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.

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.