Ivory Coast: in denial

22 June 2011 by Bram Posthumus in Amsterdam and Selay Marius Kouassi in Abidjan

In Ivory Coast, the gap between rhetoric and reality is growing dangerously large. On paper, all seems to be heading in the right direction. There is a Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission in place. Early June, the new government of president Alassane Ouattara declares it wants an end to impunity and justice for all. 

It has already requested the International Criminal Court to investigate what it terms “the gravest crimes”. On June 17, the ICC chief prosecutor invites victims of political violence to come forward and present their cases to a preliminary chamber, which will then decide on an official inquiry into war crimes. The next day, 17 close collaborators of the previous government of Laurent Gbagbo are released from the hotel where they were held, as a gesture of reconciliation.

Surely, these are all positive signs in the wake of a political crisis that has left more than 3,000 people dead, displaced hundreds of thousands and sent upwards of 200,000 Ivorians into exile. But do they match realities on the ground? Not at all, according to reports from the economic capital Abidjan and from the west of the country.

From the west, some 175,000 refugees have fled into Liberia. They say they are perfectly willing to go home – provided someone disarms the armed gangs roaming their towns and villages. President Ouattara has offered assurances that most of the Ivorian territory is under state control but that clearly has not convinced the refugees in Liberia.

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