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Politics turned into turf war

Watching George Osborne deliver the Budget yesterday reminded me how it’s been nearly a year since we were gripped by the uncertainty of the outcome of a general election here in the UK. 

Living in a country without a formed government for ten days sent most news makers into tail spins, and speculation and conversation about British politics was rife across all walks of life. That was probably the first time I could walk into my local newsagent and expect the topic of conversation to be about the impact of a hung parliament. 

While it was definitely a gripping time, on the whole most of us went about our daily lives knowing that eventually one or the other party would take power, and that there would be no bloodshed or any retribution against the British public.  Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Ivorians. 

It’s now been nearly five months since men and women in Ivory Coast went to the ballot boxes to vote for their President in two rounds of elections. Yet months later the incumbent ‘President’ (Laurent Gbagbo) refuses to leave, while the internationally recognised ‘President’ (Alassane Ouattara) remains unable to take power and full control of the country.  The consequences of which are being played out in a bloody battle between warring parties – with civilians caught in the crossfire.

This week alone, 52 people have been killed according to some news reports, taking the death toll up to 426 since the start of 2011.  ECOWAS (the organisation of West African states) has called for strict UN sanctions to be placed on Ivory Coast in an attempt to shift Mr Gbagbo from power.

The prospects for Ivory Coast look grim.  There have been reports that a full-blown civil war appears to be imminent, particularly as the Guardian reports that thousands of men are enlisting to fight for the incumbent President while the FT suggests that Ouattara is drawing up another fighting force

Memories of the horrors of war are still recent for the people of Ivory Coast: 2002 – 2003 saw some of the bloodiest warfare in recent history across the African continent.  Thousands were killed in a conflict which impacted on much of West Africa.

The UN has today criticised the international community for forgetting about Ivory Coast.  Given the news agenda of most news broadcasters and aside from “NIBs” in most newspapers, I would probably agree.  It appears that this is a crisis which is fast spiralling into a catastrophe.  And it’s one which we ignore at our peril. 

Unless this is stemmed quickly, this crisis will have even more devastating consequences. The not-too-distant history pages of Ivory Coast can tell us that. 


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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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