News / Africa

Ivory Coast Confronts Issues of Immigrant Identity

Part of millions of frightened immigrants, some Burkina Faso citizens unload their belongings at the national soccer stadium in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso after they came home from the cocoa plantations and coffee fields of neighboring Ivory Coast (File Ph
Part of millions of frightened immigrants, some Burkina Faso citizens unload their belongings at the national soccer stadium in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso after they came home from the cocoa plantations and coffee fields of neighboring Ivory Coast (File Ph

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

The new government of Ivory Coast comes to power in a country divided by years of often-violent debate about what it means to be Ivorian.

Founding father Felix Houphouet-Boigny offered work to thousands of West African immigrants as part of his drive to make Ivory Coast the world's largest cocoa producer.

Start of "Ivorianess"

But when cocoa prices dropped and Houphouet-Boigny died in 1993, his successor, Henri Konan Bedie, sought to capitalize on voter anxiety about a falling economy by speaking out against people whose parents were not born in the country before independence. Those "non-native" Ivorians were blocked from voting in 1995 and were increasingly subject to attacks, especially in the south.

While Bedie popularized the issue of "Ivorite" or "Ivorianess," it was former president Laurent Gbagbo who pushed the depths of its xenophobia. Former prime minister Alassane Ouattara was repeatedly blocked from running for president because of questions about his parents being born in what is now Burkina Faso.

Having won the right to contest the office as part of a peace plan that followed a brief civil war, Ouattara's candidacy was repeatedly attacked by Gbagbo. In their November run-off election, Gbagbo told voters that there was only one "real" Ivorian in the race, warning that they should never trust the leadership of their country to a foreigner.

Politics and nationalism

Ouattara won that vote, but Gbagbo refused to give up power and held out with the backing of the army until he was finally captured in an underground bunker last week. Ouattara now comes to office hoping to end the divisions of "Ivorite."

Ivory Coast's former President Laurent Gbagbo (File Photo)
Ivory Coast's former President Laurent Gbagbo (File Photo)

President Ouattara says Ivorians will come out of this crisis stronger, because they will get down to work with a shared sense of brotherhood and solidarity. No matter how painful these trials have been, the president says, Ivorians must say, "Never again." He says Ivorians must now have a lasting peace that strengthens the country's motto of hospitality and brotherliness.

Mohammed Dikite says the end of the Gbagbo era ends the question of "Ivorite."

Dikite says Ivory Coast is one indivisible country, north and south, east and west, and center - everyone is equal.  There are now not Ivorians from the north and Ivorians from the south. "We are all equal," Dikite says, with a hope to return to the prosperity of Houphouet-Boigny.

Unification

Abidjan Catholic Parish Council President Deblaise Honorat Kouao says the country must unite.

Kouao says the people of Ivory Coast have been pressured and pushed and had to hide to stay alive, so they hope peace has now arrived with God's blessing. He says Christians, who are mainly from the south, and Muslims, who are mainly from the north, are working together during this time to seek a peace that they believe will come.

A man distributes bread to children at Abidjan's St. Ambrose church, a temporary refuge for people who fled from clashes between forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara (File Photo)
A man distributes bread to children at Abidjan's St. Ambrose church, a temporary refuge for people who fled from clashes between forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara (File Photo)

The United Nations says more than 1,000 people have been killed during the political crisis that followed November's vote. Added to the deaths from the country's brief civil war and nearly 10 years of instability, the total is still far below what neighbors Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced during their recent upheaval.

Future of "Ivorianess"

U.N. Special Representative to Ivory Coast Young-jin Choi says that is a good sign for a future free of the divisions of "Ivorite."

"Ivorians have a culture of not killing each other, that is one of the reasons why Gbagbo brought in the mercenaries from Liberia and other countries to do the dirty jobs," said Young-jin Cho. "That explains also the low probability of a recurrence of civil war."

For the moment, Gbagbo and his party are calling on Ivorians to stop the fighting and move on from this political crisis. Resolving the issue of "Ivorite" in the military means reconstituting Gbagbo's southern-dominated army to include members of the northern-based rebellion that helped bring Ouattara to power.

There is also the issue of justice for human-rights abuses, which President Ouattara says will be handled by an impartial truth and reconciliation commission empowered to question the guilt of any Ivorian, regardless of their heritage.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid