As the international community focuses its attention on the elections in Mali, neighboring Côte d'Ivoire is increasingly perceived as being on track in its transition toward democracy and development. However, although significant progress has been made since the end of the post-electoral crisis in April 2011, which caused more than 3,000 deaths, Côte d'Ivoire remains deeply fragmented and fragile.
How genuine is the commitment to reconciliation?
A true commitment to reconciliation among the different communal, political, and ethnic groups is still missing, especially in the west, where ousted President Laurent Gbagbo continues to enjoy immense popularity. Informal discussions with village chiefs and local citizens, primarily from the Guere ethnic group, reveal deep distrust of the current administration, which is headed by Alassane Ouattara. These feelings of resentment and alienation are fueled in particular by a perception of victor's justice: Whereas supporters of the former regime languish in prison, very few high-ranking members of the new leader's Forces Républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire have been tried.
What is the security situation like on the ground?
Compounding this frustration is the fact that insecurity is still rampant, particularly in the west and north, and incidents are rarely investigated by the authorities. Thousands of internally displaced people are unable to return to their homes out of fear of being attacked by bandits, traditional dozo hunters, Liberian mercenaries, or Burkinabé militias operating along the border. Moreover, the government has not succeeded in effectively disarming and reintegrating ex-combatants from both sides, which has resulted in a persistent flow of small weapons and light arms throughout the country. In addition, the security forces themselves often act with impunity, exacting bribes from drivers and intimidating those who refuse to pay. Combined, these elements have all contributed to the ongoing climate of instability and division along political and ethnic lines.
How has the country's economic progress affected the population?
Although Côte d'Ivoire has experienced significant growth since the end of the crisis, much of the progress is concentrated in the economic capital of Abidjan, whose port, airport, and roads are all relatively well-maintained. Much of the rest of the country, with the exception of a handful of towns, remains impoverished and has not benefited from the government's 2012-2015 national development plan. Major urban centers in the west, such as Duékoué, have still not recovered from the crisis: basic amenities such as electricity and running water are scarce; and many people, including community leaders and traditional chiefs, find themselves sleeping on the ground and unable to eat more than once a day.
What's in store for Côte d'Ivoire?
With presidential elections slated for 2015, there is the risk that these simmering tensions and feelings of abandonment, if not thoroughly and quickly addressed, could once again spiral out of control and threaten the country's recovery. While the advances made under President Ouattara should not be dismissed, the path to lasting reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire is still long.
This post is part of a collaboration between The Atlantic and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
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