News / Africa

Ivory Coast Struggles With Reconciliation Deepen

A soldier from the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) stands guard before the arrival of Ivory Coast's President in Duekoue on April 23, 2012. President Alassane Ouattara vowed that all those behind killings during Ivory Coast's post-poll c
A soldier from the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) stands guard before the arrival of Ivory Coast's President in Duekoue on April 23, 2012. President Alassane Ouattara vowed that all those behind killings during Ivory Coast's post-poll c
Nico Colombant
Human rights researchers and exiled opposition activists say the post-civil war government in Ivory Coast is doing too little for reconciliation. They also say a victor’s type of justice and unruly security forces are dangerously deepening an existing political divide.  

More than a hundred Ivorians previously close to former President Laurent Gbagbo, including family members, are being detained in Ivory Coast.  

They face charges ranging from economic crimes to orchestrating violence in the aftermath of the 2010 presidential election. And their numbers keep growing.

On state television earlier this week, Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko read documents he said had been seized from Captain Seka Yapo Anselme while he was allegedly going from Ghana to Guinea to recruit mercenaries.

The former Gbagbo security aide was shown shirtless with a passport in each hand.

Bakayoko said authorities had foiled a plot to overthrow the government and promised more arrests.  

This closely followed the arrest of a key former ally of Mr. Gbagbo who had been living in Togo, Moise Lida Kouassi, as well as a deadly attack by an armed band on civilians and United Nations peacekeepers near the Liberian border.

Ivorian authorities are seeking cooperation from several West African countries, including Liberia, where wanted former allies of Mr. Gbagbo are believed to be hiding.

Mr. Gbagbo, himself, was detained for eight months in northern Ivory Coast, before being handed over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague last year. The former leader now awaits an August hearing on whether he should face charges of crimes against humanity.

In this context, a former spokesman for Mr. Gbagbo, Alain Toussaint, said he would be crazy to return to his country. Speaking to VOA on a recent visit to Washington, he said he does not have a suicidal soul.

“I want to be able to have freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of thought without the risk of taking a bullet.”

Mr. Gbagbo’s former party, the Ivorian Popular Front, has boycotted post-crisis legislative elections as well as reconciliation meetings.

Party leaders who have not been detained say they are being harassed and brutalized with impunity by security forces.  They deny accusations Gbagbo allies were behind the June 8 attack near the town of Tai, blaming it instead on alleged mercenaries from Burkina Faso.

President Alassane Ouattara, who came to power after being declared the winner in the disputed election, has made repeated promises he would seek both reconciliation and justice.  

But a pro-Ouattara soldier has yet to be arrested and planned reconciliation forums have been slow to get started.

Pro-Ouattara rebels committed atrocities during their control of northern Ivory Coast during the Gbagbo presidency, but their members have also yet to face charges.

Matt Wells, from U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, is worried about the imbalance.

“There is the sense that the justice system is not credible and really the loss of rule of law in Cote d’Ivoire has underpinned the last decade of violence and so restoring the rule of law is crucial and will only happen when the Ouattara government shows that its own side is not above the law,” he said.

One specific area of concern has been the ethnically-tense western town of Duekoue, where abuses by security forces against civilians continue. In the worst instance, in March 2011, hundreds of civilians were killed when pro-Ouattara northern-based forces made a decisive assault on Mr. Gbagbo’s remaining positions.

London-based Amnesty International has called for a review of national Ivorian criminal law to ensure that it can prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes effectively before national courts. Its research indicates the Duekoue killings were part of widespread attacks on civilians by both pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces.

Rather than more arrests, Toussaint says he would like to see sincere dialogue between the government and Gbagbo supporters, as well as the immediate release of those who did nothing wrong.

“Peace in Ivory Coast is too fragile as it is. Ivorians deserve to live without the fear of a new coup or new hostilities," he said. "It is in no one’s interest to prevent lasting peace in our country.”

Ivorian government officials say they are ready to work with political opponents who will accept Mr. Ouattara as their president, but not with those who are still resistant to the current situation.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs