Friday, October 18, 2013
The Ivorian Peoples' Struggles to Return Home
Though the feuds in Côte d’Ivoire have simmered down in terms of the violence between supporters of former president Gbagbo and the supporters of Ouattara, the winner of the November 2010 elections, many Guéré people are now victims of land dispossession. Having been pushed off their home by Ouattara supporters' advances, much of the native population have either chosen to remain as refugees in Liberia or come back to find non-natives occupying their land illegally.
Land ownership is a vital part of an individual's livelihood. For people such as the native Guéré of Côte d’Ivoire, land is more than just a place to return to. They cultivate the land together in villages, thereby using it to found communal bonds and generate revenue. The chaos of fraudulent land ownership is made even more appalling when some new occupiers destroy parts of land meant to be dedicated to future generations. To not only take people's homes and sources of income, but also their culture and future, is telling of the blatant disrespect being exhibited by these non-natives. Land falls under property, and it is accepted in many human rights documents that people have a right to their property.
Nevertheless, the Guéré are not without fault. I find it somewhat unsurprising that the same scenario was played before in Côte d’Ivoire, but under Gbagbo. In the conflicts of 2002 to 2003, it was native populations that forcibly displaced non-natives; in the current conflict, cases of a non-native taking back land that was once theirs have been documented. Back then, Gbagbo's administration did little, if anything, to settle disputes. Just as before, the government under Ouattara has done little to help return lands to rightful owners. It is essential that Ouattara's administration learn from Gbagbo's and put in the necessary effort to protect the rights of the people. As Matt Wells, a West Africa researcher, implies, the continued lack of administrative response can cause tensions to rise again, and unless action is taken promptly, things may once more culminate into violence in Côte d’Ivoire.