Reading the comments

Reading the comments section of anything online can be pretty depressing, no matter how high-brow the platform. Nevertheless, it was particularly disappointing to read the comments on this news article on an opposition rally in Yopougon yesterday.

The news event itself was reasonably good news, and heralded as such: a modest sized opposition rally with (I understand it) no trouble to speak of. Of course, it shows in part that the government are hardly quaking at the thought of the opposition’s threat in October’s polls, and opposition speaker, Mamadou Koulibaly, said as much. But hopefully it also shows that people are prepared to let politics take place in a more reasonable context – previous attempts to hold meetings in the same place had seen clashes with pro-Ouattara youths and security forces. Whether the anti-opposition feeling was top-down or bottom-up was hard to tell, but there was clearly a lot of bitterness.

What the comments section on the article shows, is a particular hardline set of opinions from what one would assume to be overseas Gbagbo militants (I suspect they would call themselves ‘patriots’). The believe the following:

– Ouattara is the worst possible leader any country could ever have

– France put Ouattara in power and he’s given them complete control of the country

– Gbagbo clearly won the 2010 election, and is innocent of all charges

– No Ivorian could ever support Ouattara

– Ouattara is a radical Islamist persecuting Christians

With the exception of the third point, Gbagbo supporters I know in Cote d’Ivoire, wouldn’t echo these thoughts. Do the writers themselves believe it, or is it just an organised political campaign? I suspect a bit of the latter, but also a fair dose of the former. The Ivorian crisis was marked by a strong ideological strand, witnessed in the ‘parliaments’ and ‘agoras’, which gave a particularly visceral edge to the dispute and subsequent violence.

These debates seem like relics of the 2004. In 2015, if you wanted to criticise the Ivorian government, there are certainly grounds to do so for those who are so inclined, and if the opposition are to win a future election, they will need to focus on these points to really hit home. These include the major problems in the education sector, power cuts, the lack of jobs, continuing corruption and persistent poverty. Perhaps the aim for now is to keep a core of militants in the game by speaking to traditional issues, and then when they again become a serious challenge in future elections (2020?) to broaden the appeal with a different message.

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