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What the world can do now for Ivory Coast and Ouattara

The French military helped Ouattara finally remove the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, from his dwindling power. Now the UN, France, and the African Union can help the elected president heal his country's democracy and restore the economy.

By Clayton Jones / April 12, 2011

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara speaks on TV after his rival, Laurent Gbagbo, was captured on Monday.

AFP PHOTO / TCI / NEWSCOM

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It took the United Nations and the French military five months to help the people of Ivory Coast finally capture Laurent Gbagbo – the loser of a November presidential election – in his residence on Monday. Now the winner of that election, Alassane Ouattara, needs all the outside help he can get to revive one of West Africa's most resource-rich economies and to heal a shattered democracy.

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The UN and French role helped avert what might have been a major bloodbath in the main city, Abidjan, which was centerstage for a civil war between militias tied to the two men. Now, along with the African Union, the UN and French can play a constructive role to restore democracy, justice, and the economy.

Most sanctions imposed on the country need to be lifted soon, and more than 1 million displaced people must be helped back to their homes. Private militias need to be disarmed or integrated into the regular military. Foreign aid can help Mr. Ouattara gain credibility with former Gbagbo supporters and the largely Christian south. Power needs to be dispersed to the regions.

Most of all, the people of Ivory Coast must gain a sense of national identity, uniting both "settlers" who have lived in the country for decades and those indigenous to the land. That stronger civic identity might help prevent any future leader from corrupting the democratic system in order to stay in power, as Mr. Gbagbo did. Then, like so many other African countries, Ivory Coast will not need foreign intervention again.

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