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IN FRONT OF THE CRISIS LINE

That morning brought a smile to my face: It was the opening of the presidential campaign for Cote d’Ivoire. Politics is not something I had often enquired about. I would skim the headlines, only paying attention to the top news stories. But this year is different. Since the military coup of 24 December 1999 against former President Henri Konan Bédié, my country has been embroiled in several violent movements and a further coup attempt after the election in 2000, won by Laurent Gbagbo, who remains in power—albeit disputed—today. 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 Cote d’Ivoire. There was even a female candidate on the ballot; she caught my attention, bringing forth an interest in politics that I had not known existed in me. The excitement and hope I felt that day has since turned into sadness, fear and uncertainty as Gbagbo and presidential hopeful Alassane Ouattara are both claiming the presidency. I don’t know what to think, what to believe… I am so confused…

Part of me wishes I never laid my eyes upon Jacqueline Oble’s election poster. The hope I felt for this female candidate running for president in October was later replaced by disillusion and confusion in my heart. After an entire election campaign fraught with tension, I hoped that calm would settle over my country as the election results were announced. It did not happen that way, though, and my dreams have turned into the nightmare of my present reality.

On 1 December 2010 the president of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), Youssouf Bakayoko, said “it was not yet midnight,” and thus the results were not ready. I knew in my heart something was wrong as the time was already 11:42 p.m. The CEI should have reached consensus three days after the election, but I knew in the next eight minutes that a definitive answer would not emerge. I suddenly felt fear taking over my body, but I told myself: “believe and be positive.”
Rumours began to emerge that the results were tainted by fraud, that the CEI could not explain certain results and that challenger Ouattara was the winner. I switched my phone off to avoid having 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. Children did not go to school for about a month and only financial institutions and some governmental offices remained opened. The atmosphere was scary.

When in 1999 the Armed Forces and their former leader, General Robert Guei, took power, we all congratulated them, legitimating the use of violence to claim power in our country. We thought it was the best option even though people died. Later, in 2000, again my countrymen and women lost their lives in the name of democracy. I was very disturbed by all these killing and bloodshed. The Côte d’Ivoire I know was a country of peace. I could not understand the spell we were living under and how we allowed a failed coup attempt in 2002 to divide our country into two. For the past eight years we have lost ourselves in a world of fighting, killing, rapes and child soldiers. When people stayed in their house, it was because of fear—fear to die, to be injured, raped or beaten.

Today we cannot trace the real figures of human lives lost. Some speak of a mass grave of 300 people in Yopougon-Abidjan; another 2,000 died in the north and a portion of the centre of the country. Confusion and fear is what we are living. After two rounds of the election this year, the United Nations recently reported that, “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 U.N. troops. He has set up a rival government with international (UN, France, African Union and ECOWAS) backing, but no power.”

We are facing this situation because, in my view, CEI President Bakayoko was not brave enough to resist various political pressures. Proclaiming that Ouattara has won, without the consensus of the other members, was the greatest mistake he could make; he even plunged us more deeply into division by making his announcement from Ouattara’s headquarters.
I am so disappointed with my country that it is difficult for me to trust our leaders again. Today, Bakayoko is in France with his whole family while we are suffering. Blame is on the Constitutional Council for not validating Bakayoko’s announcement that Ouattara is the winner, but how could they give credit to these results when such a careless attitude was applied to these sensitive proceedings? If the Constitutional Council says Gbagbo has won, while Bakayoko says Ouattara is the winner, who is the new president, whose decision is irrevocable? Whose word is the last one? I have never seen any international law being applied in such a case—no country’s past can help us understand. How should I know what to believe, what is right, what is just?
Gbagbo is not my relative, neither is Ouattara and I am not ready to fight for them. But this cannot continue. I tried understanding where the problem was, but I could not. I discussed this division with my countrymen and women, who displayed a variety of emotions: discouraged, ashamed, angry, passionate, fed-up and tired. They only increased my fear of civil war.

Could Gbagbo think of our lives, and denounce his power for the sake of peace? According to some of my fellow Ivorians, Mrs. A.A, Mr. S.R, Mr A.N, Ouattara is the president. Gbagbo has only one thing to do: be a good democrat and give up his power. They see that he now understands that power is sweet, and wishes to overstay his welcome. But what good can Gbagbo do for us? In 10 years all he succeeded in accomplishing is poverty, bloodshed and embezzlement. While people are dying, he sticks to his presidential seat, fighting only for that. Mr. T.P. believes Gbagbo made sure his friends were installed at the Constitutional Council to sway the voting in his direction: “No where it is stated that the Constitutional Council has power to cancel part of the country’s ballots, so why should they do it? It is because their friend lost. But the world is watching.”

