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Ivory Coast 2006: "Political satire: how to effectively portray the current situation"

Background to the project

The second edition of the "Crossed Pens" collaborative venture took place during the political-military crisis in Ivory Coast from 1993 until 2007. The after effects of this crisis, which was to a large extent religious and ethnic in nature, were still being felt in 2010 and 2011.

Formerly one of the strongest economies in Africa, Ivory Coast lost its all-powerful president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, in 1993. It has since been the scene of interethnic conflicts between the poor and majority Muslim north of the country and the Christian south that controls the economic resources essential for the exercise of power.

Between 1994 and 1995, under the aegis of its new president, Henri Konan Bédié, Ivory Coast witnessed the progressive introduction of the "Ivority" concept, which split the population. Until then, during the Houphouët-Boigny years (1960-1993) identity cards had been widely distributed for electoral reasons, and holding an Ivory Coast passport was enough to prove Ivorian nationality. This new policy introduced a climate of permanent tension in the country.

In 1999 Henri Konan Bédié was toppled in a military coup led by General Gueï. However, the Ivority concept remained in place, generating a great deal of debate, notably regarding its inclusion in the new Ivorian constitution. [This states that only Ivorians born of Ivorian parents may stand in a presidential election. Debate focused on the word "and" in Article 35 ("The candidate to the presidential election ... must be Ivorian by birth, born of a father and of a mother themselves Ivorian by birth").]

General Gueï was himself deposed in 2000 after attempting to rig the presidential election and proclaim himself president of the republic. Laurent Gbagbo, the election winner, replaced him as head of state following violent clashes throughout the country between supporters of rival candidates (notably Gueï, Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara). These clashes resulted in as many as 303 dead, 65 disappeared and 1,546 injured.

A new coup attempt led by the Patriotic Movement of the Ivory Coast (MPCI) was staged simultaneously in Abidjan, Bouaké and Korhogo in September 2002.

Although the attack on Abidjan was unsuccessful, the two other cities fell to the MPCI, which eventually controlled 60% of the country. The attacks of September 2002 were the start of a five-year war between the rebel-held north and the south of the country, and prompted France and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene to end the conflict.

There was a lull in the fighting in 2003 but it wasn't until 2007 that a peace agreement, the Ouagadougou Peace Accord, was reached between the rebels in the north and the government forces in the south.

However, in 2010 there was a resurgence in violence in Ivory Coast, largely due to the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to relinquish power after he had lost the presidential election to Alassane Ouattara. The conflict continued from December 2010 until April 2011 and resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. Since April 2011 Laurent Gbagbo has been in detention in The Hague awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

Current human rights situation

The human rights situation in Ivory Coast is still a cause for concern today. Years of crisis have had a profound effect on Ivorian society, and the Ivority concept developed in those dark years continues to divide along ethnic lines. Attacks on Ivorian troops by unidentified armed groups are still commonplace. They have claimed a number of casualties in recent years among the military as well as in the civilian population, and are the root of much sexual violence.

Another issue currently causing problems in Ivory Coast is the military police force set up to end abuses committed by the army. In practice this military police force commits multiple human rights violations just like the Dozos (state-sponsored militia), in particular arbitrary detention and torture, sometimes resulting in death, of government opponents and persons considered as such.

After the many years of conflict and tension in Ivory Coast, 160,000 persons of Ivorian origin are still displaced, either within the country or beyond its borders. That number rose by 13,000 in 2013 alone as a result of sporadic violence in the country.

Lastly, there are many problems with the country's judicial system, and impunity in cases of human rights violations is widespread.

Aims of the project

Patrick Chappatte and his fellow caricaturists set out to illustrate current events in Ivory Coast from a perspective far removed from that of the partisan local press that is often corrupt and influenced by opposing forces in the country.