News / Africa

Ex-Combatants Face Uncertain Future Ivory Coast

Dosso Abou clears brush to support himself, his wife and their five children, Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 4, 2013. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)Dosso Abou clears brush to support himself, his wife and their five children, Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 4, 2013. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
x
Dosso Abou clears brush to support himself, his wife and their five children, Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 4, 2013. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
Dosso Abou clears brush to support himself, his wife and their five children, Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 4, 2013. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
Officials in Ivory Coast have begun disarming ex-combatants from the country’s decade-long political crisis. But in the former rebel capital of Bouake, unanswered questions about the process have fueled anxiety among former fighters, whose successful reintegration into society is seen as essential for lasting peace.

Each morning, 47-year-old Dosso Abou makes the rounds of his neighborhood with his machete, looking for brush to clear. For the past two years, since the end of Ivory Coast’s 2010-'11 post-election conflict, this has been his only means of supporting himself, his wife and their five children.

For nine years, Abou fought with the New Forces rebel group, whose members staged a coup against President Laurent Gbagbo in September 2002. Though Mr. Gbagbo stayed in power, the rebels took control of the northern half of the country, making Bouake their capital.

In 2010, Gbagbo refused to leave office after losing the November 2010 election to current President Alassane Ouattara. In the ensuing power struggle, the New Forces threw their support behind Mr. Ouattara, helping him come to power in April 2011. Many rebels assumed - and were often told by their commanders - that they would be integrated into the new national army.

Today, however, it has become clear that many rebel fighters will be left out, causing anxiety for Abou and thousands like him who have few skills and must watch passively as Bouake’s economy recovers.

He says, "We are not doing anything now. We’re not working. And we haven’t been engaged in the growth of the country since the conflict began in 2002." He says, "So how many years have we lost? That’s why I’m asking the authorities to give me work. In a store, maybe, or with the police, or some other kind of position."

Dosso Abou clears brush to support himself, his wife and their five children, Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 4, 2013. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)Dosso Abou clears brush to support himself, his wife and their five children, Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 4, 2013. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
x
Dosso Abou clears brush to support himself, his wife and their five children, Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 4, 2013. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
Dosso Abou clears brush to support himself, his wife and their five children, Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 4, 2013. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
Last August, the government created a national Authority for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, or DDR. This process is seen as perhaps the most important for maintaining peace in a country awash both in weapons and unskilled young men vulnerable to recruitment. The failure of previous DDR efforts was seen as partly laying the groundwork for the 2010-'11 conflict.

While Abou is confident Bouake’s ex-combatants will be taken care of, not everyone is so optimistic.

Last month, dozens of former combatants, who splintered off from the main ex-combatant organization, staged two demonstrations in the city, blocking a main road and demanding nearly $80,000 per person - a sum universally dismissed as unreasonable. Last week, Deputy Defense Minister Paul Koffi Koffi visited Bouake and appealed to the fighters for calm.

Kaba Sory, an organizer of the protests, said the ex-combatants felt they had been left on their own.

He says, "After the crisis, we found that our leaders abandoned us. For that reason we decided to march in order to remind the government that we are here."

Ivory Coast’s United Nations peacekeeping mission has repeatedly called for a transparent DDR process. However, so far the national authority has kept the details closely guarded. For several weeks, officials have not responded to VOA requests for an interview.

The previous government estimated there were more than 100,000 former combatants eligible for DDR, though that was based on a census widely seen as flawed and inflated.  Now the government says it will reintegrate 64,000 ex-combatants over two years. But while breakdowns of this figure have been provided privately to donors, no public explanation has been given - fueling concern among ex-combatants worried they will not be able to participate.

The first phases of the program have also been cause for anxiety. Roughly 2,000 ex-combatants have been reintegrated into working for the prison system, and several thousand more are slated for reintegration into other civil service divisions. These are widely seen as the most desirable options because they amount to a lifetime of salaried employment. But the selection process has not been transparent, and there are not enough civil service positions for everyone.

A diplomat with knowledge of the program told VOA only 6,500 former combatants are likely to be incorporated into the civil service. 

Konin Aka, prefect for the region that includes Bouake, said fears of an unfair selection process were causing “suspicion” among the ex-combatants, creating the divisions that sparked last month’s protests.

He said the ex-combatants posed one of the biggest security threats to his region.

He says, "For the moment, they have been demobilized, but they have not been completely disarmed. And as the reinsertion is not complete, they don’t have activities to sustain themselves." He says, "So they are sometimes obliged, and I’m not saying all the time, but they are sometimes obliged to return to using their arms to support themselves."

In a report last year, Human Rights Watch called for the urgent disarming of Bouake’s former combatants, who residents said were behind a violent crime wave marked by armed robberies and rape. Residents today say crime persists, though on a smaller scale. They largely hold the ex-combatants responsible, and are looking to the DDR process to improve the city’s security situation.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More