Ivory Coast Marks Anniversary of Gbagbo Arrest

Gbagbo and his wife Simone sit in a room at Hotel Golf in Abidjan, after they were arrested, April 11, 2011.
Gbagbo and his wife Simone sit in a room at Hotel Golf in Abidjan, after they were arrested, April 11, 2011.

It has been one year since Ivorian rebel forces arrested former president Laurent Gbagbo after he refused to step down after losing an election six months earlier. His arrest marked an end to months of fighting that killed 3,000 people and displaced more than one million. Mr. Gbagbo is now awaiting trial at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

Outside of the mayor’s office in the Abobo neighborhood of Abidjan, an association of market women in colorful traditional dresses stand in a line chatting while they wait for a vehicle to take them to a holiday celebration.

It is stark contrast from the scene here just over a year ago, when Abobo, an opposition stronghold, rose to international infamy as the epicenter of a violent repression by pro-Gbagbo forces.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara during his inauguration ceremony, May 21, 2011.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara during his inauguration ceremony, May 21, 2011.
Mr. Gbagbo refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, who was widely acknowledged to have won the run-off election.

In the weeks and months that followed that disputed November election, human rights workers accuse Gbagbo loyalists of kidnapping and killing pro-Ouattara political leaders, gang-raping women and attacking neighborhoods, like Abobo, with rockets and heavy artillery.

Lucy Kakoutie recalls a key point in the crisis, when civilians were openly targeted. She was protesting in favor of Mr. Ouattara in early March when soldiers in tanks turned their guns on a crowd of women.

She says she saw the tanks passing and the last one began to shoot. She says there was panic and six women were shot.

The long-delayed November election was supposed to reunite Ivory Coast after a bloody civil war in 2002 - 2003. A concept known as Ivorite, or Ivorian-ness, led to deep divisions along ethnic and regional lines.

That xenophobia hit a fever pitch during the crisis as the international community rallied around Mr. Ouattara. Anti-French sentiment raged among Gbagbo supporters. West African immigrants became the target of violent attacks by pro-Gbagbo militia in Abidjan.

One year later, many foreigners say they once again feel at home.

Mor Diop, a 32-year-old taxi driver from Senegal, says he used to feel a bit threatened as a foreigner at police checkpoints. He says he was always being asked for his papers, but under President Alassane Ouattara, foreigners from other parts of West Africa can feel at home.

Analysts say the economy has fared well under President Ouattara, an economist and former International Monetary Fund (IMF) official.

Economic growth is expected to top eight percent in 2012, bringing hope that Ivory Coast could return to the prosperity it experienced before the wars when the cocoa-rich country was known as the "jewel of Africa."

The leader of Mr. Ouattara’s political party, Joel N’Guessan, says ports and airports are functioning again and the economy has bounced back. He says the central bank functions, businesses are coming back and foreign partners are returning. He says all of the international powers who condemned Ivory Coast during the crisis have reopened their doors.

Mr. Gbagbo's arrest last April marked the end of the offensive launched by former rebel fighters in the North that allowed Mr. Ouattara to take office.

As they swept down western Ivory Coast, those fighters are accused of killing civilians from pro-Gbagbo ethnic groups, raping women, burning villages and massacring hundreds of residents of the western town of Duekoue.

Human Rights Watch says Ivorian courts have so far charged 130 people from Mr. Gbagbo's camp with crimes related to the conflict. However, HRW Ivory Coast researcher Matt Wells said no one from Mr. Ouattara’s side has been charged.

“In terms of this core promise of Ouattara’s government, that of impartial justice for the grave post-election crimes that were committed, it essentially remains entirely unfulfilled," he said.

He says Ivorians have resorted to violence to solve disputes because of the absence of the rule of law and  "victor's justice" would be particularly dangerous for Ivory Coast as tensions continue to fester.

At a meeting commemorating the anniversary of the former president,  some 50 Gbagbo supporters gathered at the party's old campaign headquarters which is still missing its windows after being pillaged last year.   Mamadou Denbele, who works for an international insurance company,  was in exile in Ghana for four months following Mr. Gbagbo's arrest.  He says he does not advise his friends who are still there to return.

He said he has warned his friends if they come back they will find their homes pillaged and bank accounts frozen.  he says the only reason he could come back was because he has friends there who are able to send money.  

But in some areas of Abidjan,  Gbagbo supporters say tensions have died down. Outside of a storefront in the mixed neighborhood of Adjamé, Muslims and Christians of different ethnic groups sell vegetables and sit chatting and laughing.

Rene Kouakou, 24, says he supported Gbagbo during the crisis. He says he was holed up in his house during the war and did not go into the streets. Kouakou, who is unemployed, points to his group of friends proudly showing off their diversity: Muslim, Christian, Guere, Dioula. He says in his part of the neighborhood the community held meetings where people from different sides came together to learn how to sympathize with each other.

In my area he says, there were meetings where people try to sympathize with people from all parties, so that the country can move forward.  He says they couldn't stay in the same situation.

Not everyone is ready to move on. Ethnic tensions persist in the west of the country, and in the Ivorian press, heated rhetoric on both sides reflects persistent anger and frustration.

Back in the Abobo neighborhood, the market women have other concerns too.  Like other women here, Bouhoussou Ouffouet lost her merchandise when she fled her home last March. She returned after Gbagbo's arrest. She says life is hard due to thievery, frequent power outages and unaffordable food prices.

There is no light in the neighborhood she says. Otherwise, things are getting better. After the war came, Ouattara is fixing the country she says.  But the times are hard, there is not enough food.  At the market it's expensive.

The government has promised to address rising food prices, but the cost of living remains a key concern for many Ivorians.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: walla richard
April 13, 2012 8:36 AM
Since Quattera has decided to seize POWER from P. Gbagbo; through force; he should make sure that he gouverned the nation perfectly well inorder to avoid any further conflict.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs