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Ivory Coast to seek reconciliation of post-poll conflict

ABIDJAN, Sept 27 – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara will on Wednesday launch a promised reconciliation commission tasked with healing wounds from the west African nation’s bloody post-election conflict.

The Commission on Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation (CDVR) will be inaugurated in Yamoussoukro, the Ivorian political capital founded by the country’s first and longtime president Felix Houphouet-Boigny (1960-1993) after independence from colonial ruler France.

“We need to know the truth, even if it is not pretty,” commission president Charles Konan Banny, a Ouattara ally and former prime minister, has said.

The 11-member commission will include one Christian and one Muslim religious leader and five representatives of the country’s major regions.

The involvement from the start of football star Didier Drogba, seen as representing Ivorians living abroad, remains uncertain, according to a relative.

The commission with a two-year mandate must work to “bring the country as quickly as possible to normality” and “rebuild the social fabric” of the once west African powerhouse, the government has said.

Inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid, the Ivorian panel will have to deal with a decade of turmoil, coup attempts, political and sometimes ethnic-religious violence, that culminated in the post-poll unrest from last December to April.

Following the run-off vote on November 28, then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to admit defeat and hand over power to Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of the poll.

The months-long crisis culminated in two weeks of warfare and left at least 3,000 dead. Gbagbo was captured and is now under house arrest in the north of the country.

While Ivory Coast hopes with international aid to regain economic growth and stability, it is the reconciliation commission that perhaps has been dealt the most difficult task in the new era.

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Ouattara promised reconciliation when he assumed in May the presidency of the world’s biggest cocoa producer, but at the same time his regime is rounding up Gbagbo allies.

Besides the ex-president and his wife Simone, dozens of pro-Gbagbo civil and military officials have been detained for “economic crimes” or “breaches of national security.”

Ouattara’s administration does not hide its desire to send Gbagbo off to be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, which still has not decided whether to open an investigation.

And Ouattara has faced criticism not only from Gbagbo’s camp but also international rights groups about the “justice of the victors” since not one of the new president’s supporters has been charged with any crime.

According to the United Nations, both sides committed acts of violence during the post-poll crisis, especially in the west of Ivory Coast, a region still rife with tensions.

Ouattara has vowed that the CDVR “will be independent and will hear everyone.”

And he has given assurances that “there will also be pardons.”

But one question remains unanswered: Will reconciliation give way to an amnesty?

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