COTE D’IVOIRE : PEACE AND STABILITY, A STABILITY FOR ALL (Marie Nguettia)
Speaking of cycles of violence in the world in general, we note with interest the approach of Mr. Kofi Annan, developed in the 1998 Report on “The Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa”. The then Secretary General of the United Nations (1997-2006) distinguishes three categories of factors: historical, external and internal. Perhaps these categories are not totally homogeneous and need to be refined and clarified, but they provide interesting clues to an empirical-type etiological approach, taken up by the International Peace Academy and CODESRIA.
With regard to these categories, there is no doubt that Africa, like other parts of the world, is not free from endogenous factors of conflict, of a multifaceted nature, old or recent: ancestral rivalries, traditional oppositions, struggles for supremacy, various issues of regional or local history, poverty, social and political exclusion, poor governance etc. All these factors tend to become more accentuated and explosive in the context of the postcolonial state.
Today, among the types of recurring conflicts are: electoral contests, popular uprisings, land disputes, intercommunal conflicts, armed rebellions, political coups, etc. In the case of Côte d’Ivoire, we can cite the coup d’état of December 24, 1999 and the failed coup of September 19, 2002, which plunged the country into a cycle of violence until the post-election crisis of 2010.
Thus, for more than two decades, Côte d’Ivoire has been going through successive socio-political crises. These crises born of political disagreements over the 2000 constitution and the lack of a democratic culture have led the country into turmoil, culminating in an armed rebellion in 2002 that split the country in two. The elections that were supposed to put an end to the rebellion and consecrate the reunification of the country unfortunately ended in a post-electoral crisis that officially claimed more than 3,000 lives. The recent local elections of October 2018 also led to violent clashes. As a result, more than five deaths were recorded, serious violations and infringements of human rights and considerable material damage. In Côte d’Ivoire, elections, whether regional, municipal, legislative, and especially presidential, are usually a source of tension and exacerbation of violence.
Four months before the October 2020 elections, the socio-political climate is deleterious and in constant turmoil. Indeed, the former coalition of political parties in power, united within the RHDP (Rassemblement de Houphouétistes pour la Démocratie et le Paix) seems to be very divided. There are also divisions within several opposition parties, including the FPI (Ivorian Popular Front). Despite this disintegration of the left, there is relative unity when it comes to questioning the composition and functioning of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), in the image of their common approach, still pending, before the ACHPR (African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights). The opposition believes that the IEC does not reach a consensus because it would be tailor-made for the preservation of the interests of the ruling party alone. Other stumbling blocks include amendments to the constitution and the electoral code; the creation of new national identity cards; and the establishment of voter lists. The opposition parties believe that the RHDP proceeded unilaterally on these various points. They see this as a clear desire to confiscate political power and a strategy to circumvent transparent, free, and peaceful elections. They maintain that the ruling party is in a process of excluding from the electoral game any opponent who could win the majority of Ivorians’ votes. According to them, this is what really motivates the prosecution of Guillaume Kigbafori Soro on charges of receiving stolen goods, misappropriation of public funds, money laundering, and undermining the authority and integrity of the national territory (see the case of “the Public Prosecutor and the State of Côte d’Ivoire against Guillaume Kigbafori Soro”).
It is in this atmosphere characterized by extreme tensions and radical positions that the President of the Republic announced, on Thursday, March 5, 2020 before the Congress meeting in Yamoussoukro, the political capital of Côte d’Ivoire, his intention not to seek a new term. It is time to make way for a new generation, he said. This announcement described as historic by some, had the effect of relaxing a tense socio-political climate. President Ouattara seems not to be at his first attempt to relax. As a reminder, on August 6, 2018, on the eve of the commemoration of the National Day of Côte d’Ivoire, he issued an ordinance granting amnesty to eight hundred people, prosecuted or convicted for offences related to the post-election crisis of 2010, or offences against state security committed after May 21, 2011. Among those amnestied is former First Lady Simone Ehivet Gbagbo.
