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The fear and the frustration

Vendor in the Ivoirian commercial capital Abidjan. November 2010
Vendor in the Ivoirian commercial capital Abidjan. November 2010 (Monica Mark/IRIN)

There is no sign yet of an immediate resolution to the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, despite the flurry of diplomatic activity. With an official curfew stretching into a second week, Ivoirians in the economic capital Abidjan are contending with income loss and daily hardships, as well as uncertainty.



“Today is the first day I’ve ventured out of the house in two weeks and even now as I’m talking to you, I feel scared,” said Zou Adjeni, a fruit seller at Treichville market, the biggest in Abidjan. She said the nighttime ban on travel meant a serious drop in market produce coming into the city.



“Because of the curfew, nobody wants to be on the road after 6pm. So nothing is being delivered - no aubergines, no peppers, no tomatoes. All these things normally come from the west.”



While traffic has slowly picked up, the normally bustling Abobo market across town was also eerily quiet as many residents stayed home.



“Only the courageous drivers are willing to come from the interior and so they double the prices of goods because of the risk they take,” Mama N’Guessan told IRIN, sitting behind a small pile of fruits and vegetables. “We have to increase our prices too, but how can people afford it when they’re not working themselves?”



Peppers have doubled in price from 25 CFA francs (about five US cents) to 50 CFA francs, while onions, bananas and plantains have almost tripled.



Another market trader confirmed a major cutback in daily commerce around the city, with many larger stores and market stalls closed for fear of being looted. Supplies of some key commodities are running low.



Taxi driver Ouattara Zeidou, 48, said he had searched in vain over the last three days to buy cooking gas in Abobo. “This morning my wife had to hack up an old wooden chair to use as firewood,” Zeidou told IRIN. “Who knows, maybe with two governments we can now actually get something done in this country,” he joked wearily.



Deadlocked



As of 7 December both incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara had sworn themselves in as president and formed governments. Ouattara has received the backing of the UN Security Council and the African Union, after the Independent Electoral Commission said he won the 28 November run-off. The Constitutional Council dismissed those results and ruled Gbagbo the winner.



But the two competing administrations have left the country deadlocked and precarious.



“It is not as bad as in 2002 when we knew there was a well-prepared war under way,” an Ivoirian civil society representative told IRIN. “But things could degenerate, particularly in Abidjan and in the west.”



A peace activist and human rights campaigner noted there were, for now, just “pockets of violence”, while stressing “what we must avoid at all costs is civil war, a Rwandanization of Côte d’Ivoire”.












Alassane Ouattara billboard in Abidjan the day of the presidential run-off, 28 November 2010. For the second round, former president Henri Konan Bédié and other first-round candidates threw their support behind Ouattara

For the run-off election, former president Henri Konan Bédié and other first-round candidates threw their support behind Ouattara
Nancy Palus/IRIN
Alassane Ouattara billboard in Abidjan the day of the presidential run-off, 28 November 2010. For the second round, former president Henri Konan Bédié and other first-round candidates threw their support behind Ouattara
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The fear and the frustration
Alassane Ouattara billboard in Abidjan the day of the presidential run-off, 28 November 2010. For the second round, former president Henri Konan Bédié and other first-round candidates threw their support behind Ouattara


Photo: Nancy Palus/IRIN
For the run-off election, former president Henri Konan Bédié and other first-round candidates threw their support behind Ouattara

National and international human rights bodies have reported sporadic but serious incidents before, during and after the elections.



With no sign of viable peace initiatives coming from outside, some members of Ivoirian civil society say they have little confidence in the international community’s resolve. A senior civil society activist said news of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI) cutting back, sending 460 “non-essential” personnel out of the country, had created a sense of abandonment (even though a substantial UN peacekeeping operation remains in place).



Spès Manirakiza, country director for Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in Côte d’Ivoire, said it was difficult for people to get across messages of peace. "The population is overcome by fear. The dominant voices at this stage are voices of the principal protagonists and their supporters. But there is also a voice - at all levels of society - that reflects the common interest."



She said there was a clear appetite for alternatives, shown by requests from radio stations around the country to run SFCG radio programmes that were impartial, focused on people’s common interests and appealing for calm and peace."We cannot eliminate the conflict but we can contribute to avoiding a sharp degradation of the situation,” Manirakiza told IRIN.



Civil society’s role



Paul Dakuyo, secretary-general of the Côte d’Ivoire branch of the Centre Afrika Obota, a regional network promoting peace and development that helped observe the elections, says civil society actors have been overlooked in the search for reconciliation. “Now is the time to pick up the baton,” he told IRIN. “Religious and traditional leaders should be heavily involved. The international community should go through them. They have to explain to politicians that what we are seeing is not democracy as it should be.”



Dakuyo said he was confident that Ivoirians could live together peacefully in the future. “There isn’t really a problem at the grassroots. Things can flare up, but it will be over in five minutes because people understand the need for social cohesion. The real problem is with the political hierarchy.”



He said civil society groups had worked discreetly in the past with politicians to get a more moderate approach, but acknowledged that now this is not easy. “You have a fanaticism which prevails for now. You have two groups looking at each other with suspicion and hatred.”



Political price



As efforts continue to end the polarization in Côte d’Ivoire, some analysts remain sceptical about a settlement that does not take into account Ouattara’s election victory.



Political analyst and independent consultant Gilles Yabi points to obvious dangers in equivocating. “The current situation requires anyone to take a position for one side or the other. Moderate voices who would call for non-violence would have to specify whether that means accepting the fait accompli of another Gbagbo presidency. We could imagine 'moderate voices' calling for a political solution by negotiations between Gbagbo and Ouattara, but such a proposition in itself is taking a position against the election pure and simple of Ouattara."



Yabi said Ouattara and his supporters had limited options. "At some point the Ouattara camp must choose between accepting Gbagbo's coup de force in the name of preserving peace [or] returning to violence, in whatever form, to push him out.”



An independent commentator based in Abidjan said there should be no face-saving compromise for Gbagbo and warned strongly against a “Kenyan solution” of giving the prime ministerial and presidential portfolios to political rivals. “That should be avoided at all cost,” he said. “Gbagbo should be offered the chance to go off home to his village or wherever he wants to go. If he does not want to give himself up, he should simply be put on trial.”



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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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