the former combatants in Man blocked several of the town’s main roads because they were frustrated that they hadn’t been employed by the Water and Forest Department or as gendarmes, policemen or border control officers, sectors in which they want to be reassigned. They also think that civilians with inside connections have received preferential treatment to get these jobs.

Today, only a small number of them have found work. Unfortunately, the Authority for Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration seems powerless to help them. These men don’t get any financial assistance. Many of them come from other regions of the country and they have no support and no family here. These men sleep in the streets. National reconciliation is only possible if we reintegrate them into society.

“Our two-tier justice system prevents national reconciliation”

Suy Kahofi is a blogger living in Abidjan. In April 2013, he spoke to us about the violence that marred the municipal and regional elections. He says that this “democratic fiasco” is still ongoing.

The violence that broke out last year during local elections in Adjamé and Treichville, two municipalities in Abidjan, followed campaigns marked by threats and intimidation from the different political camps. This proves that democracy in Ivory Coast is just an illusion. The idea of launching a national process of reconciliation is certainly admirable but Ivorians don’t yet seem to have the maturity necessary to accept it.

Several weeks after the vote, NGOs campaigning for human rights criticised Alassane Ouattara’s record. Human Rights Watch, for example, highlighted a two-tier justice system. Shortly after he took office, the president vowed to seek justice for those responsible for the Ivorian crisis, whatever their political affiliation or their rank in the army. However, while prosecutors accused more than 150 people for crimes perpetrated during post-election violence, none of those accused were pro-Ouattara.

Many of Gbagbo’s vocal supporters fled the country. Many don’t dare to come back for fear they will be imprisoned or simply killed.

“A commission was supposed to respond to help people who were pillaged, but it is completely inefficient”

Lookman lives in Yopougon, an Abidjan district where many of Gbagbo’s supporters resided.

In Yopougon, the situation is calm, especially since many of Gbagbo’s supporters fled to other districts like Angré or Marcory.

Today, the population is much more mixed and those sympathetic to the former president blend in. Most of them keep a low profile, but I’m afraid that the 2015 presidential elections will bring back the ghosts of previous elections, and that the spiral of hatred will return.

After being pillaged and suffering from other violence during the post-election crises in 2010 and 2011, residents who were close to Gbagbo’s regime are demanding reparations. Three years ago, a commission was created to respond to their demands, but it seems to be completely inefficient. [Editor’s Note: The Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation was supposed to be a central pillar of the transition towards peace when it was created, but it is widely criticised by NGOs.]

“The university grows more and more tense every day”

Mamadou Koné is a student at the University of Félix-Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan. He spoke about a demonstration organised on campus last February that was violently put down by the “University police” or PU. The PU was created after the post-electoral crisis and students say that PU officers are all too ready to deliver blows with their truncheons.

Since it was reopened in September 2012, the university grows more and more tense every day. The authorities didn’t keep their promises: students, who come from all over the country, still have just as much trouble finding housing because the university residences weren’t reopened. Moreover, there is this university police force (PU), which was put in place by Ouattara’s government and which tends to abuse its rights. The police force is mostly made up of members of the FRCI [the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast –
this group has been part of the national army since 2011].

Authorities justify the creation of this “police” because Ivorian universities have long had trouble with violence perpetrated by the student unions who rule the campus. One, known as the Fesci, was the most powerful student union before the 2010-11 crisis and was widely considered as being a militia serving former president Laurent Gbagbo.

Following the incidents last February, the PU were suspended at Houphouët-Boigny University, but they are even more active elsewhere, for example at Nangui-Abrogoua University [Abidjan’s other big university].

More than 3,000 people were killed and more than a million were displaced in the post-election crisis in 2010-11, according to the United Nations.

Deposed president Laurent Gbagbo was extradited to the International Criminal Court in November 2011, becoming the first head of state to be taken into the court's custody.
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