Ivory Coast launches reconciliation process

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2011 11:02 AM
Ivory Coast launches reconciliation process

Politicians and Ivory Coast's most famous soccer player on Wednesday launched a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that aims to find peace after months of postelection violence rocked the country.

The 11-member commission is headed by former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny and includes Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and local and religious leaders from throughout the West African nation.

At least 3,000 people were killed from December to April, when United Nations airstrikes finally forced the country's entrenched ruler Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to President Alassane Ouattara.

The South African-style commission is expected to hear grievances from the families of people killed by Gbagbo's military.

Rights groups have urged the commission to hear all grievances, including about those killed by the rebel fighters Ouattara enlisted to help him take power.

It remains unclear how the commission will be involved in the judicial process.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who headed that country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of apartheid, said Tuesday that reconciliation and justice are intertwined, and that "victor's justice" would "greatly undermine the reconciliation process."

"We encourage President Ouattara to demonstrate to his people and the world that the judicial process he has started is both fair and completely impartial," Tutu said.

Since Gbagbo's arrest in April, dozens of his supporters have been charged with crimes, but no Ouattara supporters have faced charges.

However, both sides are accused of carrying out gross human rights violations during the crisis.

"We have the impression right now that there is victor's justice," said law student Frank Kouassi, 26, who said he didn't vote in the last elections. "It was a war. It wasn't just one side that pulled the trigger."

Kouassi said he doesn't think the commission's role is to say who should be prosecuted.

He said "there is a fracture in society," and that the commission may help if they "go door to door, talk with people," and teach them to be tolerant of different beliefs.

"People on both sides should be judged," said Venance Kouassi Kouassi, a resident of the capital. "If not, we will continue with the same impunity we have always had and have too often in Africa."