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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs