24 November 2007

The State of Cote d'Ivoire

With yet more photos from the largest church in the world...

Since 2002, Cote d'Ivoire has been divided between northern rebels (uprising against discrimination and marginalization) and a national government led by Laurent Gbagbo (who won a 2002 election over a general who overthrew Houphouet-Boigny's successor Henri Konan Bedie, but which excluded a key northern politician), with a "Zone of Confidence" monitored by French and U.N. troops. Although there have been several attempts to reach peace accords, conditions haven't improved markedly over the last several years, with the north falling even further behind the south in terms of economic development, education, and so on.

I travelled through the government-held portion of Cote d'Ivoire, so I cannot comment on the situation in the north, aside from hearing that there is no more running water, sporadic electricity, and little infrastructural development.

As for the south, government services do seem to be working. In all of the towns I stayed in (including the smallish Tolepleu) there was constant electricity, and there was work on installing a lot of streetlights on the road from Tolepleu to Yamousoukro (perhaps a branching out of the 20,000 or so H-B installed in that ghost town).

There were lots of military checkpoints, but only occasionally was I asked for money (with their only take, $2, coming on the border where I was magnanimous since I didn't have to pay for a visa). Given the security situation, these checkpoints and stops (all near the Zone of Confidence) made some sense, as opposed to those in Liberia (becoming more stable, with the only checkpoints serving as shakedown points) and Gambia (perfectly peaceful, just corrupt). A disturbing aspect of these checks, though, was the fact that people who seemed to be of northern origin (i.e. were clearly Muslims) were most likely to be told to come down from the vehicles and have their luggage searched. Coming from the sahel, it was sad to see some elderly men who should be treated with respect shown such little regard.

Francis, my host in Yamousoukro, used to work in Bouake, the largest northern city -- that's where his Eglise du Christ school was based before the war. Francis said that he sympathises with the northerners, as they were long discriminated against and neglected economically (most African colonial development took place on the coast, exacerbating regional and cultural divisions). With the war, they are even more cut off.


Richard said...

Your take on the causes of the dissatisfaction on the part of the people of the north of Ivory Coast is perhaps valid, but it doesn't match what I heard a week ago in Ivory Coast. Since I have few clues to what is or isn't true, I wonder if you know who financed the rebels. Was it Chirac and the French ? That's what people told me. What role did they play and what were their motives ?

ChristoG said...

Richard, what have you heard? As to who financed the rebels, I have no idea. The French may have developed some animosity towards Gbagbo when he was in opposition to Houphouet-Boigny and Bedie. But then they prevented the rebels from overthrowing Gbagbo. Later, they bombed the air force (controlled by Gbagbo). Their behaviour seems schizophrenic, and may only be guided by the desire to remain influential in the last area where they hold sway -- former French colonies.

Lastly, it should be noted that these are just some general observations from a short visit to Cote d'Ivoire. I am not terribly informed about any specific actors or events which instigated the rebels' uprising.