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Power struggles abound on Ivory Coast

by Ramsey Kincannon, Senior Staff Writer

In November 2010, five years after a delayed democratic election due to a bloody civil war, many Ivorians thought they had finally found peace. There had been significant United Nations forces attempting to keep peace for years now and many were excited for Ivory Coast to finally become self-reliant. Unfortunately, the country descended further into chaos. Both Laurent Gbagbo (the founder of the Ivorian Popular Front) and Alassane Ouattara (the president of the ëRally of the Republicans’ party) claimed victory.

Soon after the election, the U.N. ó along with the African Union, the European Union, the United States and France ó claimed that that Ouattara was “almost universally acknowledged to have defeated [Gbagbo].” Despite this information, Gbagbo refused to vacate his office. He demanded that the U.N. Peacekeepers leave the country and acknowledge his authority.

In March, after four months of protesting and riots across the country, the north and south of Ivory Coast plunged into the Second Ivorian Civil War, with much of the fighting taking place in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city. Gbagbo had, according to the U.N., implemented rocket attacks directed towards pro-Ouattara areas, which the U.N. has called a “crime against humanity.”

Unlike many recent world conflicts, where there has been an accepted villain, such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, the Second Ivorian Civil War is significantly more complicated. With over 1,500 dead (and 200,000 displaced), there is more to the story than just the inhumane actions of Gbagbo. Ethan Zuckerman, the founder of Global Voices, has suggested that “neither side has clean hands,” and has noted that both sides have rejected peace deals from the African Union.

There have been reports of atrocities stemming from both sides ó ranging from pro-Ouattara forces killing six women to pro-Gbagbo armies massacring citizens in DuÈkouÈ. As a result, many claim the international reporting has been too eager to focus on “the narrative of Gbagbo as the bad guy who won’t give up and Ouattara as the good guy with international backing and an electoral victory,” despite the fact that the oft-reported storyline is considered to be “oversimplified.”

Recently, the Second Ivorian Civil War has shifted slightly.† Much of the country had already turned to recognize Alassane Ouattara as the president of the Ivory Coast. However, in Abidjan, there had been a large contingent of pro-Gbagbo forces and supporters. In early April, Ouattaran troops had seized control of the presidential palace, and on April 11, French and U.N. forces arrested Laurent Gbagbo, keeping him under U.N. guard. (Information courtesy The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, and the BBC).

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