A moderate solution will be to ask for both Gbagbo and Ouattara to leave the presidency they are claiming. Miss K.L is so annoyed she wants a transitory government, military or civilian, without these two men. Some even want their death. K.C. believes that if they are not dead, Gbagbo and Ouattara will continue to stir up people to support them and will worry our peace and development. Today, I do not watch TV except cartoons. The local channel runs continuous stories on Gbagbo, with people explaining why they think he has won; the foreign news channels keep me worrying the whole night, with reports on rebel leader and Ouattara’s Prime Minister Soro Guillaume’s ultimatums. We are tired of all this. They should stop using us for their game, stop counting dead people as trophies. People are suffering in their hearts.

Could Ouattara accept that he trafficked ballots with the help of rebels in the north and leave his quest for the presidency? Mrs. N. is ready to die instead of having Ouattara run the country. For Mrs. B.C., she believes Ouattara brought rebels to kill us to gain power, so why not kill all the Ivorians so he can rule, she asks. For Mrs. D.R., the international community is backing Ouattara because their interests align with his winning. Furthermore, the president of the CEI, without informing others, went on television to cancel all ballots in France, because eight voting centres had problems, simply because Gbagbo won in France says M.A.P. Gbagbo wants the CEI to re-count the votes, but they and other international observers refuse. Today the rebels are eating with Ouattara, my neighbours say, threatening us and the whole world is applauding.

I blame the U.N., France, the international community, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and all the political party leaders in Cote d’Ivoire. I blame them because they knew that having this election with armed rebels occupying the north would end like this. But they encouraged us and even urged to do so. This election has done nothing but strengthen and solidify the divide between the north and the south. No one cares for our lives.
Today I cannot talk with people. I don’t know what is in a person’s heart. A friend of mine called me pro-Gbagbo; another one nearly fought with her husband because he was upset that Ouattara called for all Ivorians to stop paying taxes and boycott work. Brothers cannot discuss our fragmented politics; some people are not attending church, others are forbidden to enter mosques—all in the name of politics.

While I was hoping that the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union could help in pacifist ways after their delegation missions in late December and early January, they have failed me with their willingness to engage in violence to instate their “right” winner. The whole world has signed “our death sentence,” deciding to send 2,000 U.N. soldiers with 2,000 Economic Community of West African States soldiers added to the rebels already in place to dislodge Gbagbo. I am very scared. We know that we may die very soon. The rebels and other pro-Ouattara supporters are already clashing violently in Anyama and Abobo with the police. Trash is burning in front of stores, men are arming themselves, women and children are fearful to leave their homes. Many see the darkness of civil war taking hold of our country once again.

A solution is not easy to see. The talk from my neighbours and the international community only confuse my thoughts. So I resort to what I loved and relied on as a child to help me sort things out: mathematics.
All registered voters totalled 5,700,000. For the second round of voting we had 70 percent participation, making 3,990,000 voters total.
The results given by Bakayoko are:
Gbagbo Laurent: 2,107,055 votes, 45.32%
Alassane Ouattara: 2,483,164 votes, 54.68%

It is truly amazing that we gathered 100 percent of the ballots; none came back as invalid or blank!

Later it was reported that 4,590,219 ballets were collected, meaning 80.53 percent of the 5,700,000 registered voters. How did we move from 3,990,000 voters to 4,590,219 ballots?
Either the first percentage was wrong or one of the runners’ ballot boxes was deliberately increased. Whose results should we take the extra 600,219 ballots from?
Only Gbagbo complained about the results. But why did the Constitutional Council give their results so quickly? Why was there no explanation or thought to a new round of elections? It pains me to think that this situation is happening because of a simple mathematical miss-calculation.

I am just looking for explanations, trying to understand what went on… But who will explain this mess to me?

Not the international community as they decided from the beginning to bring soldiers. They think they are our saviours, but they do not feel the pain we feel. Not the African Union or the West African community, as they are more concerned about signatures on bank accounts and seat shares.

Other African countries have contested leaders—Burkina-Faso President Blaise Compaoré has been president since a military coup in 1987 and has always been re-elected at more than 80 percent; in Togo, after president Eyadema’s death, his son took control with disputed election results and continues to reign today; another election riddled with grievances saw Bongo’s son take the reins in Gabon after his death without interference from the outside; Senegal saw their president try to re-write the constitution so he could rule a third term, but instead decided to institute his son as president after the people protested his constitutional re-write. All of those countries struggled through less than perfect election results, but none received the level of interference from the international community that Côte d’Ivoire has endured.

Why this different treatment? Is Côte d’Ivoire so much worse? Why this sudden eagerness for violence? I now doubt the real motivation is democracy. Possibly my previous aversion to politics has hindered my understanding, but I cannot believe forced violence is the answer.

