Terrorists struck Cote D’Ivoire’s beaches with ferocity with a grand aim, and it was to strike a blow at Cote D’Ivoire’s tourist and leisure industry. The Ivorian economy is largely dependent on cocoa and foreign investment, but the tourist sector brings in additional foreign exchange into the nation’s coffers. A country with a relatively stable political system and predictable economic policies in a periodically volatile region until the Gbagbo years, Cote D’Ivoire was the destination of billions of dollars of foreign investment along with tourists who spent money that boosted the national economy generally, and local economies in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro, and a few other places.
The Ivorian State founded by the late Houphouet Boigny and several other nationalists was competently administered during the presidency of Boigny from 1960 to 1993. The political system was rigged to keep Boigny in power for 33 years, but the nation was stable. National politics under Boigny was bland and boring. It was based on the “African Big Man model,” but it was devoid of brutality such as the jailing of political opponents, or taking them out at high noon and shooting them as several “African Big Men” national leaders did to their political adversaries—Idi amin in Uganda, Bedel Bokassa in the Central African Republic, Marcias Nguema in Equatorial Guinea, Milton Obote in Uganda, and a bunch more.
Boigny was a benevolent dictator who kept the lid on destructive politics, and attracted enormous French investment to his country. Cote D’Ivoire was a prosperous nation compared with her neighbors. Abidjan, the capital city, had an affectionate moniker as the “Paris of West Africa.”
It all started to go down for Cote D’Ivoire in the post Boigny era, following his death in 1993. Ambitious politicians without the political skill and finesse of Boigny took over and spectacularly failed to maintain Boigny’s legacies of ethnic and religious tolerance, which were indispensable requisites for the progress of their multi ethnic and multi religious country. Following several years of political struggle among political parties and allied militias, peace was restored in April 2011 when Allasane Ouattara replaced Laurent Gbagbo as Head of State. Gbagbo had refused to step down from office following a hotly contested presidential election.
The state under Quattarra appeared to be on the mend following years of internecine conflict. The tourists had started to come back when the terrorists struck. The terrorists’ obvious aim was to disrupt the economy and create disenchantment and chaos such that a fertile ground would be created to spread their militant ideology of jihad and martyrdom. President Ouattara must mobilize his countrymen against the terrorist evil. The security forces, particularly the intelligence branch, must get to work quickly. A plan must be put in place that applies intelligence resources to track terrorist cells and following up with the required lethal force to take them out. The tolerant Ivorian society of Muslims and Christians must not be allowed to be infiltrated by the hateful ideology of radical Jihadists.
Many of Gbagbo’s supporters who were fiercely loyal to him until the bitter end feared a takeover by Muslim Ivorians if Ouattara, a Muslim, became President. But Ouattarra’s governing style has proved them all wrong. The existing national harmony, after years of conflict, is unlikely to be broken by the actions of the terrorists, whose other aim was to create a Christian backlash. The Ivorian State has demonstrated maturity in collectively condemning the attacks and vowing to resist the Jihadists. Fortunately for the nation, the Jihadists are not mixed up with Ivorian politics the way Boko Haram was used as a political tool to advance the political interests of unscrupulous politicians in Nigeria, enabling Boko Haram to morph into the powerful terrorist organization it is today. Without this kind of baggage, Ouattara and the security forces of Cote D’Ivoire should checkmate the jihadists before they gain any foothold in the country as Boko Haram has done in Nigeria.