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The challenges and agenda for the Ivorian government

Rafael Grasa
President of the International Catalan Institute for Peace
Rafael Grasa

Rafael Grasa

A year ago, Côte d'Ivoire held its second round of presidential elections. The dispute over which candidate won led to a military confrontation in which armed factions supported two self-proclaimed presidents. The end of the armed phase of the crisis came with the arrest of former President Laurent Gbagbo and the inauguration of Alassane Ouattara, a little less than 7 months ago. Although it is too soon to undertake an in-depth analysis of the event, we will review the challenges and the agenda of Ouattara's government, based on his statements (such as his speech to UNESCO on 26 October) and the legacy of the structural factors of the Ivorian crisis and conflict.

Outtara's new executive faced an extremely complex situation, which means that our initial assessment is positive: although there have been no significant positive results, there have been no negative ones so far, at least in terms of important aspects of governability.

There were three initial challenges to consolidate the situation in the short term and to begin peaceful construction of the country. The first was to form a real government of unity, with the added difficulty of the enormous polarization of attitudes and positions during the situation of dual power. Even those surrounding the President held different positions and interests: Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, the Forces Nouvelles (which emrged from the merger of three former armed groups in 2002) and the Partie Démocratique pour la Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI, led by former President Henri Konan Bédié, who played a decisive role in the election result by supporting Ouattara in the second round).

Second, there was the issue of security. Despite the international arms embargo, the end of the crisis led to the detection of many armed groups and a proliferation of weapons. Furthermore, as a result of the failure to comply with the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement as regards demobilization and reintegration, which was extremely limited before the elections, the restructuring and reestablishment of the armed forces has become essential. The UN Security Council saw it in those terms, and included external support to reformulate the national defense and security policy in Resolution 2000, by means of a highly comprehensive strategy for the reform of the security sector.

Third, there is the application of mechanisms of justice in transition periods, i.e. dealing with peace, but also with reconciliation, justice and truth. In this respect, Ouattara announced the creation of a Commission for Truth, Dialogue and Reconciliation. Many Ivorians, regardless of their political sympathies, want a peaceful climate and to ascertain the truth, but the difficulties involved in dealing with these issues require appropriate responses to some questions: the Commission's composition, its mandate and its operational capacity on the ground, as well as its collaboration with the International Criminal Court, which is a very sensitive issue. There are also two additional factors to be taken into account: a) the decisions on how to combine truth, justice, reparation and forgiveness, which will define work and the mandate and work of the Commission and especially the application of its results; and b) the future of President Gbagbo and his associates, who are still awaiting trial. So far, one of the problems has been solved with the Ivorian government's decision to hand over Gbagbo to the Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

However, in addition to dealing with the most immediate challenges in order to begin a process of transformation from a fragile state of negative peace (the absence of direct violence) towards the early stages of positive peace (peace building), reforms of structural elements are necessary. In specific terms, we will refer to four aspects which are often forgotten.

First, the replacement of the neocolonial development model that despite being initially successful produced a great deal of corruption. Second, the change and democratization of the highly presidential political system, lacking countervailing powers, with limited decentralisation or ability to resolve impose harmony on disputes. Third, the gradual deterioration in the educational system, and particularly of higher education. Fourth, prioritization of the struggle for transparency and the fight against corruption, which also involves remedying some recent reforms that have had undesirable effects, creating new and worse forms of opacity, such as the replacement of the traditional systems in the cocoa market, encouraged by the World Bank.

The list of items on the agenda and challenges does not end there. It is also necessary to address the most well-known structural challenges - those which accelerated the decline in the situation and the conflicts of 2002: national identity, agrarian reform and the legislation which follows from it, the deployment of the state in the north of the country, the reform of the security sector and modernization of the state apparatus, and finally, the development and implementation of public policies for youth as regards education and employment. These are all enormous and very important challenges, in which the construction of peace and development are inextricably linked.

Finally, a long-term task warrants special mention: the gradual construction of a shared and agreed narrative concerning the past, present and future of the country, the result of the analysis of the underlying causes of the conflict and the outlook for peace in the medium term. Placing the issue on the government's agenda (Côte d'Ivoire Horizon 2020, in the words of President Ouattara) is not enough. It will be necessary to work over at least the next three decades and involve all parties, civil society, business and market forces and of course the political forces.

Doing so is a necessary but not sufficient condition to make the final verse of Tikeh Jah Fakoly's famous song a reality: "Ma Côte d'Ivoire je ne veux plus te voir en larmes. Ma Côte d'Ivoire, je ne veux plus te voir prendre les armes".

A more comprehensive version of this article has been published as ICIP Policy Paper, N. 04 November 2011, entitled Building peace and development in Côte d'Ivoire: national decisions, shared duties and responsibilities, by Albert Caramés and Rafael Grasa.