The Ivory Coast Blog

Freedom. Stability. Independence. Prosperity.

Côte d’Ivoire: President Gbagbo’s Model for Peace

By Robert Foster and Ilana Freedman

At a time when much of the world is embroiled in seemingly irreconcilable disputes, one African nation has emerged as a leader in conflict resolution. As they move away from conflict and towards national elections in November, Côte d’Ivoire is rapidly becoming a symbol of what is possible.

Delegates to the United Nations’ “Group of 77 Conference” arrived in Côte d’Ivoire last week and were greeted by a nation hard at work on the task of reconciliation and reconstruction. After closing the book on a traumatic period of internal discord, the Ivorian people have united with an unprecedented spirit of national pride, under the leadership of President Laurent Gbagbo, who is determined to establish their Republic as a showcase of West-African social and economic achievement.

Members of the U.N. delegation and the accompanying press corps may have expected to find another factionalized African country in the midst of the turmoil that has characterized the continent during the last few months. What they found instead was a proud people, moving forward under the confident leadership of President Gbagbo.

His efforts to bind the country together over the last few years have met with extraordinary success, a success that may serve as a model for other countries facing severe internal strife and external threat.

In a country that has been beset by civil war and foreign interventions, President Gbagbo has emerged as a figure of great personal courage and a visionary of historic proportions.

Shortly after his election to the presidency in 2000, he set forth his mission to reclaim the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire from international control. Among the promises he made to his people was the commitment to open expiring commercial contracts (then largely controlled by French interests) to the bidding process, and to rebuild the economy of his country.

An attempted coup d’etat in 2002, timed to coincide with Gbagbo’s state visit to Italy, spelled the beginning of a new period of unrest. When France invited him to sit out the hostilities in Paris, Gbagbo declined and returned to Abidjan, the former administrative capital of Côte d’Ivoire. ”I would rather die in my country,” he said, “than live in exile in France.”

The coup failed, but it was followed by a civil war that tore the country apart. In 2004, most of the Ivorian military aircraft were destroyed by French forces, which strengthened its military presence there.

The war also brought the United Nations into Côte d’Ivoire. They mandated a division of the country and set up a buffer zone between the south and the north, leaving President Gbagbo with a broken country.

In March 2007, after several attempted peace treaties, Laurent Gbagbo broke the cycle of war by reaching out to his adversaries.

He extended his hand to the leader of the rebel New Forces, Guillaume Soro, and to Blaise Compaoré, president of neighboring Burkina Faso, who was invited to serve as broker and mediator. The outcome of this courageous act of diplomacy was the Oaugadougo Peace Accord, a shared government was created, in which Soro assumed the position of Prime Minister. The accord was signed on March 4, 2007.

Over the last year, the results have been unprecedented. The separation zone has been dismantled, and the country is once again unified. People can now travel freely between north and south. Prime Minister Soro has supervised the disarmament, bringing former rebels into training programs from which they can enter national service.

On the economic scene, President Gbagbo has spear-headed a project aimed at expanding the port of Abidjan, in order to increase its ship-handling capacity to 4,000 containers. The project is aimed at providing Cote d’Ivoire with a strong infrastructure that will include the improvement of airports, roads and railways, and will elevate the nation’s stature in the world of commerce.

Many challenges still remain. The volatility of the global economy has sent food prices soaring, and pockets of local corruption still plague President Gbagbo’s efforts to achieve his dream of returning Côte d’Ivoire to its former prosperity. But he is firm in his determination.

“I am going to flush out corrupters,” he said recently. “My first fight was to put an end to the war. Now that the war is over, my next fight is to crackdown on corrupters to free Cote d’Ivoire from this cancer.”

The future will no doubt hold difficult challenges for Gbagbo as he faces re-election in November. But he is determined to build a new Côte d’Ivoire that will reclaim its former prominence as a leader among African nations. With the support of his people, who have enthusiastically embraced their new national pride, his program provides a strong basis for success and a model for other nations.

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July 2, 2008 - Posted by | President Gbagbo | , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. I want to thank you for providing this information. The situation in Cote D’Ivoire has been neglected by the International Community for too long.

    Blessings to every one of you!

    Samuel

    Comment by alphasamuel | July 2, 2008 | Reply

  2. Samuel,

    Thank you for commenting. We agree that the Cote d’Ivoire story has been badly reported throughout Africa and the west. Far too much attention is given to states that are failing unlike Cote d’Ivoire. The success story that is emerging is one the world needs to stop and take notice of.

    Comment by ivorycoasteditor | July 2, 2008 | Reply

  3. Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to express our view on the political situation in Cote d’Ivoire. Yes indeed, President Gbagbo’s most objective has always been not only to communicate the national pride to his people but also to show them how to embrace the respect of the supreme law of the land: “The Constitution Of Cote D’Ivoire ” . In light of the normalization of the current political crisis, we strongly believe that Gbagbo Laurent is the next President of Cote d’Ivoire. Again thank you so much for this great site.

    Comment by dounabegnon | July 2, 2008 | Reply

  4. Let us give the president the benefit of the doubt, concerning his determination to fight corruption. However and franckly, the idea that a responsible president can only tackle one problem at a time is ludicrous. The fact to give instructions to the state prosecutor to prosecute these people did not take more than a couple of hours out of his “busy schedule”. The rest of the work is done by the justice department. So why only now? What was preventing him from doing so earlier? Sorry I keep forgetting, he can only deal with one problem at a time. So I guess this explains his “contribution” during the scandal of the toxic waste. By contribution I mean reinstating officials, whose departments were involved, freeing Trafigura employees in exchange for some millions of dollars. When we all know that thousands were poisoned and many died. To this day, there is no mention of a trial, but I am sure that once we are done with dealing with the augmentation of oil prices will be able to look closer at this problem. To conclude I will just say this, let us hope that in case he is re-elected, the Ivory Coast will only have to face one problem at a time. Otherwise, those problems may pile up and worsen, while Gbagbo is going down the list of what he is going to try to fix next.

    Comment by fwodie7 | July 23, 2008 | Reply


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