It was supposed to be the final stage of a nearly decade long peace process. It was supposed to finally put to rest the civil war that tore the country apart in the 1990s. It was supposed to be the start to a new chapter in Cote d’Ivoire’s history, one not marked by geographic and ethnic divisions. But for everything the November presidential election was supposed to be, it turned out to be quite the opposite when incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede the election to the internationally-recognized winner, Alassane Ouattara.
Since then, the world watched as opposition supporters were rounded up by militias loyal to Gbagbo and allegations of targeted rape and torture emerged. Evidence of massacres outside of Abidjan emerged this week with thousands believed to have been killed or ‘disappeared’ in the western town of Duekoué . Videos on YouTube and circulated on social media show people brutally targeted by militias on both sides, leaving many to speculate on whether Cote d’Ivoire could escape the election controversy without spiraling back into civil war.
Last week the UN, who already had a French peacekeeping operation in the country, passed Security Council Resolution 1975 allowing peacekeepers to use all necessary means to protect civilians and their personnel. That move, and the more aggressive stance taken by peacekeepers on the ground, dramatically shifted the balance of power in the streets and among Gbagbo’s camp. Live blogs keeping track of new development began to appear (among them Another War of Jenkins’ Ear) as people both inside and outside the country tweeted information to keep the focus on the conflict. Yet, just as the world started to pay attention, it appears that the stalemate may be over. Here is a small look at what came over my Twitter timeline this afternoon as the situation unfolded:
The tweets above illustrate the way many of us have watched this conflict online – little by little, bit by bit. With mainstream media sources preoccupied by events in the Middle East, small pieces of information gathered from personal contacts in the country disseminated through blogs and social media took their place. Sometimes, the reliance on “citizen journalism” like this is unavoidable as mainstream media outlets cannot cover everything all the time (an increasing reality as international budgets are cut). But it also illustrates the importance of attention on issues of human rights and governance as Cote d’Ivoire does enter a new chapter, just not the one people anticipated back in November. Online activists can only do so much to bring attention to a situation, and real action is needed by the governments, organizations, and donors active in Cote d’Ivoire. Without that synergy, it is likely that we will all be back here at the next election, tweeting the same realities and writing the same old stories.