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

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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid