Utafiti: Journal of African Perspectives


Call for Papers: Utafiti is inviting you to submit your manuscript – any topic in the humanities - for consideration in the next issues.




News & Announcements

Stay up-to-date with the Brill African Studies Community and sign up to our newsletter!

Sign up

New at Brill: Afrika Focus

This journal promotes critical and worldly debates with Africa at the centre. 

New Series: Africa Futures / Afrique Futurs

Published in association with the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Africa Futures features cutting-edge research that critically reflects on some of the big questions relevant to imagining Africa’s future as a place.

Listen to our podcast on Africa and Climate Change

Robin Attfield talks about how Africa finds itself vulnerable to drought but also the flooding of its coastline, among other untoward environmental effects of climate change and civil war.


Despite some apparent progress, 2004 was marked by the failure, yet again, of the process of reconciliation and repeated fiascos in the implementation of the resolutions of the Marcoussis Agreements. The situation took a tragic turn in November when the Gbagbo regime decided to break the ceasefire that had existed since May 2003. An open crisis with respect to the French army degenerated into looting and violence against French civilians and, more broadly, white people. As a consequence, the great majority of Europeans were evacuated and many enterprises ground to a halt or closed their doors, thereby jeopardising the fragile hopes of economic recovery. The country remained divided in two and ordinary people were taken hostage and were the main victims of this situation of violence, hate, insecurity, and dramatically increased poverty.


The year 2005 presented the same dreadful scenario for Côte d'Ivoire as the previous two years – deep political crisis and upheaval, punctuated by violent escalations and the ever present risk of deterioration into open war. Politics were focused on the presidential election planned for 31 October, which was supposed to bring to a close the worst period in Côte d'Ivoire's history and end the interlude of constitutional paralysis that had started with the Marcoussis agreement signed in France in January 2003. Yet all discussions faltered over the same issues, particularly the reform of article 35 of the constitution concerning eligibility for the presidency and the disarmament of the ‘rebels’ in the northern part of the country and the pro-Gbagbo militias and ‘patriots’ in the south. As none of the political camps would agree to take the first step, the political pressure increased with each passing month, aggravated by provocations, violence (mainly in the western region) and continuing new developments in response to the deep involvement of the international community. Everybody expected the worst as the election date drew near. Finally, all factions accepted the suggestion of the international community of another transitional year during which the elections would be organised, with no restrictions on potential candidates, and a new prime minister would take office with extra powers to enforce disarmament and restore territorial integrity and the rule of law. New prime minister and government were appointed under direct international pressure just before year's end.


For Côte d'Ivoire and its people, 2006 was – once again – a wasted year marked by exhausting uncertainty, many twists and turns, little hope and many fears. Yet the previous year had ended well with the implementation of an internationally mediated solution aimed at ending the deadlock that had arisen out of the impossibility of organising presidential elections at the end of President Laurent Gbagbo's five-year mandate (31 October 2005). A transitional period began with the extension of the presidential term by a maximum of one year and the nomination of a new prime minister – Charles Konan Banny, governor of the BCEAO – with extended powers (4 December 2005). This, however, did not end the impasse during 2006 as a result of the lack of political will among Côte d'Ivoire's politicians. When the new deadline for presidential elections drew closer, the Ivorian people and international community were provided with a remake of 2005: continuation of political deadlock and an exit option devised by the AU and UN, which proposed another one-year transition period.


At first glance, Côte d'Ivoire appeared the same as ever, stuck in an interminable peace process. President Gbagbo remained in place, presidential elections having been constantly postponed since the end of Gbagbo's mandate in October 2005, while the core issues of voter identification and of disarmament continued to be the main stumbling blocks. However, there were significant changes compared to previous years. For the first time, and despite much backtracking, the main stakeholders designed and implemented a credible exit option from the five-year political crisis. A peace accord was signed; Guillaume Soro, head of the ‘Forces Nouvelles’ (FN) rebels, was appointed the new prime minister; the identification of voters was commenced; political tensions dramatically decreased; the country was reunified with the dismantlement of the demilitarised buffer zone separating rebels from government soldiers; and people seemed ready to resume their lives. Nonetheless, while considerable and highly symbolic progress was made, the new political agenda remained uncompleted and clearly unrealistic, and the presidential elections planned for early 2008 seemed to be doomed to never-ending postponement.


This was the third year in the long awaited presidential elections. Finally planned for 30 November, they never happened, stumbling again over the recurring and unresolved issues of disarmament and voter registration. According to opposition supporters, ‘Radio Treichville’ (street gossip) as well as international observers, the repeated postponements stemmed from Laurent Gbagbo's wish to stay in power indefinitely. However, many others considered the stalemate beneficial for all the actors in the six year crisis: not only the president, but also the leaders of the ‘Forces Nouvelles’ (FN), still in effect in charge of the north of the country and exploiting its resources and people; the ex-rebel soldiers and militiamen trying to avoid disarmament and using their guns for road-racketeering; and all those involved in the ‘crisis business’ (such as UN local employees, identification and registration teams, representatives of and delegates to the many crisis committees, businessmen avoiding taxes by smuggling through the north, etc.).


Because of the impossibility of holding elections in what was still a divided country, the presidential election initially due in October 2005 was still awaited in 2009, this being the ninth year President Laurent Gbagbo was in office. Although normalisation was slowly taking place, the northern part of the country, disconnected from Abidjan since the outbreak of civil war in 2002, remained isolated from developments in the south. Two years after the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement (OPA) signed by Ivorian political forces, the disarmament of the former combatants, dismantling of militias and reunification of Ivorian security forces were still pending, as were the redeployment of the state administration across the territory, identification of citizens and voters, and the preparation of electoral lists. The Ivorian people, struggling to maintain their day to day life in a context of increasing poverty, suffered from a strong sense of fatigue. Developments were bogged down in an endless process of determining who was an Ivorian national and thus eligible to vote, and in repeated justifications for rescheduling the polling date. The proposed date of 29 November was also postponed, preparations for presidential elections becoming an object of pure speculation.