The recent unrest in the Ivorian military reveals the fragility of the state and the grand malaise in the military of the Ivory Cost. The president, Alassane Ouattara, is under increasing pressure from his supporters to reward them for their role in previous conflicts. And his regime’s unmet promises as a whole are provoking discontent in Ivorian society.
During the post-electoral crisis which led to the outbreak of the Second Ivorian Civil War, in 2011, thousands of young people, from both the Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries including Burkina Faso and Mali, joined his side in the violent conflict between his supporters and those of the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo.
Three years after his victory over Gbagbo camp, the more than 8,000 ex-combatants loyal to Ouattara have not received the financial reward they were promised for their support.
The president’s promise of justice for all after the conflict is starting to look like it will not be fulfilled. The national legal system and the International Criminal Court have been slow to prosecute anyone in connection with the violence, because of the complicated politics involved in doing so, and many reports have alleged responsibility for atrocities on both sides.
Alassane’s own investigative commission reported in August 2012 that 727 civilian deaths are attributable to Republican forces, with 1,452 to Gbagbo’s troops. And many former Gbagbo supporters have been imprisoned. Yet no one on Alassane’s side has been arrested, despite their involvement in the Ivorian tragedy, under the leadership of Guillaume Soro, the leader of the Ivorian New Forces who led the rebellion against Gbagbo in 2002 which turned into the First Ivorian Civil War.
This partial justice in Côte d’Ivoire has created an atmosphere of anger and revenge, where tension remains high. A sense of impunity for those implicated in political violence is becoming widespread among the Ivorian people. The post electoral violence in 2000, the 2002-2003 coup d’etat, and the deadly attack on the IDP camp in Duekoue are events for which justice has yet to be served, revealing the state of impunity which currently exists.
Alassane, with his silence vis-à-vis towards several clear instances of gross human rights violations, is walking down the same path as the man he replaced, former President Laurent Gbagbo.
Former Chief Investigator for the UN in Sierra Leone, Alan White, has said that “Everybody knows, not only in Ivory Coast but in the Manor River Union Region, that [parliament speaker] Guillaume Soro is certainly responsible directly; he aided and abetted the atrocities that were committed from 2002 up till last year.”
The need for inclusion
I would say that beyond the Manor River Union Region, the UN also knows that the Ivorian rebel movement committed extremely serious crimes from 2002 up to the 2010 post electoral period. And many political leaders, including Gbagbo supporters, are claimed to be suffering from torture in prison across the country.
And this is unlikely to change, while Ouattara-supporting fighters dominate the Ivorian administration. Many former rebel leaders have been rewarded with high level positions in the public administration.
Patrimonial governance has heightened under Mr Ouattara’s regime. Top posts are almost entirely held by his family and members of his ethnic clan. Such domination could destroy the country’s stability and social cohesion.
Meanwhile, Cote d’Ivoire’s strategic partners, principally France and the EU, remain silent on the situation.
It is time to speak up and say that the politics of partial justice will not consolidate peace and reconciliation in the country. There can be no reconciliation without justice. A winner’s peace, rewarding violence with jobs and not investigating human rights will only deepen the divides in Ivorian society. The peacebuilding project in the Cote d'Ivoire is a long way from finished. All parties to need be taken into account - and all parties need to look at their past - if it is going to be completed.