Jerome Taylor: Removal of the old leader will do nothing to heal a bleeding nation torn in half

Although Ouattara is recognised as the real winner of the election, 46 per cent of people still voted for Gbagbo

Share
Related Topics

Even if Laurent Gbagbo is eventually hauled from his besieged underground bunker, Ivory Coast has a long and tortuous journey ahead of it as a bitterly divided nation tries to heal its wounds.

The imminent defeat of Mr Gbagbo and his core followers will lead to the capture or death of a man who has flown in the face of international opinion and refused to cede power. But it will do little to disarm his passionate youth militias or repair a country that has been torn in half for a decade.

The country's commercial capital, Abidjan, has been carved up into a patchwork of sectarian neighbourhoods, each one controlled by armed supporters of Mr Gbagbo or his rival Alassane Ouattara. Both sides are implacably opposed to each other's existence and have been fed a daily diet of propaganda that leaves little room for trust between the two camps.

Ouattara's first job will be to try to unite the commercial heart of the world's largest cocoa producer before turning his attention to the rest of the country where religious divides are even more acute. He will have help from the UN and France but no one will want to risk triggering full-scale battles between the militias in an already traumatised city.

"The security situation is not going to improve immediately when Gbagbo surrenders," said Hannah Koep, Ivory Coast analyst at London-based consultancy Control Risks. "His armed militias are roaming the streets of Abidjan and are likely to loot and continue to engage in localised clashes with Republican forces."

Mr Ouattara has widespread support from the international community and was universally declared to be the winner of last year's presidential elections. But the Forces Nouvelles rebels that swept in from the north are no unified bunch. Their ranks are filled with competing factions who are united in their hatred for Mr Gbagbo, rather than their unequivocal support for Mr Ouattara.

"The political situation is going to be a huge challenge going forward," adds Ms Koep. "Ouattara will have many people – including many rebel commanders – to reward once this crisis is over."

Although the international community recognises Mr Ouattara as the clear winner of last year's elections, 46 per cent of the country still voted for Mr Gbagbo and will need to be brought into the political process if any sort of lasting peace is to be achieved.

Since the end of the last civil war in 2004 Ivory Coast has been divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a Christian south which – under Mr Gbagbo's rule – benefited from deliberate policies that discriminated against the north and helped keep the country permanently teetering towards sectarian conflict. Although Mr Gbabgo's militias have been widely accused of committing atrocities, the northern rebels have also been accused of massacring up to 800 people in the western town of Duékoué. On Wednesday the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced plans to launch a formal inquiry into mass killings – an investigation which could prove to be a headache for any new government trying to win both international legitimacy and repay those who helped it win power. The country's fragile economy is almost entirely reliant on the cocoa crop, half a million tonnes of which is currently stored in warehouses, and is at risk of rotting during the upcoming rainy season unless it can be exported.

More than 110,000 people have fled into neighbouring Liberia and a further one million are displaced internally. The months of political stalemate and warfare, meanwhile, have created even more distrust in an already fractured society.

"The election was supposed to heal wounds but instead it has ended up exacerbating them," says Mwangi Kimenyi, an Ivory Coast expert at the Brooking Institute. "There is now even more bitterness."

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Day In a Page

Read Next
IDF soldiers and vehicles in an image provided by campaign group Breaking the Silence  

'Any person you see – shoot to kill': The IDF doctrine which causes the death of innocent Palestinians

Ron Zaidel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd give tax cuts to the rich, keep Trident, and get my football team wrong

Frankie Boyle
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before