Shaking Your Own Hand: Political Reconciliation in Cote d'Ivoire?

When the Ivoirian electoral crisis ended
and the internationally-recognized Alassane Ouattara took office at the head of
the country, in April of last year, the idea that the decades-long resentment
and anger that had been simmering in the country could finally be put to rest
seemed more possible than ever before. In July of the same year, Ouattara launched
a truth and reconciliation commission, aimed at “accepting adversaries’ truths
and rejecting allies’ lies”. The idea seemed appropriate, the context seemed to
call for it, and the question of whether Cote d’Ivoire could rediscover some of
its old glory seemed to be intrinsically tied with how well national reconciliation
was handled by the government.

Now, nearing the one year anniversary the
end of the Ivoirian crisis, it’s time to take a serious look at this truth and reconciliation
commission, at what it has done and at what remains on the plate. Firstly, with
its call last Sunday for a month of ‘purification and mourning’, the commission
shows signs of coming into its last phases. Through appointed in the middle of
last year, it did not start its work in earnest until a couple of months ago,
and even now more than one news source is stating that the commission will be
set to publish its first report soon. The proceedings feel terribly slow in
starting and terribly fast to start putting out any form of report.

The real problem is not in the actions of
the commission, but rather in the political climate in Cote d’Ivoire. The
recent post-crisis balancing act for Ouattara has been, arguably, politics as
usual. A perfect example of this is the recent reshuffling of his inner circle,
which for all its movement, is being deemed a very conservative (read: not so
open) move. The reshuffling brought the 39 year-old Guillaume Soro out of the Prime
Minister spot he had been holding and straight into the number two slot of
President of the National Assembly. There had been speculation that Soro would
be replaced by someone with political affiliations capable of bringing, if not
the country, the political class into a more balanced and meaningful dynamic of
cooperation. As it turns out this did not happen, as PDCI member and close collaborator
of Ouattara’s, Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou saw his number
come up.

The second problem is also political; the inertia
of former president and current guest at the Hague Laurent Gbagbo’s political camp.
The FPI has contented itself with boycotting the February 26 general elections,
allowing Ouattara’s RDR to garner the majority, 127 seats, with the PDCI also
coming up with 77 legislators amid low voter turnout. Shutting itself out of
the political process may feed into the FPI’s mixed outrage at the arrest of
Gbagbo and the continued impunity of several high level military figures within
the Ouattara administration, but it is not properly serving its electorate.
Staying on the sidelines in this phase of reconciliation could very well
contribute to a long-term political stalemate, which in turn could serve to
undo any good that the truth and reconciliation is doing.

In short, one side is not reaching out, and the
other is not stopping for them. The problem of national reconciliation is of
course one that will play out in various ways, as the commission comes around
to holding hearings of different kinds and to try to understand just how ten years
of civil strife and crisis came about. But the game is in so many ways also
purely political. Relations between parties do not need to be good, but they
need to be balanced. They do not need to be warlike, they need to be
engaged. And the balance, that tightrope that Ouattara said he would walk,
looks more and more as though it is weighted on one side. The first step in
setting that line straight is setting political parties and political will on
the right course.


Further Reading:


 (the photo is of Ouattara (right) and new Prime Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou (left)