Wednesday, February 16, 2005

"I'm against the war but please don't quote me"

How bad are things in Côte d'Ivoire? Bad. Really bad. Some people think war fervor was bad in the United States a few years ago. It's nothing compared to Côte d'Ivoire. If you read French and can stomach virulence, just take a look at the Ivorian press [links to many of the country's media outlets can be found at the portal Abidjan.net].

This article from the UN's IRIN service gives an idea for fanatacism reigns in the country.

“I’ve been taken off the air [of state radio] because I’m not on anyone’s side, I just want peace in Cote d’Ivoire,” said a well-known preacher whose sermons were taken off the air after the war broke out.

[...]

“But I cannot speak out this way in public because of the youths,”
he said, referring to the xenophobic, rampaging 'Jeunes patriotes' (Young Patriots) militias that are nominally aligned to Ivorian government.

“Some of them asked me how I thought the crisis could be resolved. When I said through negotiations, they said 'no way.’ If you knew how well they were organised, you’d understand why I’ve stopped speaking publicly.”

One schoolteacher explained, “A woman who lives in my suburb who’s a ‘patriot’ [a militant, pro-government person] said she was going to tell the GPP [a hardline militia group] I was a suspect individual because I never go out on their [pro-government] demonstrations.

“I tell them this is not the case, that it’s just that I’m not at war with anyone. What I want is peace for everyone in this country, not a peace that favours some and not others. But people who think the same way I do can’t really speak their minds, neither here in Abidjan [Ivorian commercial capital] nor anywhere else in the country. There’s no-one to protect us.”

“You’re either with the rebels or with the republic. You can’t sit on the fence in this war,” declared Mamadou Koulibaly, the parliamentary speaker and a key figure in the ruling party. [Does that rhetoric sound familiar?]

But not everyone is cowed by the violent fanatacism.

“If you fail to come out in favour of one or the other political camp, and make impartial appeals for peace and the respect of the peace agreements, your organisation will be attacked. But we’re ready to take on this risk because that’s our choice,” said Salimata Porquet, who heads a women’s group. “We need to think Cote d’Ivoire first and not one group or the other, because the people who are being silenced and who are suffering from the troubles are the majority of the people. We are mothers and wives and we know what we’re talking about.”

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