How to make peace last in Ivory Coast
Though the violent Ivory Coast standoff between former president Laurent Gbagbo and President Alassane Ouattara is over, the country’s troubles aren't. Ivorians must now redefine the way they relate to each other. Eight towns provide real models for grassroots reconciliation.
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One town's model for peace
The town of Sassandra, once the scene of previous violent altercations among rival youth groups, is an example of how such engagement can change the face of a community. As a result of conflict management work done there, young political activists from opposing parties listened to the news radio together during the election crisis and would then discuss the day’s events. All throughout the violence and upheaval, they never once resorted to violence themselves, debating heatedly, but peacefully.Skip to next paragraph
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The success in Sassandra also points to a particularly important tool: radio. A main source of information for Ivorians, Radio is emerging as a vital platform for engaging moderate voices across the country and sectarian divides. Through the most recent crisis, alternative radio programming continued to broadcast on 42 stations, providing an unequivocal, resonant, and accessible voice promoting nonviolence.
For conflict transformation to have staying power, however, it must cross social fault lines that divide neighbors, communities, and the country. Without promoting tolerance and constructive problem-solving at every level of society, the country may become swamped again by the morass of violence, anger, and fear.
Intervention must also target particularly tense regions and government leadership to unite all Ivorians. The international nongovernmental organization Search for Common Ground is working with local activists to neutralize the historical fault lines in order to help Ivorians build a new future together and aid the government in institutionalizing the rules of democracy.
If national unity efforts are to be successful, though, they’ll have to have the full participation of all Ivorians and the backing of the Ivorian government and the world. If the people who have just taken office and their international supporters want to see a definitive close to this dark chapter, they’ll have to do more than say the right words.
They’ll have to get down to work, and do it right away. Thankfully, they have examples to follow in some of the communities around them.
Joel Kangha is Search for Common Ground’s program coordinator in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
A version of this essay first appeared at The Huffington Post.