Does an « Ivoirian identity » work in with the Ivoirian culture?

Point of view

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Africultures is aware of the importance of the debate on participation in Masa, given the xenophobic atmosphere in Cote d’Ivoire and has decided to publish this heart-felt opinions article submitted by Africultures contributor, Gerald Arnaud. Although we have only been able to provide a few extracts here, the full French text is available on the French pages, in the Forum. Please feel free to comment on the point of view expressed in this article. Readers’ comments will be posted to the Forum. [O. B.]
Despite official reassurances, Masa 2001 in no way hid the ethnic cleansing and xenophobia poisoning everyday life in the « host country ».

[…] In his opening speech, President Gbagbo proudly presented Masa as a victory against « those who want it to be taken elsewhere ». He was tight-lipped about the location issue, which would appear to be have been a burst of hot air and rhetoric – the political manoeuvring being part and parcel of all cultural events […]
Masa seems to be well-established in Abidjan. It has an increasingly autonomous and competent organisational team and has become hugely successful. This is clearly not the source of the problem.
That there is a problem is demonstrated by the fact that a considerable number of foreign journalists did not show. For example, this is the first time that Masa has not been covered by French newspapers like Libération, Le Monde, etc. According to officials, they did not come because they were afraid. But of what?! Invariably the answer to this question is that « the international press is simply fabricating what is going on in Cote d’Ivoire ». In other words, the journalists are scaring themselves!
That they might be boycotting Cote d’Ivoire (I know at least four and respect their opinions even if I do oppose them) for ethical reasons – like South Africa in the past – because they do not want to support the alarming political climate does not seem to have occurred to the paranoid ostriches pushing this country towards the edge of the precipice.
Life suddenly became a lot easier for the « Taximen » and everyone else slogging away at tedious jobs. Several days before Masa, the police checkpoints around Abidjan suddenly disappeared – here people do not make any distinction between uniformed policemen, gendarmes* and soldiers. They are all « corps habillés » [uniformed corps], or rather « corps a billets » [moneyed corps], since their sole concern is to relieve their victims of a substantial portion of the CFA earned by 12 or 14 hours of hard toil.
Thus, visitors to Masa were given the impression that you can move freely in Cote d’Ivoire.
However, it was hell as soon as you left Abidjan. There are at least eight roadblocks coming from Bondoukou (300 km away). At each step of this road to Calvary, foreigners carrying a stay permit (always considered « fake ») are thrown out of the car, along with anyone who would appear to have a « Muslim » name. When I commented to a gendarme who had just very brutally « descended » an old Burkinabe man from the bus that he was examining my passport upside down, I got the following reply, « You, white man, you say I don’t know documents? This isn’t France. Here, foreigners don’t come and make the law! » … […]
Racism: the grimacing mask of political impotence
[…] Using culture for their own personal profit is the only concern of the majority of African politicians today. They have totally forgotten the ideals expounded under the fleeting sun of the independence. The cracked mirror in which Cote d’Ivoire saw itself reflected as a – admittedly imperfect but nevertheless acceptable – model of Africanity, is now covered by the tides of blood that have been unnecessarily shed.
Can Masa revive Pan-Africanism?
This is questionable. Abidjan is riddled with a rampant, arrogant racism […]. We must be strong and refute this so-called « Ivoirian identity » as it carries the pungent stench of hatred of anyone and anything that does not fit into their narrow, weak, vicious and preposterous concept of Cote d’Ivoire – that was always an alluring West Africa « melting pot » anyway […].
Before it is too late, we have to speak out against the people guilty of this monstrous falsification of history, of crimes committed against humanity in the name of the Ivoirian identity, and of a « negationism » that is forcing Cote d’Ivoire to bond with its suicidal demons.
We must condemn this senseless and unjustifiable method of exclusion – it has no place in Africa or anywhere else. A country has no other identity than that of ALL its inhabitants. […]
Racism must be hunted down, judged and driven out of Africa, as everywhere.
When you love Cote d’Ivoire as I do, (I am married to an Ivoirian woman of Burkinabe origin), you attend Masa as if it were a dream, a peaceful, fascinating interlude in a history that is encouraging the rest of the world to believe that Africa is a source of suffering and irreparable violence.
This tiny breath of fresh air – one week every two years – will have helped Abidjan to forget the putrid miasmas of ethnic cleansing for a time but under no circumstances should this country forget the sad « truth » which, as Nelson Mandela realised, is everywhere and will always be the only key to reconciliation.

///Article N° : 5546


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