At a Glance: A History of Conflict in Côte d’Ivoire
Henri Bedie overthrown in military coup. Robert Guei takes power.
Fighting breaks out between supporters of Laurent Gbagbo (primarily from the south) and supporters of Alassane Ouattara (primarily from the north). Gbagbo becomes president.
Rebels take over the north after failed coup attempt. Conflict escalates.
Côte d’Ivoire holds first election in 10 years. Gbagbo and Ouattara lead first round of voting.
After November's run-off vote the president of the Independent Electoral Commission declares Ouattara the winner. The Constitutional Council declares Gbagbo the winner, leading to standoff.
UN Security Council votes unanimously to deploy 2,000 peacekeepers and the international community imposes sanctions to unseat Gbagbo.
Civilian casualties mount at the hands of the Armed Forces (controlled by Gbagbo) and rebels loyal to Ouattara.
Call Off Côte d’Ivoire's Bloody War Games
While Côte d’Ivoire violently splits into camps supporting Laurent Gbagbo or Alassane Ouattara—the two men vying for power after November’s disputed election—Ivorian Voices of Our Future correspondent Harmony B. suggests a third option: none of the above.
That morning brought a smile to my face: It was the opening of the presidential campaign in Côte d’Ivoire. This year’s election had filled my country with the hope of reunification after eight years of division between the northern and southern parts of the country. There was even a female candidate on the ballot, Jacqueline Oble. She caught my attention, bringing forth an interest in politics that I had not known existed in me.
Before this election, I would skim the headlines for the top news stories. But this year was different. We thought this election would bring things back to normal after a failed coup attempt led to violence that divided our country in 2002: People would be able to go back to their villages, repossess their houses, return to work. We believed the elections would bring us a regular government and a working economy.
The hope I felt for this female candidate running for president in October was soon replaced by disillusionment. The entire election was fraught with tension from the outset. We waited, hoping that calm would at last settle over my country as the election results were announced.
The time was already 11:42pm on December 1, 2010—the day the results were supposed to be in—and there had still been no announcement. When Youssouf Bakayoko, the president of the Independent Electoral Commission, went on the air without announcing the winner, I knew in my heart that a definitive answer would not emerge in the next eight minutes. I felt fear taking over my body, but I told myself to be positive. My friends and I sat in front of the TV until 2am but still no results were given. Rumors began to emerge that the results were tainted by fraud, that the Independent Electoral Commission could not explain certain results, and that challenger Ouattara was the winner. I switched my phone off to avoid a heart attack.
The whole country was quiet for three days. Abidjan was so empty that even in Adjame-Liberté—where the hum of traffic is usually constant—there were barely five cars. The atmosphere was scary.
Later the rumors were confirmed: The president of the Independent Electoral Commission had declared Ouattara the winner, but the Constitutional Council invalidated results from contested regions—leading both Ouattara and incumbent Gbagbo to claim the presidency. Today, as the UN has reported, after two rounds of the election, “Gbagbo still controls government buildings, state television and the security forces, while Ouattara remains trapped in the lagoon-side of the Golf Hotel, under guard of UN troops. He has set up a rival government with international (UN, France, African Union and ECOWAS) backing, but no power.”
In an attempt to weaken Gbagbo’s control, the United States and many Western countries imposed sanctions in January that remain in place today. Trash is burning in front of stores. Some schools and businesses have closed. Men are arming themselves. Women and children are fearful to leave their homes. My younger brother who lives alone in Abidjan now sleeps at a friend's house for safety. The UN has reported that nearly 450,000 people have been displaced from their homes. The violence is escalating. Hundreds have been murdered since the election results were announced, and women and men throughout the country are crying out. Many anticipate the darkness of civil war taking hold of our country once again.
The rebels are in place to dislodge Gbagbo. The UN has sent troops and the Economic Community of West African States is also rumored to be sending forces. I watch soldiers descend on my country, and I worry that we are forgetting our history. When the Armed Forces and their former leader, General Robert Guei, took power in 1999 we all congratulated them, legitimating the use of violence to claim power in our country. People died, but we thought it was the best option. Again, in 2000, my countrymen and women lost their lives in the name of democracy.
I have always known Côte d’Ivoire as a country of peace, and I am very disturbed by all this killing and bloodshed. I could not understand the spell we were living under in 2002 when the failed coup led us into years of conflict. For the past eight years we have lost ourselves in a world of fighting, killing, rapes, mass graves, and child soldiers. Today we cannot trace the real figures of human lives lost.
I am left trying to sort out why this is happening all over again. . . .