News / Africa

New Ivory Coast Government Calls for Truth and Reconciliation Commission

President Alassane Ouattara addresses the nation from the Golf Hotel after former president of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo was arrested by forces that stormed the bunker where he hung on to power in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 11 2011
President Alassane Ouattara addresses the nation from the Golf Hotel after former president of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo was arrested by forces that stormed the bunker where he hung on to power in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 11 2011

Ivory Coast's new government is calling for a truth and reconciliation commission to help address human rights abuses, including those committed during the political crisis that followed November's presidential election. Many challenges face a commission meant to reunite a country divided by more than 10 years of civil war, instability, and political violence.

President Alassane Ouattara says a truth and reconciliation commission will help Ivorians move beyond the suspicion that has dominated much of the last decade.

President Ouattara says reconciliation cannot be achieved without justice, and reconciliation cannot be effective without forgiveness. So following last week's arrest of former president Laurent Gbagbo, Mr. Ouattara says he telephoned South African President Jacob Zuma to say that he will need South Africa's experience and support to have an effective truth and reconciliation commission.

What to do about Laurent Gbagbo?

Deciding what to do about Mr. Gbagbo is the highest-profile challenge. He refused to recognize that he lost last year's election to Mr. Ouattara and held on to power for months with the help of the army.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was the African Union mediator between the rival presidents. He says Mr. Gbagbo should be pardoned.

"The civil war will not end that is why we are talking about reconciliation," he said. "If we want to reconcile, give Gbagbo a safe exit. Then get some of his people because he represents a number of people and also a big region in the country. Get those people in the government so you play a game of inclusivity."

Human Rights Watch says Mr. Gbagbo should not be allowed exile in a country that would shield him from prosecution as that would only heighten tension inside Ivory Coast.

"President Ouattara is inheriting a country that is deeply divided along ethnic, religious and regional lines," said Corinne Dufka, who heads the West Africa office for Human Rights Watch. She says the neutrality of the commission will depend on it having a broad political balance.

"The type of mandate and the composition of the commission and all of those issues will then set the state for how legitimate, how meaningful this commission will be to address these very deep divisions and make recommendations against their occurrence," she said.

President Ouattara says the commission will help Ivorians come to terms with a sometimes painful past.

The president says Ivorians must know what happened, who did what, and for what reasons as far back as 1999. He says people must admit their crimes and beg the nation for forgiveness. President Ouattara says impunity will come to an end in Ivory Coast because everyone is equal before the law, whatever their political affiliation, origin, religion, or ethnicity.

That promised autonomy is especially important as Dufka says some of Mr. Ouattara's own fighters are guilty of human rights abuses.

"For the first several months following the elections, the most serious violations were committed by Gbagbo's troops against real and perceived supporters of Ouattara," said Dufka. "Once the armed conflict had reignited, then forces loyal to Ouattara committed extremely serious violations. And not just in the west of the country but also in Abidjan."

Commission cannot replace justice

While the truth and reconciliation commission will play an important role in the new Ivory Coast, Dufka says it can not replace justice.

"It should not be seen as a substitute for some sort of accountability process," she said. "Because this now tragically-established cycle of violence and impunity that has existed in Cote d'Ivoire for over 10 years will not be stopped until those responsible for the very serious violations over the last decade have been held accountable."

The end of the political crisis between Mr. Ouattara and Mr. Gbagbo is an opportunity but by no means a guarantee for a more peaceful future.

Father Daniel Meledje is a priest in Abidjan's Saint Etienne parish.  During these difficult times, Meledje says, people are seeking a peace that comes from God because that peace touches everyone's heart. Ivorians are seeking peace so they can live in happiness. Without peace, he says, people cannot reconcile their differences.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs