CÔTE D´IVOIRE : A “Third Way” to Solve the Crisis

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Over two months have passed since the Ivory Coast presidential elections. The looser refuses to hand over power and the widely recognized winner is basically kept prisoner in a hotel complex. Were it not for the presence of United Nations’ peacekeeping troops, if still alive, the latter would most likely be totally out of action by now and civil war in this country, already divided for nine years, would have probably broken out. Meanwhile the agony of the people of Côte d´Ivoire continues, as the country’s decline accelerates.

The last two months have seen a feverish activity by international actors to try to convince the incumbent to respect the outcome of the vote, to hand over power and leave. Were it not so tragic, the grotesque situation would be laughable. But the effects of the hate-sowing and disinformation campaign of the incumbent to justify his position are having an extremely disruptive effect, both inside and outside the country. It is striking how a gullible or self-interested public in the country, in Africa, and further afield, laps up the propaganda and distortions served upon them. Goebbels could have done no better!

The Center for War/Peace Studies ( www.cwps.org ) had anticipated since 2004 that elections in Ivory Coast would not bring peace under present conditions. The Peace Plan, articulated by Ivorian CW/PS Board member Modeste Seri at that time, and promoted by our NGO ever since, called for a thorough transition period prior to elections being held. This transition, led by an Ivorian non-political, technocratic team, strongly supported by the international community, would promote national reconciliation, reconstruct the ravaged institutions of the state, and organize elections once progress on these urgent priorities had been made. Unfortunately our proposal was ignored, as were similar views held by others.

After the debacle of the November 2010 Ivorian presidential elections (said to have been the most expensive per capita ever held anywhere!), the validity of the CW/PS-promoted plan has become strikingly obvious.

In our early December 2010 statement distributed to over 90 Foreign Ministries or diplomatic Missions accredited to the UN, we argued that “neither of the two candidates that have participated in the recent election, each of which claims victory and pretends to be the country´s President will be able to govern” since one has proven his disastrous track record over the last 10 years, and has also failed to end discrimination against a large segment of the population. His diabolisation of his opponent, his exploitation of ethnic feelings and his xenophobic rhetoric will make the almost half of the population that supported him reject a government led by his opponent.

Nonetheless, the international community, in the eyes of some, claiming to be upholding the basic democratic principle of respect for the outcome of elections and aiming to prevent a bad precedent from being once again set, or, in the eyes of others, defending economic and strategic interests, has insisted in pushing for a change of Ivorian President. The incumbent has retaliated to the pressure to force him to leave in a grotesque, calamitous, manner.

This is the drama that has been ongoing for the last two months, and in our view, without any prospect of resolution. The stalemate dragging on will only lead to the further deterioration of the country, to even greater suffering for its people, to continuing instability in West Africa and further afield.

But a ray of hope is finally appearing. We are encouraged to learn that minds are opening to consider a new alternative; an alternative along the lines that we have been advocating, namely a transition government, led by neither of the two current rivals. A transition led by a respectable Ivorian not associated with any of the present political parties, a transition whose goal is to reunite the country’s administration, reconstruct damaged institutions, and hold credible elections once this has been achieved[1].

We would like to add to this, that the opportunity could also be used by Ivoirians to design a new system for the election of their rulers, a system more in tune with the realities of the country. The current system, a carbon copy of the one of the former colonial master, France, has clearly failed, as is being so tragically shown. New, courageous and creative change is urgently needed, to bring stable peace and make Côte d´Ivoire a positive example for Africa.

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