The Ivory Coast Blog

Freedom. Stability. Independence. Prosperity.

Keeping the Promise: Côte d’Ivoire’s War Against Corruption

The following article sheds a new light on the extraordinary efforts of a leader who has openly declared his heartfelt passion for his country and the region of Africa in which his nation has a leading role to play.

By Robert Taylor and Ilana Freedman

President Gbagbo Speaks at the U.N.

President Gbagbo Speaks at the U.N.

In the Western world, popular perceptions about Africa suggest a continent rife with political unrest, never-ending wars, and the unfulfilled promises of its leaders. The region has long suffered from poor leadership, foreign interventions, and the systematic corruption that rots the soul of its emerging nations.

A remarkable exception to this image is the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire, where President Laurent Gbagbo is leading his country away from the horrors of war, and fulfilling his promise to create a true democracy in the Ivorian Republic. This compelling story has seen little light in the international press, but it is one that deserves to be told.

The story begins with cocoa. Côte d’Ivoire began developing its cocoa industry nearly one hundred years ago. In the intervening century, this modest crop has grown into a $1.4 billion industry which provides 40% of the world’s supply and represents over 30% of the country’s exports. Nearly a quarter of the population works in some aspect of the cocoa industry. The economy of Côte d’Ivoire therefore depends heavily on the successful global export of its cocoa crop. But the industry has long been marred by a history of corruption and lack of transparency that has cost the country both revenues and credibility.

Once a colony of France and part of the Federation of French West Africa, Côte d’Ivoire achieved its independence in 1960, but international interference in internal affairs continued to impact many aspects of Ivorian life. Côte d’Ivoire was compelled by the international community to restructure the Stabilization Fund for Agricultural Products Pricing (La Caisse de Stabilisation des Prix des Produits Agricoles 1963 – 1998), the old management body that controlled the price of cocoa. The performance of the new body was supposed to be improved by the stringent measures imposed by the international financial institutions. In reality, however, the desired results – accountability and efficiency – were never achieved.


First the War for the Nation, Then the War against Corruption

In 2000, at the very beginning of his administration, President Gbagbo attempted to better organize this vital sector of the national economy. However, the intervening war and the resulting crisis throughout the country made effective oversight of the Cocoa Board nearly impossible. Despite his promise to pursue the program against corruption, Gbagbo found it necessary to deal first with the military and political battles that faced the nation.

Finally, in early June 2008, President Gbagbo declared war on the rampant corruption in Côte d’Ivoire ’s public sector. He promised “to crackdown on corrupters to free Cote d’Ivoire from this cancer.” One of the first and most dramatics signs that his campaign had begun in earnest was the recent arrest of top officials on the Coffee and Cocoa Board.

The arrests were far from trivial. They included the president of the Cocoa Bourse marketing body, the president of the Regulatory and Control Fund, and twenty-one senior officers, who were accused of embezzling funds. These arrests symbolized considerably more than a token political ploy. It signaled the willingness of the president to identify corruption, even in high places, and authorize the apprehension of even those in elite positions who were formerly considered untouchable. It was a sign of considerable political courage that Gbagbo’s pursuit of corrupt officials has included the arrest of members of his own political party and even members of his own ethnic group, an unprecedented display of integrity for an African leader.

President Gbagbo’s attention to raising the nation’s moral standards has not been limited to the cocoa regulatory industry, but has been applied throughout the public sector. A commission was recently tasked to investigate academic fraud at the National Police Academy, to ascertain whether counterfeit degrees were being presented as proof of matriculation from high school or university. Since matriculation is required for entry into the Police Academy, the use of forged documents poses a serious challenge to fair admission procedures. In another incident, twelve high school teachers and five students were recently arrested for selling answers to the national matriculation exams to other students.


Gbagbo’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Catches the Opposition by Surprise

Côte d’Ivoire is preparing for national elections in November and Gbagbo faces serious challenges for re-election. The eyes of the world will be on the outcome. In a country with 144 political parties, where the destruction of war has made the identification of qualified voters extremely complex and the reconstruction has created challenging new problems, the events leading up to the elections will be critical.

Gbagbo’s early successes in his program to revitalize Côte d’Ivoire have apparently caught the opposition off-guard. They have been rushing to organize a campaign of disinformation against the president.

Allasane Ouattara, for example, is one of Gbagbo’s leading opponents. He heads the RDR (Rally of the Republicans), one of the major parties whose newspaper, The Patriot, has attempted to denigrate Gbagbo’s anti-corruption program in an effort to sway public opinion against him. It recently reported a detailed – and totally fabricated – account of a meeting that took place in Gbagbo’s village, and quoted inflammatory remarks that Gbagbo never uttered. The political fallout could have been (and may yet be) serious.

The Patriot article gave a hint, however, of how deeply the early successes of the president’s anti-corruption program concern those whose interests lie in maintaining the status quo. An immediate response, and a detailed account of the actual events that occurred, appeared in La Voie, another daily newspaper. This exchange made it clear that the battle against corruption will not stop at the edge of the political arena.

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July 9, 2008 - Posted by | Crime and Corruption | , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. You are to be commended for your work. We of the diaspora need to keep in touch with our homeland, and this is a good start.
    Perhaps we could arrange for a meeting at the Roger Miller Restaurant in Silver Springs Maryland. (941-1 Bonifant Street
    Silver Spring, MD 20910-4594). Many people from our country meet there.

    Comment by alphasamuel | July 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thank you again Alphasamuel. Please help spread the good word!

    Comment by ivorycoasteditor | July 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. My friend in Paris has told me that the ivory Coast Blog will be sponsoring a radio show soon. Could you please let me know if this is true, and if so, where, when and how can I listen.

    Comment by alphasamuel | July 28, 2008 | Reply


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