Ivory Coast election crisis: A roadmap for African political reform
As Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo refuses to cede power to election-winner Alassane Ouattara, this divided country has become a poster child for Africa's crisis of governance. For fundamental reform, Ivory Coast should take a cue from China, not just the West.
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Third, education and skills training to build the future with an informed and empowered electorate is critical. It is especially so in Ivory Coast, where the new government will face the challenge of finding productive outlets for demobilized ex-combatants and dismantled militias so that they don’t become foot soldiers in another round of the political turmoil first ushered in with the death of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny in 1993.Skip to next paragraph
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Inclusivity and reconciliation
Finally, only greater societal harmony and discipline can solve longstanding divisions exacerbated by African politicians mobilizing ethnic communities with all-or-nothing doomsday scenarios to capture power. Clearly this will take time since this political practice is deeply engrained in a place like Ivory Coast, where the country’s second president, Henri Bedie, whipped up xenophobia against Muslim northerners to block his main rival, Alassane Ouattara, in 1995, before Mr. Bedie himself was ousted by General Guei’s 1999 coup. Bedie lit the match that continues to burn Ivorians today. Ouattara must start by preaching and practicing inclusivity and national reconciliation.
Learn from China, not just the West
From the perspective of Africa’s challenges, it is not surprising that many leaders are today looking East as much as West for a model of governance even as they seek to restore certain indigenous ways. While Africans would certainly benefit from the rule of law, protection of individual liberties, and separation of powers, the fact is that multiparty elections have not delivered sustained results or avoided violence. In this light, the Chinese model, with its emphasis on social harmony, political stability, and rapid growth, seems as relevant to many as the Western model – especially as China’s presence grows across the continent.
Africa’s best hope is finding a middle way of governance that is inclusive and rooted in the legitimacy of its own ways, but borrows pragmatically from East and West to fit its challenges. Africa’s answer may be another hybrid form of governance, but one constructed by Africans themselves instead of imposed from the outside. Then, at last, Africa would be the author of its own future.
Jendayi E. Frazer is former US assistant secretary of State for African affairs, 2005 to 2009, and currently is a distinguished service professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Nicolas Berggruen is the president and chairman of the Nicolas Berggruen Institute, which is dedicated to exploring new ideas of good governance.