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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs