Written By: Sneha Elavarasan
The problem of ethnic division and civil conflict in developing countries is a complex issue with deep historical roots. The West African country of Côte d’Ivoire is no exception. Since its independence from France in 1960 the country has faced ethnic conflicts resulting in devastating civil wars and political instability. This article analyzes the causes of ethnic conflict in Côte d’Ivoire and recommends actionable proposals to resolve the conflict.
Côte d’Ivoire is home to more than 60 ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Akan and Voltaic. The country has a population of about 26 million and is known for its diverse ethnic and linguistic groups. Côte d’Ivoire’s Human Development Index (HDI) is about 0.55 (162nd in the world), and for reference, the world average is about 0.72 points. French colonial power favoured the Akans, who were mainly Christians and had a more significant influence on the country’s economy, politics, and education. This created tension between the Akans and the Voltaic, who were predominantly Muslim and had fewer opportunities to participate in the governance and the economy of the country.
In 1990, opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, a member of the Voltaic ethnic group, was barred from running for president because he was not an Ivorian citizen. In 2002, the conflict escalated into civil war, which lasted until 2011, when rebels (mostly made up of the Voltaic ethnic group) in the North took control of northern Côte d’Ivoire. There was a great deal of damage. Since the end of the conflict, the country has made efforts to rebuild and diversify its economy by focusing on agriculture, manufacturing, and services. With an average annual growth rate of around 8% in recent years, Côte d’Ivoire is now one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. The country is the world’s leading exporter of cocoa beans, coffee, and palm oil. Other important sectors include mining, energy, and tourism. Despite its economic progress, Côte d’Ivoire still faces significant challenges, including high levels of poverty, inequality, youth unemployment, and political instability. The country is also grappling with the effects of climate change, including desertification and deforestation, which threaten its agricultural sector and natural resources.
Solutions in Similarly Situated Countries
Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea has implemented a range of policies aimed at promoting social cohesion and reducing linguistic barriers. These include creating a national education system that teaches in English, the country’s official language, and promoting multilingual education in local languages. The government has also implemented policies aimed at reducing corruption and promoting economic development, in an effort to reduce social and economic inequality.
Nigeria: Nigeria has implemented a number of policies aimed at promoting national unity and reducing ethnic tensions. These include creating a federal system of government, in which power is shared between the central government and the country’s 36 states, each of which is allowed to maintain its own laws and customs. Nigeria has also created a National Youth Service Corps, which requires all university graduates to serve in a different region of the country for one year, in an effort to promote national integration.
Afghanistan: Afghanistan has struggled with ethnic and linguistic tensions for decades, exacerbated by ongoing conflict. The country has made efforts to promote national unity, including creating a national language, Dari, which is spoken by a majority of the population. The government has also implemented policies aimed at promoting gender equality and reducing discrimination against minority groups.
In addition to successes, an analysis of a failed solution will help in recommending appropriate measures for Côte d’Ivoire. In Myanmar, the government has historically promoted the Burmese language and culture over the country’s many minority languages and cultures. This policy has contributed to ethnic tensions and conflict in the country, particularly with ethnic groups in border regions. Throughout Myanmar’s history, the favouritism of the Burmese language and culture has contributed to a sense of marginalization and exclusion among minority groups. In recent decades, these tensions have escalated into violence, particularly in border regions where many minority groups are concentrated. The most well known example is the conflict in the Rakhine state, where the Rohingya Muslim minority has faced persecution and displacement by the Burmese military.
The following are recommendations for the Côte d’Ivoire to follow in order to lead the country to a peaceful and prosperous future:
1) National Reconciliation: Côte d’Ivoire needs a national reconciliation process that acknowledges the historical injustices and grievances of all ethnic groups. The government should engage in dialogue with all parties involved and develop a comprehensive reconciliation plan that addresses the root causes of the conflict. This plan should be inclusive and involve all ethnic groups, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders.
2) Power Sharing: A power sharing agreement should be reached between the government and the opposition to ensure that all ethnic groups have a say in the governance of the country. This agreement should involve the creation of a national unity government that includes members from all ethnic groups, and a more inclusive electoral process that ensures fair representation for all ethnic groups. A good example of this is democracy since it takes the people’s opinion into consideration, and equally weighs everyone’s votes.
3) Economic Empowerment: The government should implement policies that promote economic empowerment and equal opportunities for all ethnic groups. This includes investing in infrastructure development in the northern part of the country, where the Voltaic people are predominantly located, and promoting economic activities that benefit all ethnic groups. Learning from Myanmar, Côte d’Ivoire should be impartial to all ethnic groups, and not discriminate the minorities.
4) Strengthening Institutions: The government should strengthen its institutions, including the judiciary and security forces, to ensure that they are impartial and serve the interests of all ethnic groups. This addresses the formal institutions that need improvement such as: political institutions, legal institutions, courts, etc. This would reduce corruption, and promote accountability and transparency in governance to improve social cohesion amongst these groups.
In conclusion, the ethnic conflict in Côte d’Ivoire has resulted in devastating civil wars and political instability. However, there is hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future for the country if the recommended actionable proposals are implemented. The recommendations provided above, which include national reconciliation, power sharing, economic empowerment, and strengthening institutions, can go a long way in resolving the ethnolinguistic conflict and promoting sustainable development in Côte d’Ivoire.
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