West Africa’s jewel is fracturing. The Ivory Coast miracle is now the Ivory Coast hell, where natives and non-natives live in fear.
Since the arrival of a small contingent of French troops in 2003, the horror of this latest African civil war has occasionally intruded on the awareness of the global public, only to recede again. Last November, for example, seven French soldiers were killed in a regime-ordered air raid against the northern rebels. France retaliated by destroying the minute Ivoirian air force.
With its peacekeeping mandate due to expire on April 4, France may decide to leave. Many Ivorians fear that this will mean renewed civil war.
But instead of international intervention, the Ivory Coast needs homegrown solutions for its problems. It must avoid the pernicious ethnic nationalism of recent years that led to one ethnic group being banned from running in the presidential election. Without solutions that claim broad support, the Ivory Coast will likely join the grim list of the world’s failed states precisely because of its inability to develop into a cohesive nation based on equal political rights for all.