State Recovery is a Marathon, not a Sprint

In relation to last week’s discussion on Côte d’Ivoire’s path to recovery, I will continue to present examples of areas where the country has improved, needs improvement, and how to continue improving.

An article titled “A Tale of Two Countries: Is Côte d’Ivoire on the Path to Recovery?” written October 2013 provides an overview of events from the November 2010 presidential election until today, and how a country so deeply divided has been able to take positive steps forward. The author highlights these encouraging signs:

Of course there is still much more to be done, especially by President Ouattara as he seeks votes for the upcoming 2015 campaign. Here are some suggestions of areas where the president should focus his efforts:

  • Reconcile Ivoirians across the political, ethnic, and religious spectrum
  • Incorporate and meaningfully engage the FPI in the political process
  • Distribute equal justice for the grave human rights violations, both by Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters, that occurred between the post-electoral period and today

Now, in terms of how Côte d’Ivoire can continue recuperating from state failure, the following are two possible responses:

Traditional or Status Quo (Kraxberger 51)

  1. Maintaining existing territories
  2. Foreign aid in the form of money, tangible goods, and technical assistance
  3. Peacekeeping missions authorized by the UN or regional bodies
  4. Relatively short time horizons, usually around 2-5 years

Alternative (Kraxberger 62)

  1. Longer time horizons for state building projects
  2. Greater flexibility to redraw the territories of states
  3. Take into account the concept of regional contagion
  4. Reconsideration of state sovereignty or trusteeship models
  5. Allow dysfunctional regions to become “stateless zones”

“Especially in weak states (not failed states) that are already on a path to recovery, foreign aid can play a very helpful role in accelerating stabilization,” (Kraxberger 55). Because Côte d’Ivoire has shown positive signs, I believe a combination of increased foreign aid and a longer presence of development projects will be most beneficial. Although Côte d’Ivoire has received foreign aid in the past, I question whether some external powers are more valuable than others. In my next post, I will identify specific entities that established projects in Côte d’Ivoire and analyze their ability to remove this country’s image as a weak state.

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A Path to Recovery

In a previous post, I introduced the subject of conflicts between northern and southern populations, and their effects throughout history. Today, I will explore this subject in terms of how current conditions demonstrate a path towards recovery. The government-controlled, Christian South no longer has greater political representation and support, as President Ouattara won the previous election. Has regional, ethnic, or political hostility changed throughout the course of two civil wars and one threatening election? Many of my classmates’ presentations thus far have confirmed the notion that a geographic or cultural ‘divide’ in many failed or weak states is not uncommon. Despite this deeply rooted division, however, Côte d’Ivoire’s path to state weakness may actually be altering its course for the better.

In July 2013, a briefing to the UN Security Council affirmed the importance of maintaining international support for Côte d’Ivoire as they begin an electoral cycle in 2015, especially because of the continued violence and political divisions. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, spoke on behalf of the UNOCI when describing the President’s steps to “stabilize the security situation, accelerate economic recovery, and initiate key reforms.”

A united legislative assembly and successful municipal and regional elections this April demonstrate internal improvement, particularly within the political realm where most of the conflict subsists. This evidence highlights the ability of a more powerful national authority accepting responsibility for planning and protecting the voting process. In lieu of recent class discussions on the effectiveness of a democratic versus an authoritarian regime, Côte d’Ivoire’s emphasis on a successful voting process affirms their preference towards a democracy.

Another achievement for Côte d’Ivoire lies in President Ouattara’s plan to completely disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate all former combatants by the end of 2014. In one article summarizing this briefing, the author brings up one consequence of this ‘ambitious goal’: tens of thousands will require “durable solutions,” such as jobs, as they reenter society. If they are not offered employment or such support, serious threats to human rights and regional security could arise.

In the same article by a New Zealand Herald reporter, the author mentions other concerns such as the uncontrolled circulation of weapons, criminal activities, and violence between communities. Côte d’Ivoire’s western border with Liberia, for example, has experienced violent incidents, which were followed by the collaboration of both governments to increase security forces on each side of the border.

Despite President Ouattara’s deserving praise for demonstrating “remarkable resolve to tackle the many challenges the country is facing,” threats to the country’s long-term peace and stability persist and “should not be underestimated,” recommends the UN Peacekeeping Chief (The New Zealand Herald).

Benefits of International Aid

There have been many cases where the international community has assisted with issues regarding Côte d’Ivoire and, in some instances, the efforts have actually made a difference. For example, external support from France, the US, and the UN, played a key role during the export ban on cocoa in 2011. Because of their assistance and resources, the people of Côte d’Ivoire remained fairly safe as former President Gbagbo was finally drained of his finances, and therefore security forces, and was removed from office. Nevertheless, many still criticized the international community in 2011 as some nations turned their back on Côte d’Ivoire. The innocent unquestionably endured the most from the constant violence and displacement during this time, which also greatly threatened regional stability as more than 95,000 moved into neighboring Liberia (Dufka 2011).

