March 25, 2011 — Dr. Andrea Bartoli joined us for a discussion on the various tools of conflict prevention and resolution and how they apply to the current unrest in Ivory Coast. Dr. Bartoli is the Director of the Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and was the founding Director of Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution.
The current conflict in Ivory Coast centers on a disputed presidential election in November 2010. This election was part of a program to return the country to normalcy after a civil from 2002 to 2007 tore the country apart. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara agreed to hold free and fair elections with the support of the UN and an Independent Electoral Commission. President Gbagbo lost the election to Ouattara based on the election results tabulated by the Independent Electoral Commission but refused to accept the result of the Commission. He produced his own electoral count using the Ivorian Constitutional Council and began deploying army units to seal the borders of the country and surround Ouattara’s campaign headquarters. Violence has increased in the months following the election with the military siding with Gbagbo and militia forces loyal to Ouattara gathering arms and deploying around pro-Ouattara areas. There are fears that a return to civil war is imminent.
Dr. Bartoli began by taking a macro-level view of the conflict in Ivory Coast. He explained that the primary issue at stake in the country is not the result of the election, or the relationships between ethnic and religious communities. The real issue is the formation of the state polity. There are fundamental questions of state formation that remain unanswered such as who decides what the state policy is and who constitutes the state polity? Given that Ivory Coast was created in the wake of WWII and was ruled by a dictator form 1960-1993, there was never a truly representative state polity in the country and underlying all of the current unrest is this deficit of a fully developed democratic state.
It is unclear if Ivory Coast can survive in its current form given that it is such a new country in comparison to established states. The struggle in Ivory Coast will focus on whether or not the state can be reconstituted. Dr. Bartoli explained that local groups and NGOs had been organizing to keep the situation calm in many neighborhoods. While Gbagbo and Ouatarra are miles away from political compromise, local groups are attempting to avoid violence.
Bartoli addressed questions about how the US could help prevent a return to civil war during the question and answer session. He said that US involvement was important as a global leader, but that much of the work had to be done byregional organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU).
Security for a New Century is a bipartisan study group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].