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Opinion Africaine

Cote d’Ivoire: Securing the Electoral Process

6 Mai 2010 , Rédigé par APPA Publié dans #ONG-Associations.


Cote d’Ivoire: Securing the Electoral Process

Dakar/Brussels, 5 May 2010: Unless senior Ivorian politicians refrain from xenophobic language and more is done to ensure the security of the whole electoral process, they may be preparing the ground for violent chaos, either before, during or in the immediate aftermath of elections.

Cote d’Ivoire: Securing the Electoral Proces,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns of the risks involved after President Laurent Gbagbo recently dissolved the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) and the government. Preparations are now at a virtual standstill, and the process of identifying who is eligible to vote carries serious risks of violence. The existence of armed groups and militias, the resurgence of hate language and a poor socio-economic situation make for an explosive environment that threatens the stability of this key West African country, where civil war ended only three years ago.

“Politicians need to keep tensions from escalating any further, accelerate the pace of electoral preparations and desist from hate speech”, says analyst Rinaldo Depagne. “Otherwise the peace process could very well collapse, with dramatic consequences for the country and its neighbours”.

The relative peace that Côte d’Ivoire currently enjoys results from a system of permanent negotiation, both formal and informal. However, this has recently been threatened by the intransigence of the leading actors, by personal insults exchanged between them and especially by the return of xenophobic Ivorian nationalism. This language of exclusion reinforces fear between communities and is a powerful driver of violence.

Disarmament has yet to take place in the zone controlled by the former rebel forces. In the West, pro-government militias maintain a climate of fear and insecurity, obstructing normal democratic life and contributing to very high levels of criminality. In current conditions, it is hard to envisage a peaceful electoral campaign. Opposition youth groups are also organising their street level reactions. The risk is that political demonstrations may again lead to clashes between the youth groups, driven by mutual mistrust and fear of exclusion.

National and international actors must agree on a new plan for securing the elections, then publicise and use it to build confidence among the population and to initiate a dialogue with local politicians and officials.

More generally, the international community must be bolder in identifying those responsible for violence and those who are blocking the electoral process. The UN Security Council, which is to review the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission on 31 May, should consider applying targeted sanctions on individuals, as has been done successfully to calm the situation in the past.

“The elections may, unfortunately, be some way off yet – they have been postponed six times”, says Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “But the risks of violence are already apparent. Ivorian actors and the international community need to start working together to ensure that elections are not a spark of violence as they have been in earlier years”.

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