News / Africa

Impunity, Lack of Election, Hang Over Ivory Coast Independence Day

Many killings in Ivory Coast, including by members of the security forces, have gone unaccounted for in recent years.
Many killings in Ivory Coast, including by members of the security forces, have gone unaccounted for in recent years.

As Ivory Coast prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence on August 7, impunity, a lack of elections, and the constant threat of political violence hangs over the divided country.

At a recent event in Washington, a civil society representative from Ivory Coast, Patrick Ngouan, explained Ivory Coast faces a dilemma. He said there were two options, either to deal with its history of impunity, or to give the priority to long-delayed elections.

Ngouan said he favors having a free and fair election first, and then letting the next government deal with judicial issues.

Since the 1990s, there have been a series of massacres, army uprisings and ethnic clashes across Ivory Coast which have killed thousands of people but which, in terms of justice, have gone unaccounted for.

Elections due in 2005 have been repeatedly postponed amid difficulties to implement a peace deal between northern-based rebels and President Laurent Gbagbo.

Rebels want millions of previously undocumented northerners to be able to vote, while supporters of Mr. Gbagbo say non-Ivorians should not falsify their nationality and gain voting rights.

While the question of who is an Ivorian is central to the conflict, a visiting professor at Duke University, and former journalist who covered Ivory Coast, Stephen Smith, says breaking the cycle of impunity seems impossible in the current context.

"For the peace process and for any political bargaining going on, you will always have to use justice as a bargaining chip.  As soon as a few individuals are put on a list as being the spoilers, then they turn around and prove precisely that they have that power of nuisance. If you want to reach an agreement, if you want to move forward and maybe hold these elections one day, then you will need these spoilers and bring them along," he said.

Mr. Gbagbo and some of his closest supporters have denied having any link to a series of unexplained killings of prominent Ivorians in the government-run south which followed the start of the northern rebellion in late 2002.

Just hours after the rebel uprising started, the former military ruler General Robert Guei was found shot dead in the streets in his pajamas, in circumstances that also remain unclear.  Since fighting between rebels, militias and the army stopped, there have also been several deadly crackdowns on civilian protests in the south, and several instances of massacres between different factions in the rebel-held north.

David Crane, the founder of U.S.-based Impunity Watch, says there is little chance of a special international court for Ivory Coast, because there have been much fewer dead than in other conflicts.

"In a cynical, war-crimes weary world that we live in, if you compare what has taken place in Cote d'Ivoire to Liberia or to Sierra Leone, it is not the greatest atrocity, and unfortunately politicians and diplomats tend to look at this for cost efficiencies and they are not going to look at this with a great deal of enthusiasm," he said.

Still, Crane says, some Ivorians, including President Gbagbo, could face international justice.  Crane points to Mr. Gbagbo's past as a regional adversary of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, now facing trial for war crimes he allegedly committed in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Gbagbo has denied the claims he backed one of the rebel groups fighting against Mr. Taylor, which also fought against western-based Ivory Coast rebels.

Michael McGovern, a political anthropologist at Yale University and West Africa expert, says impunity started back 20 years ago, when the cocoa-reliant Ivorian economy started to slide.

"It has been a huge problem.  I mean it has obviously been a problem for the women who have been raped, the people who have lost family members, the extrajudicial killings, but it has also become a problem in the sense that you do have a situation in which political actors have recourse to lethal violence or the kinds of violence that will terrorize populations rather than going to the ballot box," he said.

McGovern says, even if elections do take place, the violence of politics in Ivory Coast must be addressed for a working democracy to take hold.

Many commentators in Ivory Coast have also said the timing is not right for a celebration, but that reflection is needed, as well as reconciliation.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid