Not everyone is excited by the news, and there are many in Cote d’Ivoire who are outraged by it. But Alassane Ouattara was officially sworn in as President de la Republic yesterday in the nation’s capitol, Yamoussoukro.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in attendance, and received a standing ovation as Ouattara singled him out for praise in managing the post-election crisis. Of course managing the crisis meant employing a heavy, military hand in removing ex-president Laurent Gbagbo from the scene.
In Cote d’Ivoire, and across francophone West Africa, French military muscle is massively resented as a continuation of colonial policy. The 1,500 strong, heavily armed garrison of French troops permanently stationed at a camp near the airport is a long-standing source of tension in the city of Abidjan. If you ask yourself, “Why are they there, and why so many?” you eventually will have to wrestle with the notions of “post-colonial”, “national sovereignty” and “independence.”
All that said, there is hope in Cote d’Ivoire today among a great swath of Ivoirians. If Ouattara can remain true to his avowed principles, Ivory Coast may be finally emerging onto the world stage with a renewed sense of itself. Truth commissions for atrocities on both sides are a great start, but we’ll stay tuned for the follow-up.