Côte d'Ivoire Is Cooling Down? Reflections a Year after the Battle for Abidjan

The Path to Peace

The murderous conflicts that followed presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire in November 2010 led to an international debacle that ended some six months later. After the killing of 3,000 people [1] and the displacement of approximately one million from their homes [2] (Figure 1), Alassane Ouattara (Figure 2) assumed the presidency based on election results certified by the United Nations against the protests and violent resistance of incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo (Figure 3). Now, over a year later, with news of the discovery of an alleged attempted coup d’état [3], further political violence in western Côte d’Ivoire [4], and belligerent rhetoric by “the political class and media” [5], Côte d’Ivoire faces a challenging climate for what should be a period of national reconstruction and reconciliation [6], [7].

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Sia Kambou/Agence France Presse/Getty Images, "Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire’s fifth and current president (2011-present)." April 10, 2012 via The Guardian.

If the search for lasting peace is to be more than mere “bluff” [8]—more than the kind of illusory promise of peace to which Ivoirians have become inured since the coup d’état of 1999—then the parties to the reconciliation process as well as its critics must take stock of the circumstances that led to the conflict and of the dynamics that will help or hinder its resolution. The authors of this collection do just this with regard to a range of aesthetic, economic, gendered, political, religious, and social concerns. The result is a series of meditations on the challenges that Côte d’Ivoire must overcome and the resoures and strategies it must exploit if it is to achieve an unprecedented era of peace, justice, and stability.

Acknowledgments

The authors and guest editor thank Charles Piot for inviting us to submit our contributions to the Hot Spots forum and Anne Allison and Alison Kenner for proofreading and posting them with such care. We also thank the anonymous proofreaders who helped edit our work. We express our gratitude to Cati Coe as well who first suggested the idea of this forum on Côte d’Ivoire to Charles Piot. The guest editor would like to thank the authors for their gracious collaboration and patience and the Hot Spots editors for their indulgence and support. He acknowledges the title of Wende Marshall’s book, Potent Mana: Lessons in Power and Healing (SUNY Press, 2011), as the inspiration for the subtitle, "Potent Aesthetics," in this feature's table of contents below. We dedicate this collection to all those who seek justice or comfort for those killed, raped, tortured, injured, displaced, impoverished, or abandoned as a result of Côte d’Ivoire’s ongoing crisis. 25 June 2012

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Agence France Presse, "Laurent Gbagbo, Côte d’Ivoire’s fourth president (2000-2011)."

Figures

Figure 1. “Refugees from Côte d’Ivoire walk with their belongings through Grand Gedeh Country in Eastern Liberia.” Photo: © 2011 Reuters [9].

References

[1] Wells, Matt and Corinne Dufka. 2011. They Killed Them Like It Was Nothing": The Need for Justice for Côte d’Ivoire’s Post-Election Crimes. New York: Human Rights Watch (accessed May 28, 2012).

[2] Al Jazeera. 2011. UN: One Million Flee Cote d’Ivoire Violence. Al Jazeera, March 25 (accessed June 15, 2012).

[3] Bavier, Joe. 2012. Ivory Coast Says It Has Uncovered Coup Plot. Reuters, June 12 (accessed June 15, 2012).

[4] Al Jazeera. 2012. Western Ivory Coast Sees Rise in Unrest. Al Jazeera, June 23 (accessed June 25).

[5] Agence France Presse. 2012. L’UE s’inquiète à son tour des discours violents en vogue en Côte d’Ivoire. Abidjan.net, June 25 (accessed June 25, 2012).

[6] France 24. 2011. Ivory Coast Special: Reconciliation and Reconstruction (Video). France 24, June 3 (accessed June 15, 2012).

[7] Human Rights Watch. 2012. World Report 2012: Côte d’Ivoire. Human Rights Watch (accessed June 25, 2012).

[8] Newell, Sasha. 2012. The Moderntiy Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenship in Côte d’Ivoire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[9] Human Rights Watch. 2011. Liberia: Protect Refugees against Sexual Abuse. Human Rights Watch, April 21 (accessed June 25, 2012).

[10] Smith, David. 2011. Ivory Coast: UN and France Launch Reprisal Attacks on Gbagbo. The Guardian, April 10 (accessed May 29, 2012).

Essays

I. INTRODUCTION TO THE FORUM

A History of Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire

Joseph Hellweg, Department of Religion, Florida State University  

II. A JUST AGENDA: POST-CONFLICT LEGALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

The Fundamental Need for Impartial Justice

Matt Wells, Africa Division, Human Rights Watch

Uncoupling Post-War Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda

Scott Straus, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison  

III. THE WAGES OF REBELLION, EXILE, AND POVERTY

The Costs of the Road in a Divided Côte d’Ivoire

Thomas J. Bassett, Department of Geography, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Diaspo” Youth Culture and the Ivoirian Crisis

Jesper Bjarnesen, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Uppsala University

“We Talk to Each Other”: Korhogo after the End of the Rebellion

Till Förster, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel

Up North: Uncertainty, Poverty, and the Issue of Youth

Marie Nathalie LeBlanc, Department of Sociology, Université du Québec à Montréal

The Three Binds of the Ivoirian Cocoa Farmer

Tom Neuhaus, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, California State Polytechnic University  

IV. POTENT AESTHETICS: GENDER, RELIGION, AND THE RHETORIC OF EXCLUSION

Styling the Donzos: Warriors, Women, and Wild Men in a City Parade

Karel Arnaut, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Female Genital Power in Ritual and Politics: Violation and Deployment in Southern Côte d’Ivoire

Laura S. Grillo, Core Faculty, Pacifica Graduate Institute

The Roots of Islamophobia in Côte d’Ivoire

Robert Launay, Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University

An Ivoirian Apocalypse: Spiritual Violence in the Post-Electoral Crisis

Marie Miran-Guyon, Centre d’études africaines, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales

Women’s Songs in Post-crisis Côte d’Ivoire: “Ask Gbagbo . . .”

Carol Spindel, Department of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  

V. BEYOND THE POLITICS OF ILLUSION

The President and His Double: An Ivoirian Politics of the Counterfeit

Sasha Newell, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of the Holy Cross

Toward an Anthropology of Legitimacy

Mike McGovern, Department of Anthropology, Yale University

The Ivoirian Presidential Debate of November 2010: A Key Symbolic Moment in Producing, Or Undermining, Democracy in Côte d’Ivoire

Bertin K Kouadio, Department of International Studies, Wilson College

In Search of Lost Legality: Justice, Constitutionality, and the Rome Statute in Côte d'Ivoire

Joseph Hellweg, Department of Religion, Florida State University

Posts in This Series

A History of Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire

Female Genital Power in Ritual and Politics: Violation and Deployment in Southern Côte d’Ivoire

The Fundamental Need for Impartial Justice

Styling the Donzos: Warriors, Women, and Wild Men in a City Parade

“Diaspo” Youth Culture and the Ivoirian Crisis

“We Talk to Each Other”: Korhogo after the End of the Rebellion

Uncoupling Post-War Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda

In Search of Lost Legality: Justice, Constitutionality, and the Rome Statute in Côte d’Ivoire

The Ivoirian Presidential Debate of November 2010: A Key Symbolic Moment in Producing, Or Undermining, Democracy in Côte d’Ivoire

The Three Binds of the Ivoirian Cocoa Farmer

Up North: Uncertainty, Poverty, and the Issue of Youth

The Roots of Islamophobia in Côte d’Ivoire

Toward an Anthropology of Legitimacy

The President and His Double: An Ivoirian Politics of the Counterfeit

An Ivoirian Apocalypse: Spiritual Violence in the Post-Electoral Crisis

The Costs of the Road in a Divided Côte d’Ivoire

Women’s Songs in Post-crisis Côte d’Ivoire: “Ask Gbagbo . . .”