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

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Leaderless, Rudderless, Britain Drifts

    Experts predicted chaos would follow, if Britain decided to vote for Brexit, and chaos has

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora