DON'T MISS : Talking Africa New Podcast – Ethiopia/Egypt: tension spikes despite Dam talks

Côte d’Ivoire’s troubled north

By Monica Mark in Abidjan
Posted on Thursday, 28 October 2010 15:22

Ahead of elections on 31 October, the north of Côte d’Ivoire is still largely controlled by rebels.

Read our piece on Who will be Côte d’Ivoire’s new Moses, plus an interview with President Laurent Gbagbo.

Life changed forever for Ismail Hamed on the night of 19 September 2002. “In the middle of the night, we were woken by gunfire. The next morning, [rebel] soldiers were all over the place. We thought it was a coup attempt that would last only two days, then a week, then one month,” he explains.

Sporting distinctive red berets, Forces Nouvellesrebels still man dozens of checkpoints around the town. Pushed northwards after their failed coup in protest against the long-standing social and economic marginalisation of northern Ivorians, the mutinous soldiers made Bouaké their stronghold.

As the conflict dragged on, the number of foreign businesses in the country dropped from 25,000 to around 14,000. Cities like Bouaké were hard hit as the sizeable French population – alycée Français operated until 2004 – began to leave.

Like many others, Hamed lost his job at a French-owned peanut factory as one business after another moved southwards or simply shut its doors. Hamed now lives off the informal economy, selling counterfeit goods at a daily market.

Occupied first with fighting, then growing rich on illegal roadblocks and diamond, cocoa and arms smuggling, the rebel generals have done little to invest in the crumbling city, its services or infrastructure. Their former headquarters stands forlornly on a pot-holed road with a collapsed roof. Inside the bullet-strewn walls of the entrance of the Université de Bouaké, weed-choked paths lead to roofless buildings.

Public legal and administrative services have slowly picked up after civil servants were redeployed to the north under the 2007 peace accord. But the rebels, re-arming ahead of elections scheduled for 31 October, continue to control the territory.

Hamed is hopeful. “What has improved is that northern Ivorian citizens who couldn’t previously do so now call this country their home. But if armed rebellion was the solution – that we can only answer once elections take place. If things return to normal, we may have jobs again.”

This article was first published in the October-November 2010 edition of The Africa Report.

We value your privacy

The Africa Report uses cookies to provide you with a quality user experience, measure audience, and provide you with personalized advertising. By continuing on The Africa Report, you agree to the use of cookies under the terms of our privacy policy.
You can change your preferences at any time.