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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs