On the anniversary of the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo, I find myself in a maquis (local restaurant/bar) with more than ten supporters of the former president, from his Bete ethnic group. This wasn’t planned, but I was in Yopougon, Abidjan’s most pro-Gbagbo district for an interview with a cultural figure (nothing related to politics). Afterwards came the invitation for a few beers under the shade of some local trees. The conversation in the all-male group turned around the party-buzz that remains in Yopougon and how beautiful the women were. Life in this most pro-Gbagbo of places has in some sense returned to normal.
A year and a couple of days ago, I was 100m from there with the military forces trying to take the city. The road into the city was strewn with bodies.
Now, the traffic was heavy. Life you could say is returning to normal, politics has drifted into the background, and people have learned to live again.
Today’s anniversary has been the occasional for a resurgence of bitter partisan comment on Facebook of the type we saw in the worst moments of the crisis. Each side’s ‘brave intellectual combattants’ is the other side’s ‘corrupt ignorant extremist’. Perhaps most poignantly, one comment said words to the effect that after 3,000 deaths, no-one learned anything. And that’s part of the sad truth of what happened. No side has admitted defeat, asked for forgiveness or moved the country forward. The contrast with Senegal is evident. In the end, it all came down to a military struggle, which made it obvious that one side was physically stronger than the other, but didn’t resolve any arguments in people’s heads.
Ivorians on all sides are moving on at least chronologically. The past – except for those outside the country – is the past, and people are getting on with things in a newly peaceful country. Yet, I worry that too much is still unresolved in the hearts and minds.