Since November unrest has been the norm across Liberia’s eastern border. After disputed elections in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa producer and one time model of stability in West Africa, incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down and hand power over to the internationally recognized winner, Alassane Ouattara. However, the situation is more complicated than just a politician disregarding the results of an election.
The New York Times reports that Mr. Gbagbo’s security forces have blocked U.N. peace keepers and attacked areas thought to be supportive of Alassane Ouattara, the winner of November’s election. Additionally, Côte d’Ivoire is a divided country, the army and much of the South supports Laurent Gbagbo and, as Elizabeth Dickinson posted on ForeignPolicy.com, “The population is actually quite divided. If Gbagbo were removed forcefully, it really could respark civil war.” What about power sharing, could that work? Unfortunately, Gbagbo has ruled out any possibility of compromise through some kind of power sharing agreement. Peace is often more complicated than good vs. bad or right vs. wrong. The Atlantic has a good round up of proposed solutions, but none of them seem completely feasible or they rely on a unlikely breakthroughs. The situation in Côte d’Ivoire highlights how the actions of a few can affect the lives of many.
With thousands of people fleeing, a nation turned upside down, and the international community scrambling to come up with a solution, Côte d’Ivoire’s neighbors are feeling the direct affects of the unrest.
In Liberia, where More than Me currently works, about 500 refugees have been crossing over the border from Côte d’Ivoire daily. The Christian Science Monitor reports, “Nearly two thirds of the registered refugees are under the age of 18.” As of last week, there were 23,000 refugees in Liberia. On Monday, the Liberian government moved ahead with plans to build on a 80 to 120 hectare plot, which will accommodate up to 30,000 people. The impact of this instability on More than Me’s work is to be seen, but it has reaffirmed the need for children to be educated. A capable, intelligent, and informed generation will be able to withstand (and hopefully avoid) this kind of uncertainty in the future.
As we have noted before, Liberia is itself has gained a lot of attention as a successful post-conflict democracy, although it still faces big challenges. With instability across the border, Liberia’s ability to handle displaced people seeking safety, mercenaries and rebels moving across its border to fight in Côte d’Ivoire, and foreign aid workers will all be watched closely.
We hope that the fragile peace in Liberia can withstand the nearby unrest. This unfortunate crisis highlights the fact that events in one place can have an impact across the world. More than Me will continue watching events as they unfold in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and the region. This is not just about one nation or another, but about how we are all affected when things unravel.