minus the liberté and égalité, of course.
i’m talking about the civil war in the ivory coast. i don’t suppose i have to explain to anyone stopping by here that this war is not about democracy or freeing the slaves or any such nonsense. no, this is a good, old fashioned ethnic war (like pretty much all of them, come to think of it…).
and how could it not be when, in a “nation” where the borders were drawn by european statesmen far away on another continent, the country is made up of 60+ ethnic groups! here’s a map of the major tribal divisions:
everything was going along swimmingly while félix
the cat houphouët-boigny was benevolent-ish dictator of the place. at least there was a fairly decent economy (based mostly on the growing of cocoa) and people could earn an ok living, compared to many places in africa that is. he was in charge for 30-something years, and then he went and died on everybody, after which the country just went to h*ll in a handbasket.
from what i gather, the basic dispute (over resources, as always) is between southern, christian peoples — like houphouët-boigny’s baoulés, one of several akan tribes — and northern, muslim peoples — like the sénoufo people, some of whom live in countries north of the ivory coast, like mali and burkina-faso. (sounds kinda like nigeria. i presume a similar sitch exists all over west africa…?)
but, there are also disputes between southerners, like the baoulés and the bétés to the west. apparently, lots of baoulés have moved west and set up successful cocoa farms in bété territory, which the bété resent. additionally, many of the immigrants from burkina faso didn’t stay up north in the territories of their fellow tribesmen, but also moved to western areas of the country to work as cheap laborers on the cocoa farms.
at the same time, other cheap laborers from guinea and liberia to the west also came to work on the cocoa farms in the western part of the ivory coast. many of them are from the same tribes as the peoples from western ivory coast (tribes don’t follow these artificial, national boundaries). so, now that there’s fighting between the baoulés vs. the bétés+other western tribes, the guinean and liberian immigrants join in in support of their fellow tribesmen in the west. meanwhile, everyone beats up on the burkinabés (people from burkina faso).
what a mess.
which brings us to another major point of this civil war. not only is it a war between different ethnic groups|tribes within the ivory coast, it’s also a war over who should be considered a citizen of the ivory coast. in other words, who should have access to the resources of the ivory coast. for, you see, houphouët-boigny apparently practiced some of the ol’ “elect a new people“** stuff by doling out citizenship to immigrants from burkina-faso (many of whom, like we saw in the case of the sénoufo people above, would be related to already existing tribes in northern ivory coast). no doubt he did this to court their, and their fellow tribemen’s, favor — but needless to say, it has p*ssed off many of the other groups in the ivory coast.
which brings us back to ivoirité. i know it sounds like i made that up, but it’s an actual term in usage in the ivory coast! it was originally coined as a sort-of politically correct, we-should-all-love-ivory-coast-multiculturalism word — i.e. “we’re all ivorians!” but it didn’t take, and was quickly co-opted and turned on its head to mean some of us are real ivorians — the rest of you have just arrived recently from burkina faso (or wherever) and don’t belong.
there was actually a law for a while saying that you couldn’t be president of the ivory coast unless both your parents were born in the country. (not a bad law, afaics.) that law was passed to block this guy from the north (a guy with familial connections to burkina faso) from becoming president, but at some point the law was overturned (don’t ask me when or how). and now it seems he has been elected president (at least that’s what the u.n. says). and, so, of course, all h*ll has broken loose.
the lesson? yeah, well, multiculturalism doesn’t work (but you already knew that). especially in a place where there are many different ethnic groups. i’d love to tell you about how inbred the ivorians are, but i don’t have any data at hand for them, and it’s too late on a sunday night for me to start looking now. suffice it to say that, no doubt, most of the tribes are endogamous — otherwise there wouldn’t be any tribes in ivory coast! also, some people in neighboring guinea have a consanguinity rate of 25.9%, while to the north in burkina faso, the fulani have a consanguinity rate of 65.8%, so inbreeding is definitely not unheard of in the region. i’m sure it must occur in the ivory coast.
the war nerd sums it all up well:
“In Ivory Coast, this latest flare-up came when the Coastal/Christian presidential candidate, Laurent Gbagbo, wouldn’t admit he lost the 2010 election. Most of the Jimmy-Carter types who like to sniff around other countries’ ballot boxes agree that Gbagbo lost to the Muslim Northerner Alassane Ouattara beat Gbagbo 54% to 46%….
“There are a lot of similarities, us and them. Ivory Coast used to be the rich country in West Africa, just like we used to be the rich country in North America. And just like us, they had tons of illegal immigrants from poorer places, landlocked sweatboxes like Burkina Fasso, with a GDP measured in scorpions and diseases. And a huge number of those illegal immigrants voted. The Burnkina Fasso immigrants were all Muslim and they voted for Ouattara. How would you feel if the US election was decided by illegal Muslim immigrants? [or, how about mexican immigrants?! – hbdchk] Well, that’s how Gbagbo and his coastal Christians felt. I mean, it’s got to be frustrating; you see that the French are the big new power and you let your own African identity get Frenchified for generations and then out of the blue the power shifts and you’re losing out to Muslim hillbillies who don’t even have citizenship. Everything you’ve built up for generations, all the stuff you’ve paid for in shame for generations getting ordered around by the whites, and now it’s for nothing?”
**this “electing a new people” practice must be found right on page three of the standard, how-to manual given out to all aspiring leaders|politicians: “how to win friends and maintain power once you’ve got it.” electing a new people seems to be — and to have been — done EVERYWHERE!
“Early reports suggested that more than 800 people, largely from the Gbagbo-supporting Gueré tribe, were killed in a single day at the sprawling Salesian Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus mission in Duekoue, 300 miles west of Abidjan towards the Liberian border. The attackers seem to have been largely soldiers descended from Burkina Faso immigrant Muslim families loyal to Ouattara….
“The inter-ethnic violence around Duekoue that has driven the Gueré tribal people into the mission station mirrors the kind of ethnic tensions that prevail throughout most of Ivory Coast. The Gueré ancestors had possessed the land for centuries before people from the arid north and from neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali began settling there 40 years ago, seeking work as cocoa prices boomed on world markets. Ivory Coast historically has produced more than 40% of the world’s supply of beans for production of the developed world’s chocolate products.
“Ethnic tensions and xenophobic killings began when the world price of cocoa nosedived in the 1990s and some five million immigrant workers were suddenly perceived as a burden. The southern-dominated Government introduced a new xenophobic concept of ‘Ivorité’, or Ivorianess. Vigilantes began killing ‘foreigners’ – the majority of them Muslims and many of them third-generation immigrants – on plantations and in shanties on the edges of the towns as the country, once the richest in West Africa, descended into civil war.”
another update – from al jazeera:
“Q. How do these ‘fragile countries’ break out of these cycles?
“There is also a responsibility from the population to be far more educated to understand that during an election do not vote purely on tribal lines. As is ever so apparent across Africa where most vote for the man or woman that belongs to their tribe and cultural affiliation rather that the person who has the best policies. There is a need for the populace to become more educated and to choose wisely with their vote and understand the ramification of the choices they make and how best to use their vote.
“Finally the electoral process of choosing a president or a leader for a country should be organised and controlled by ECOWAS. They should work closely with the electoral commission and the decision should be final. This way disputes will be minimal and there will not be a risk that the process ha been compromised or sabotaged by tribalism or cultural affiliation.”
heh. yeah. good luck with that. where there are tribes, there will be tribalistic behaviors. a functioning, modern, democratic society will NOT happen in a tribal society.
some good comments on that article on the al jazeera website:
mandefu – “Africa is not at a crossroads, it is in a phase of phoney independence between the old colonialism of Europe and the new colonolialism of China. The only thing the average African has going for them is the safety net provided by extended family, i.e. the tribe. The state does nothing for the ordinary citizen except shake them down. In other words, tribalism is about the only positive feature of the African socio-political mess. This article spouts the usual ‘politically correct’ condemnation of tribalism. That is pernicious and would only come from the mindset of non-Africans or westernised African ‘Intellectuals’….”
nadreck – “The Nation State is an essentially Chinese and European social structure and, although it is an excellent one, it is all too often thought of as the *only* acceptable organisation. ‘One size fits all’? Bah! This is especially true in Africa where most of the borders were simply sketched out with a straight-edge ruler by some 19th century European Ruler and make no sense at all. Still what to do instead? Various alternatives such as Pakistan’s Tribal Zones have been tried and all have been miserable failures….”
update 05/11 – Lessons from the Ivory Coast
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