Forced to fight five months for the power his November election should have given him peacefully, Côte d’Ivoire’s new president now faces multiple urgent challenges to keep the country from fragmenting.
A Critical Period for Ensuring Stability in Côte d’Ivoire , the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the measures President Alassane Ouattara must take on security, justice, political dialogue and the economy and explains that he must above all aim for national reconciliation in all key decisions. The internationally community – importantly the UN, which maintains a crucial peacekeeping force (UNOCI) in the country —needs to work with him to fill security vacuums, facilitate an inclusive political dialogue, prepare legislative elections by year’s end and restart economic life.
“The new government must not underestimate the threats that still endanger peace”, says Gilles Yabi, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “It must avoid becoming drunk with power in the manner that has led its predecessors to make so many disastrous decisions during the last two decades”.
Ouattara won November’s election, but his opponent, the then President Laurent Gbagbo, who received 46 per cent of the vote, waged a violent campaign to hold on to power. The military fractured, and thousands of civilians were killed.
Security is the first challenge for the new government. The Forces Nouvelles, the former insurgency that in large part enabled Ouattara to oust Gbagbo, must be disbanded, and its economic control mechanism ended. UN troops should help fill the vacancy it leaves and design new ways to collect arms scattered around the country. A vetting mechanism is needed to identify and keep out of the new army that is being formed those from the former forces as well as ex-rebels who committed serious violence.
It is essential that the reconciliation process begin immediately. The Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission must quickly show itself truly independent and credible. The justice system needs to investigate crimes by both sides, and the president should ask the Interational Criminal Court to look into the most serious offences committed since 2002, not only those that followed last year’s election. The new government should open political space for the opposition, including by engaging former members of Gbagbo’s party in dialogue, so that there can be broad participation in the legislative elections.
“The president needs to make courageous decisions about security, justice and economic revival and include a sense of reconciliation in each decision,” says Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “His coming to power must not overshadow the fact that Côte d’Ivoire remains fragile and unstable”.