Background Briefing

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Key international actors working to resolve the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire—the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—must reflect on the risks of allowing impunity to flourish in the name of fomenting peace, and how this has served to complicate instead of facilitate their efforts to bring about a return to political stability in Côte d’Ivoire. They must develop a concrete strategy to combat the current crisis of impunity. They must demonstrate their leadership by taking immediate and concrete steps to pursue justice for past and ongoing violations in Côte d’Ivoire, and in so doing send a signal to perpetrators—and the political leaders who condone their actions with inaction—that the continued abuses of human rights of ordinary Ivorians will no longer be tolerated. 

Sequencing the pursuit of peace and justice must be carefully done. However, delaying justice has served to deepen the culture of impunity, embolden perpetrators, and make the quest for political stability ever more elusive. In the meantime, the human rights and humanitarian situation for millions of ordinary Ivorians has dramatically deteriorated. Once-strong institutions meant to protect them—the police, the judiciary—instead now prey on or ignore them. Government services which once benefited them are steadily deteriorating, with often lethal consequences. 

Once the bedrock of stability and an economic engine for regional development, Côte d’Ivoire risks becoming the fulcrum of regional instability. Unless the international community takes strong and unified steps to resolve the crisis, and the Ivorian leaders embrace them, the whole region, including the nascent peace in Sierra Leone and Liberia, could be affected.   

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>December 2005