In addition to the President of the Republic, several other initiatives by the Ministry of Solidarity, Social Cohesion and the Fight against Poverty, the National Council for Human Rights and Civil Society Organizations have contributed and continue to promote the return and consolidation of all socio-political balances, a guarantee of lasting peace.
Peace: An Ideal Difficult to Achieve But Possible
Peace is a state of concord, agreement between citizens, between social groups, etc. It translates into an absence of violent social struggles, social unrest, etc. A value and right universally recognized and enshrined in the preambles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Ivorian Constitution of 2020, its full realization is an ideal that is almost difficult to achieve but possible, with the help of all, starting with the family circle, the place par excellence for the expression of love and peace. This reflection will also allow one of the most famous Nobel Peace Prize winners, Mother Teresa of Calcutta , to say that to promote peace, one must “go home and love one’s family”. But is this “family love” enough to induce attitudes and behaviors of peace whatever the social, economic, political and cultural challenges facing the world? We believe that love in the broader sense, accompanied by empathy in the sense of respect for humanity and the other, would be an important step towards lasting peace in our societies.
This is the place to note here the approach of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLS), which refers more to Johan Galtung’s concept of “positive peace” based on the search for social justice, a society in which exploitation is to be fought and where no manifest violence of structural or individual origin denies people the exercise of their fundamental rights. In other words, social struggles against all exploitation are necessary activities to achieve democracy and lasting peace.
Thus, the RLS, which promotes democracy, the primacy of popular expression, solidarity and social cohesion in peace, encourages Ivorians individually and collectively to work to develop a culture of peace to build their country. For without peace no social, economic, political, cultural development is possible. Rather, mistrust, factions, dissensions, divisions, intolerance and systematic rejection of the other reign. The absence of peace creates situations of precariousness and derails any development paradigm in the sense of stagnation, a retreat from the previous status quo. The sons and daughters of Côte d’Ivoire must therefore work to build a true and lasting peace, to serenely plan policies for the satisfaction of the general interest. It seems easier to make war than peace. For this reason alone, Ivorians need more than ever to work, with abnegation and resilience, to build and achieve a solid and lasting peace and thus avoid that the national reconciliation process, which is moving in fits and starts, continues to skate and flutter. The advent of true peace will also enable Côte d’Ivoire to fight more vigorously against the coronavirus pandemic with all the strength and intelligence of its sons and daughters without exclusion.
The coronavirus pandemic is almost a collective test for the Ivorian nation, which must work in unison to fight against a disease that makes no distinction of geographical area, skin color, language, ethnicity, religion, partisan positioning, etc.. Ivorians, you are called upon to put aside your internal quarrels in order to focus on the essential, namely the achievement of peace, a prerequisite for meeting all sorts of present and future challenges including coronavirus disease and the elections of October 2020, and to succeed in making your country the haven of peace it deserves to be.
This stability must be achieved at all costs, especially in the context of coronavirus disease. For this to happen, political differences must be manageable within a democratic framework, through hard work for peace, truth and freedom. For as Michael Lapsley says, “the truth is that pain brings human beings together. For this author, peoples facing challenges must take up the challenge of rebuilding themselves; using their very sad history to transform their pain into a life force to build a better world where peace and freedom reign.
2]- Larousse dictionary, https://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/paix/57298/locution?q=LA+PAIX#182868
3]- Constitutional Law No. 202-348 of 19 March 2020 amending Law No. 2016 of 08 November 2016 on the Constitution of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire.
4]- Mother TERESA of Calcutta, India, of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity and Nobel Peace Prize, October 17, 1979
6]- Michael Lapsley, Guérir du passé, du combat pour la liberté au travail pour le paix, les éditions de l’atelier/éditions ouvrières, Ivry-sur-Seine, 2015, page 14. This is an autobiographical work in which the author summarizes his life and his commitment alongside the ANC in the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. This struggle, which cost him the loss of both hands and one eye, turned him into an advocate for the struggle for freedom. He uses his personal history to help people or peoples emerging from conflict to be able to stand up and rebuild.