ABIDJAN, (CAJ News) – AFTER an unprecedented, peaceful poll that has retained him in power, Ivory Coast President Alassane Outtarra has been presented with a magnificent foundation to heal a nation traumatised by deadly political turbulence over the years.
Outtara has won a second term convincingly after amassing about 84 percent of the national vote ahead of his closest rival Pascal AffiN’Guessan, an ally of former president Laurent Gbago, one of the chief architects of the untold misery Ivorians have endured in the past.
The polls were generally peaceful and have been internationally endorsed, in stark contrast to the forgettable 2010 poll outcome the incumbent Gbago rejected.
The ensuing five-month civil war, the second in the former French colony, killed some 3 000 people and displaced scores more in the West African country.
Gbago’s trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Switzerland commences in January.
More than a decade earlier, the country suffered a military coup after a group of dissatisfied officers supplanted Henri Konan Bédié and replaced him with General Robert Guéï, with Gbago winning a subsequent election that marred military and civil unrest that claimed the lives of some 180 people.
More woes were to follow in 2002 as the country experienced a civil war as troops who were to be demobilised mutinied, launching attacks in several cities.
A government of national unity had mixed success bringing stability to the country.
Following the successful conclusion of a campaign premised reconciliation and justice culminating in victory at the recent-concluded elections, Outtara thus has an opportunity to heal recurring wounds.
“This election marks another important step toward overcoming conflicts of the past, with a majority of the citizens on the voting rolls exercising their democratic right to select their next president,” said United States Department of State Department, John Kirby, in an emailed statement to CAJ News.
Kirby pledged his country’s commitment to working with the government and people of Ivory Coast to consolidate our strong partnership and continue the important business of strengthening the country’s governance, security, and economic institutions.
“We encourage all political actors to renew and expand efforts to promote national reconciliation, respectful political dialogue, equitable justice and shared economic prosperity,” added Kirby.
During a recent meeting with his newly-elected counterpart, French leader, François Hollande, also highlighted the importance of the recently-concluded election.
“This election was an important step for the return of Côte d’Ivoire to peace and reconciliation to Ivorians,” said the leader of the country Ivory Coast attained independence from in 1960.
Such efforts have received a timely boost with the United Nations Independent Expert on capacity building and technical cooperation with the Ivory Coast, in the human rights field, Mohammed Ayat, visiting the country to assess the situation.
His ten-day assessment ends on the 12th of November.
He will meet with members of the Ivorian Government, representatives of non-governmental organizations and victims’ associations.
He will also meet with the diplomatic corps and UN Country Team in the country as well as visit places of detention.
“I have continued to follow closely the developments in Ivory Coast in recent months, especially during the recent elections. My visit will allow me to salute the efforts of the government and the Ivorian actors who have managed to create the conditions for a peaceful presidential election.
“It will also assess the progress made by the government in the fight against impunity, compensation for victims of grave violations of human rights and national reconciliation,” the expert said on arrival.
Outtara has been praised for rejuvenating and resuscitating Ivory Coast to the economic success story it was in the 1970s when it was French West Africa’s most prosperous country, contributing over 40 percent of the region’s total exports, during his first term.
The economy has continued its robust two-year growth in 2014 at an estimated 8,3 percent, with similar expansion expected in 2015 and 2016.
Inasmuch as the economic revival has been a welcome development, the leader has faced criticism for not doing enough for reconciliation and justice.
The economic resuscitation story and a peaceful election are thus a source of hope for some 23 million Ivorians.
There have been suggestions a human rights and reconciliation commission is among initiatives planned.
“During his first term, Outtarra did a tremendous job steering the revival of the economy. His overwhelming electoral victory is in part because of that.
“With enough support from stakeholders, he can work his magic again and enable justice and reconciliation are secured for the populace after lengthy spells of torment,” Abidjan-based sociopolitical analyst, Arthur Brou, said.
– CAJ News