Daniel Korski

In Cote D’Ivoire, New Year may bring a new Africa

In Cote D'Ivoire, New Year may bring a new Africa
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The situation in Cote D'Ivoire is heating up. It has the potential either to herald a new future for West Africa, based on democracy, regional cooperation and a rejection of ethnic mobilisation; or to showcase the continent's violent and undemocratic past. Hitherto there have been signposts pointing in both directions.

On the one hand, Laurent Gbagbo is clinging on to presidential power, after having been in office for ten years on a questionable mandate. Willing to politicise the army and exploit ethnic differences, his strategy is straight out of the continent's "big man" playbook of politics. On the other hand, Alassane Ouattara, the country's rightful leader, has refrained from using playing the ethnic card. Importantly, regional leaders - including Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan - have led international efforts at restoring democratic rule to Cote D'Ivoire.

In an excellent IHT op-ed, Jendayi Frazer, a former Bush administration official, explores the underlying problems plaguing not only Cote D'Ivoire but a number of African countries. Namely: "a fundamental disjunction between Africa's modern political institutions and its ethnic communities and traditional institutions." Frazer and her co-author go on to argue that "contemporary African states bare poorly functioning hybrids of indigenous cultures and customs mixed with Arab and European models of governance that arrived with invasions, colonialism and migration." To deal with this - and create conditions for poverty-alleviation, which the coalition government holds dear, will require more than just spending millions on development aid.