Rwanda, Angola, Congo and Liberia are all recovering from atrocities and painful destruction…through discussion. If that is the case, why don’t we sit down, negotiate and discuss, straight from the beginning and save our poor lives?
We are not asking for money, not for food to fall from the sky. We want our lives spared and to live to resolve our problems one by one. Already almost 250 of my countrymen are dead, but will we be able to count again when they start their assault?

Who is listening to us? Who thinks of the children being exposed to guns, drugs, violence, rape, division and threats to their education and rights? Who cares for all the women losing children and husbands, struggling to feed their families? I am no longer scared: I am just waiting for the angel of death to start her work, increasing the numbers of orphans, widows, victims and disabled, throwing us 10 years back on our path to development.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Amei's picture

Harmony... I am listenning ...

Dear Harmony,

I neither gave much thought to politics until ... Politics started to haunt me... and the game they play is so dirty I fear for the children and their future in Maldives.

Though my nation is tiny compared to yours...the suffering and the pain is the same.

Great work, enjoyed reading, I liked your style :-)

We need more people listening and taking thoughtful action.... All the best for us

With love
Amei

HARMONY's picture

You said it nicely Amei! Pain

You said it nicely Amei!
Pain is Pain no matter the causes, the proportions or the number of people feeling it.
Is it possible to banish politics from our lives? I wish we could. But we have to do with and fight for our lives!

Thanks sister.

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Sarvina's picture

Hi sister Harmony! I do love

Hi sister Harmony! I do love reading your assignment-great writing style.

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

HARMONY's picture

Thank you sweet sister!

Thank you sweet sister!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Hi Harmony!

Wow, you have crafted a heavily-loaded piece, Harmony. As I read through I recall my research on the Rwanda genocide, the crisis in Congo, the conflict in Tajikistan ... and it's all about the gruesome power-play and politics that is rooted to greed and greed alone! As I quote your "No one cares for our lives.", I am pained. Harmony, we can never blame our condition on others. More so, there is no one who should take care of us but each other. I cringed realizing you have somehow yielded to hopelessness and helplessness. But no, the fact that you chose to deal with it now gives me hope that you are, after all, doing something in your own way. Writing your truth and sharing this with the world is tough, but it opens up to many possibilities. To effect change, we have to talk so we can act... and you have done just that, sister.... My salute and all the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobradp

HARMONY's picture

Hello Emie, You are right

Hello Emie,

You are right when you say that I have yielded to hopelessness and helplessness.

When people decide to count on others for their salvation and all you see is death, hatred, killing, division, you ask yourself if they understand that only forgivness and love and unity can change their situation.

I have learned that if you don't love yourself no one will love you. So if you don't care for your country and its well-being don't expect others to do so.

I will do my part as you said. Talk, Write, Raise awareness as I can. I Beleive God will do the rest I can't.

Thanks for encouraging. Thanks for your care...

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Harmony!!!

Oh girl, you know you are not alone ... there are women around you who feel the same way and dream your dream. For now they may be silent, but when they hear your voice they will join you - and that would be a great journey to change! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

HARMONY's picture

Oh sister, I know a lot of

Oh sister, I know a lot of women think like me. Even young people. That is why I will always raise my voice.
Thanks

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

warona's picture

Thats great Harmony

You have done it once again my dear.But the Independent Electoral Commission,Do we write it as CEI or IEC pliz check with me.Any way this is a beautiful information.People who wants to be on the seat for the rest of their lives as if these countries are theirs will never last. It will be just rumours and noise for some time it will soon stabilize though sometimes precious lives are lost.I trust God will mend the situation in your country.

All the Best to you dear gal

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

HARMONY's picture

Hi Warona, thanks for your

Hi Warona, thanks for your comments.

CEI is Commission Electoral Independante in French. Since we all use English here I wrote the English meaning and kept the Initials as it is in French.

Thanks for believing peace for Cote d'Ivoire. I am sure God is faithful and will do something.

Thanks dear!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dearest Harmony, This is

Dearest Harmony,

This is beautifully written piece! Congratulations my dear. You are a great writer.

Cheers,
RA

HARMONY's picture

Thanks sister!

Thanks sister!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

SAsong's picture

Hi Harmony!

Bien ecrit ma cher! Indeed "whose decision is irrevocable?..." I felt you and heard your voice passionately present this complexing story. Thank you and you are always in my prayers. Standing with you believing for a speedy peaceful resolution in Cote D'Ivoire. Warm Hugz!!!

HARMONY's picture

Salut Song!

Merci cherie! I feel your warm Hugs. Thanks!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Amani K's picture

Hi Harmony!

You ARE ENOUGH and you have RECLAIMED your (EM)POWER- Keep Keeping on!! The struggle - It is never in vain!!!

In Peace Solidarity for OUR people!!

AmaniK

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

HARMONY's picture

Thanks Amani! The struggle is

Thanks Amani! The struggle is never in vain indeed!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

bellamkenya's picture

Prayers!!

Hi!

Reading your article brought back memories of the Post Election Violence that we experienced here in Kenya. We spent a whole month not knowing what was happening in our beloved country,many people were killed in name of the so called politicians and our lives our totally disrupted. We lived each day at a time not knowing what would happen next. The only thing that kept us going was Prayer. No one who is outside Cote d’Ivoire can fully understand what is really happening in your daily lives.It is unfortunate that our Prime Minister who was one of the people fighting for power here in 2007-2008 was chosen as a mediator through the AU. It would have been better if it was someone who is not a politician.

We are heading to elections in August next year, with the implementation of our new constitution, such problems for Kenya will be in the past and as a lesson those responsible for the violence are persecuted through International Criminal Court. Their cases will serve as an example to all African leaders. African politicians have the believe that they are immune, we hope ICC shows them that they are not. Has Cote d’Ivoire signed the Rome statute?

I encourage you to continue use this avenue to talk to the community. We may not have the solutions or the power to bring peace to your country but we are here to listen to you.

May God Bless and Bring Peace to Cote d’Ivoire.

HARMONY's picture

Dear Bellam, Through your

Dear Bellam,

Through your comments I can see that you know what I mean. It is sad to be oblige to go into politics, especially for young people whao need to go to school and learn and build their future. All these politicians are just fighting for interes and the mediators themselves have already choosen you they like and thus the mediation has failed.

We are left with one thing, PRAYER

Thanks for listening.

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Pushpa Achanta's picture

This story

is very powerful and personal, dear Harmony. Continue expressing yourself and be hopeful (although that's easier said than done!)

Warmly,
Pushpa

HARMONY's picture

Thanks Pushpa!

Thanks Pushpa!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Isisara Bey's picture

Your Module 2 Article

Dear Harmony,

The tension,and confusion in your country, and more than that, the love you have for your country is so evident in your article. I feel for you and the people of Cote d'Ivoire, but I also know that if their passion for freedom, justice and peace and their caring their country is as strong as yours, there is still hope.

HARMONY's picture

Hi Isisara, Thanks for

Hi Isisara, Thanks for reading this post. Hope is all that keep us living and moving foward in our struggle for a better life.

I love my country for sure and my people do love it too, I pray love will prevail for once!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Farona's picture

Harmony sis! What a

Harmony sis! What a passionate and well articulated piece. I can feel each word, your tension, your confusions and questions.

Coming from Middle East, I choose to be politically alert. I didn’t want to be brainwashed with perceived democracy or autocracy or somewhere in between. I have been closely following Cote’d voire story on int’l media and I was a bit surprised with all the int’l interference, is it due to intense media coverage or vice versa ?

I really do not agree with sending int’l troops to correct the situation. History demonstrates int’l troops did very little to maintain peace. I feel sad that people fear other’s political views – and this is not healthy.

How do you see things progress or regressing in the coming months?

I really thank you for shedding light on the story which I have been following only through int’l media

HARMONY's picture

Hello Sister, welcome back.

Hello Sister, welcome back. I will say the power of developed media coverage is what you felt or saw, how much does an old colony, still struugling to help its citizen to get basic needs have to afford quality media coverage? Even if we want we are too far from the level int'media have reached.

People have been dying since 2002 while intl'troops were around so I do not believe that sending more will save lives. But who are we? It has been decided and we will suffer it either we want it or not!

But I still hope for a miracle!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Powerful

Dear Harmony,

What a powerful story you have written here. It is so refreshing to see politics in Africa through African eyes. Too often, our views are created by those in media in the US and In Europe, who often have deep seated interests in maintaining the status quo. But you remind us what happens to the real people on the ground.

I hope for your sake and your friends' sakes, that there is a peaceful settlement of this issue and soon. Is there anything being done to come to an understanding, or are people only resorting to violence?

Keep up the good work.

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

HARMONY's picture

Thanks

Hi Rachael,

Thank you for reading my post. I was very disturb writing this post because I don't know how people could understand or interpret my words. Things were difficult on the ground and still are. Even interviewing people was frustrating because I was either called pro-Gbagbo or from the Golf(refering to were Allassane is). But I have the strong hope a miracle will occur and free us all from this trauma.

The military intervention is on hold now. The new strategy to get Gbagbo out of seat is financial axphyxiation.

It has started and we don't know when we will be out of this. People have been redrawing their money from banks, and due to lack of funds most banks are closed.

We are awaiting African Union delegation these days and hope something new will come out.

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

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