The International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague recently unsealed an arrest warrant against former first lady Simone Gbagbo. In effect, she is charged with being a full accomplice in the crimes of which her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, is accused. But the Ivory Coast’s troubles go beyond the personalities of the former regime. The International Crisis Group (ICG), a highly respected non-governmental organization that has a special focus on governance and security issues, issued on November 26, a sobering analysis that concludes that political and security issues continue to threaten the Ivory Coast’s recovery following more than a decade of civil war.
President Alassane Ouattara’s recovery strategy has focused on economic recovery. But, the ICG shows the country remains deeply divided. Integration of former rebels into the regular military is not going smoothly. The Ouattara administration’s continued use of traditional hunters “Dozos,” to maintain order is deeply resented by Gbagbo’s supporters. The ICG judges that they also lack the requisite skills for their police/security assignments. The ICG finds that there is little dialogue between the government and the opposition and there is a resurgence of hate speech in the media. It also cites some government appointments as contrary to Ouattara’s promises of good governance. The ICG bottom line: “the political class does not seem to have learned all the lessons from the post-electoral crisis, and is repeating the very attitudes that led the country to the brink.”
Against this background, the ICC warrant for the arrest of Simone Gbagbo for “crimes against humanity” raises the dilemma of how to balance accountability with the political imperative of reconciliation in a bitterly divided country. In its extensive list of recommendations, the ICG recommends that the ICC prosecutor should continue his investigations of crimes that could fall under ICC jurisdiction. Given realities in the Ivory Coast, it’s a close call; but I agree. If African governance issues are to be addressed, its leaders must be held accountable for their crimes—even when they continue to enjoy substantial domestic support.