Côte d’Ivoire’s Great West: Key to Reconciliation
Dakar/Brussels | 28 Jan 2014
Working to reduce tensions in western Côte d’Ivoire, a flashpoint for ethnic, political and economic rivalries, is imperative to ensure lasting stability and pave the way for national reconciliation.
In its latest report, Côte d’Ivoire’s Great West: Key to Reconciliation, the International Crisis Group examines the dynamics that threaten to reignite a crisis barely resolved. The west – particularly the Cavally and Guémon regions – were the most affected during the September 2002 war and its aftermath and the 2011 post-election violence, both of which exacerbated existing political and ethnic tensions, including rivalries over the regions’ fertile land. A porous border with Liberia also contributes to instability as Liberian mercenaries regularly make incursions into Ivorian territory. The so-called Great West will severely test the government’s ability to stabilise and reconcile the country.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Initial steps by the Ivorian government to reduce political tensions and promote national reconciliation must be extended to the Great West. It should strengthen judicial independence and prosecute crimes committed against members of groups considered to be supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo.
To resolve land disputes, a powerful trigger for conflict, the government should amend a 1998 land code so as to streamline dispute resolution procedures and reduce the financial cost of associated administrative requirements.
To ease the tension around land issues, the government should launch a special economic development plan for the west that encourages non-agricultural activities.
To improve security, it should equip its forces stationed at the Liberian border with the transport and communications resources necessary to facilitate interaction with their Liberian counterparts. The Liberian government should strengthen its military presence on the border by establishing monitoring stations.
“The Great West concentrates ethnic, land, political, security and identity problems”, says Rinaldo Depagne, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “These tensions have frequently led to violent clashes, even after the post-election crisis, but the government has failed to tackle the root causes of the violence”.
“The Ivorian leadership should not see its peripheral regions as a threat; they may carry little electoral weight, but they urgently need public investment to promote services and economic development”, says Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “It is these neglected areas that will determine the success of reconciliation and, above all, the reconstruction of the state”.