Englebert and Tull emphasize two trends concerning the idea that external assistance lacks the “capacity and will to maintain the necessary commitment to rebuilding African states,” (129). The first is that reconstruction efforts to African nations are usually temporary. In the case of Côte d’Ivoire’s 2002 conflicts, international aid commitments were granted from the European Union, France, IMF, and the World Bank. Although these efforts successfully reunited the country’s politicians and organizations after the faulty presidential elections in 2000, there is a clear drop after 2002 (129). The decreased involvement into 2006 and presumably subsequent years did not account for the fact that Côte d’Ivoire’s internal disputes were nowhere near the end.

Englebert and Tull argue, “the international community is not well-equipped for creating effective state institutions, regardless of the scale and intensity of its involvement,” (137). They continue by stating that some institutions interfere too much and are not necessarily more successful than less-intrusive ones. Although I agree with the validity of their statements, I still believe external reconstruction can temporarily assist in stabilizing a country. The problem stems from the fact that development aid is often short-lived. For this reason, the international community should focus on “long-term construction of self-sustaining state institutions” provided to failing nations such as Côte d’Ivoire (137).

However, the focus should also be shifted towards the people of Côte d’Ivoire to take action and support those capable of alleviating the country’s many problems. President Ouattara seems to be that very person, as the international community has supported him since the election. In this video, President Obama speaks to Ivoirians as he encourages them to “reclaim [their] country and rebuild a vibrant economy that was once the admiration of Africa.” This idea that external aid can exist but must also construct self-sustaining institutions is validated by President Obama’s closing statement: “You deserve the right to determine your own destiny…and those who choose that path will have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

As far as Côte d’Ivoire’s most recent endeavors, they are striving to recover political, economic, and social entities with the leadership of President Ouattara. The UN seems to be at the forefront of this plan with the creation of an active profile in their UN Peacekeeping webpage through the Better World Campaign, in addition to a project with the UNEP aiming to “address environmental and natural resource governance on a national scale and as a precondition for sustainable development and conflict prevention.” These are precisely the advocacy and support that weak or failing nations should have more access to and I hope it is only the beginning.

Effects on the Region and World

The effects of Côte d’Ivoire’s state weakness have greatly impacted not only the people residing within its borders, but also those in the region and around the world. In previous posts, I have described some of the social, health, and economic atrocities many have experienced due to the recent violent events. For more information about this, please refer back to my post titled “For the People of Côte d’Ivoire.”

Although locals endured countless instances of violence, displacements, and general social injustice, those in the surrounding countries of Burkina Faso and Mali, for example, now face ethnic, cultural, and economic concern. Ever since 1995 when former President Bédié began promoting the nationalistic concept of Ivorité, the term has remained a part of discriminatory Ivoirian culture. President Bédié claimed this was to increase cultural identity and not political exclusion. Critics deemed it divisive, xenophobic, and intended to eliminate political competition from President Ouattara, who was at one point not considered “genuine” Ivorian. Whether a person is “genuine” or “not genuine” Ivorian continues to be a source of regional conflict. Moreover, the government became concerned with immigration as the idea of a Muslim victory supported by domestic and immigrant Muslim communities was a possibility.

Finally, Côte d’Ivoire plays a key role in transportation and trade for its landlocked neighbors since it contains about 71 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Guinea. Because of the Port of Abidjan’s reputation as the busiest port in francophone West Africa, much of the business from Burkina Faso and Mali suffered a great deal after the export ban on cocoa in 2011. Many businesses were forced to halt their business relations, negatively affecting their commerce and economic activity. This was particularly detrimental to the countries because they are ranked at 35 and 38 on the 2013 Failed States Index Report.

Globally, the 2011 cocoa export ban meant cocoa traders, chocolate makers, and consumers were forced to wait for the effects of the supply and price of this important commodity. During the export ban, which was set ultimately with the purpose of removing President Gbagbo from office, there was a division between countries around the world about how best to proceed. More information about this topic can be read in my previous post titled “The Politics of Agriculture.”

However, another more recent action under President Ouattara has affected the cocoa industry worldwide. In July of 2013, security forces began flattening houses and forcefully removing farmers in order to phase out agricultural practices and diversify the economy away from cocoa due to its negative environmental impact. Three-fourths of West African country’s forests have disappeared in the past 50 years because of farming, including cocoa plantations. Ouattara expressed a willingness to pay this economic price in order to save the tropical forests and as an effort to reassert the state’s authority. In this case, Côte d’Ivoire’s state weakness may be turning around as a positive consequence towards regaining government legitimacy and control.