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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad 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.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid