Tensions run high at the gates of Abidjan

By
This article is freely available. Check out our subscription offers. Subscribe

Prime minister’s adopted village

In Moossou, Joël, father of an Abouré family, was preparing for a demonstration in Abidjan called for by Charles Blé Goudé, leader of the pro-Gbago ‘Young Patriots'. He warned, "We'll send at least one coach. I voted Bédié in the first round and abstained in the second. But Alassane [Ouattara], a non-Ivorean as president, we cannot accept that. When he talks, you can tell he's from Burkina Faso. The Dioulas are counting on him to dominate us. If Gbagbo stays in power, if the army remains united, there'll be no problem. Otherwise, all the ethnic communities in the south who haven't moved yet will rise. And it'll all be over very fast. The Dioulas know that."

"If Gbagbo had been faced with anybody from the Ivory Coast, he would have fallen", continues Joël. "He was lucky to be confronted with Alassane". As for Simone Gbagbo, Joël is far from fond of her: "She acts like a man. Her face is hard and authoritarian. Once a youth called out to her ‘You're in your village, here. Do you want us to lie down at your feet to welcome you?' She took offence and called a meeting at her place. The king didn't come. He's on his throne. She's not the one who's going to order him about. She was given seven hectares to build her house, where she often goes to stay the night, guarded by the military. She'd promised to provide access to water and electricity for three hectares, but never did. With us Abourés, it's the man who goes to war and the woman who provides food."

Moosou is still the adopted village of Guillaume Soro, political leader of the former rebellion (see chronology at end of article), who has been re-appointed prime minister by incoming Alassane Ouattara. Since the crisis began, Soro has taken shelter with his staff and the president elect in the Golf Hotel. He is from the Sénoufo ethnic community in the far north of the country, but chose to vote in the lagoon town, which could be seen as a provocation to Simone Gbago. But above all it shows his sentimental attachment to a town where he went into hiding when he was sought by the police as the leader of the Ivorian student federation (and succeeded by Blé Goudé). It is also said that after the failed coup against Gbagbo of September 19th 2002, it is to Moosou that Soro fled Abidjan disguised as a woman, and from there took to the sea in a dugout canoe bound for neighbouring Ghana.

The story has it that he then crossed back into the country, to the central city of Bouaké, the capital of the rebel forces that never laid down its arms, and which voted massively for Ouattara on November 28th.

In his villa just off the main road, a Baoulé police superintendent (Boualé is an ethnic community from the centre of the country, which supports the PDCI), like nearly all the military, did not respond to the appeal launched on December 24th by Ouattara for the army to place itself under his orders. "They'll end up reaching an agreement", he confides with a smile. "Houphouët1 will come back with his spirit of peace. As long as the international community stops messing us up."

-------------------------

1: The late Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Ivory Coast president from 1961-1993.

 

English version: Chloé Baker
Extend your reading on Mediapart Unlimited access to the Journal free contribution in the Club Subscribe

Key dates to the current crisis:

August 1960: Former French colony is declared independent.

December 1993: Death of president Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

December1994: Adoption of a new electoral codel restricting eligibilty of presidential candidates.

October 1995: Election as president of Henri Konan Bédié, so-called 'natural heir' to Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

December 1999: Coup d'état during which General Robert Gueï takes power.

October 2000: Laurent Gbagbo elected president.

September 2002: Coup d'état attempt against Laurent Gbagbo. The rebels take over control of the mostly Muslim north of the country.

January 2003: Signature of the Marcoussis peace agreement, allowing rebels into government while Gbagbo retained presidency.

July 2003: Official end to the civil war.

2005: Presidential elections postponed until October 2010.

March 2007: Ouagadougou agreement for peace settlement programme.

November 2010: The postponed presidential elections are finally held. Ivorian electoral commission proclaims Alassane Ouattara the victor, with 54% of the vote (Laurent Gbagbo 46%). The Gbagbo-controlled Ivorian Constitutional Council claims a 51%-49% victory for Gbagbo, who refuses to stand down.