A month after former Côte d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo was pulled out from his bunker in the presidential palace, his successor, Alassane Ouattara, must now restore security and economic growth. Gbagbo had refused to relinquish power despite losing a November 2010 run-off, and the ensuing conflict killed at least 3,000 people. Gbagbo remains under house arrest in the north of the country, under a 1963 law that allows the president to detain without limit those considered threats to national security. How Ouattara handles his high-value prisoner may determine his own political fate.
The international community is already pouring money into the reconstruction. Washington is planning its first aid programme for the country since 1999. The EU has pledged €180m, primarily for agricultural and judicial reform. The IMF announced that it would reopen its office in Abidjan in mid-May, saying that it would have to start shaping a new debt relief package.
Meanwhile, the export of Ivorian cocoa beans, which account for almost 40% of global supply, is expected to pick up over the next month. A bumper mid-harvest of 400,000tn is forecast on the back of favourable weather conditions. But Ghana may still continue to benefit from smuggled beans: exporters complain of racketeering from the former rebels who helped install Ouattara. “It’s cheaper to re-direct exports,” says one multinational exporter.
Ouattara will need to stamp out racketeering to really convince foreign investors, the IMF says. Multilateral donors will also expect reforms to the lucrative but dysfunctional cocoa sector sooner rather than later. Respected finance minister Charles Koffi Diby, who defected from Gbagbo’s camp, is seen as a safe pair of hands.
Key to kick-starting the economy will be Ouattara’s ability to reconcile and restore security – by no means a guarantee in the short term. Abidjan was abuzz with talk of the disappearance of Gbagbo ally Charles Blé Goudé. “Ouattara is known for being a technocrat. He’s going to have to learn to slip into the skin of a politician,” one party official commented. Significantly, disgruntled members from Gbagbo’s party have yet to publicly recognise the new president.
Key players on the political field include Guillaume Soro, former leader of the rebel Forces Nouvelles (FN) and current prime minister. His influence exceeds the president’s on the military front. Another former FN chief, Chérif Ousmane, a staunch Ouattara ally and respected military leader, could help quell any leadership battles.
Reconciliation will be tackled through a commission headed by former prime minister and central bank governor Charles Konan Banny. The road ahead may be rocky: the International Criminal Court plans to investigate potential crimes against humanity – which could implicate all sides in the conflict.
This article was first pubished in the June 2011 edition of The Africa Report
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