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Will Water Bring Peace to the Ivory Coast? (PBS Newshour and Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting)

April 12, 2012

The PBS Newshour brought another riveting international story, again from their partership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

A bit of background into the last decade of the Ivory Coast’s tumult:

The west African country, the Ivory Coast, has seen more than it’s share of crises and strife in the past decade. From 2002 to 2007 the country was gripped in division, seperated in half pitting the largely muslim north versus it’s largely christian south. The conflict arose after sitting President at the time, Laurent Gbagbo refused to acknowledge defeat in national elections that he lost to northern candidate Alessane Ouattara. Gbagbo represented the majority christian southern half of the country, Ouattara, the muslim north. Refusing to cede power led to a country split, with rebel forces from the north backing Ouattara. By 2006 there were peace efforts, ironically spurned by the country’s footbal/soccer team qualifying for the world cup in South Africa. Yet, from 2006 to 2010, elections would fail their due completion no less than six times, miring the nation into continued stagnation in the protracted stalemate. Finally, in late 2010, elections were held resulting in Ouattara’s victory, supported and recognized by the international community. Again, Gbagbo refused to concede defeat and cede power, and forces loyal to Ouattara attacked the southern capital, Abidjan. Gbagbo and his forces were overmatched and after four months, were defeated.

The PBS/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting picked up the story of the present-day Ivory Coastans, finding their way amid the rubble.

American reporter Steve Sapienza, working for the Pulitzer Center of Crisis Reporting, travelled to the Ivory Coast to look into the country’s reality.

He talks to native Ivory Coast reporter/journalist Selay Kouassi, who briefly discusses the country’s recent strife. Then he gets into the western part of the nation, pummeled by the decade of violence and struggling to improve basic societal needs. The existence and access to clean water is the most basic and pressing need of the people. In Teapleu, the shared need for water everyday is ironically serving as a catalyst of inter-communal unity. Waterholes, pumps, and wells serve as the community’s meeting points, ans a nexus, where people from former warring families, groups, religions, etc., have met and begun to cooperate with each other. It seems that their shared interests, their recognition of their common, universal connections overcame their former enmity. Soon, the water bonds begat locally formed groups made up of community members that were chosen and divided equally — 50/50 — among the respective, formerly embattled communities. Government representatives were surprisingly open, and declaritive of their inability to fund even the most basic of projects, e.g., access to water. The government representative also doubted the ability of the former enemies to find ties that overcame their past and their differences. Perhaps, a bit of healthy skepticism is a natural reaction to years of brutal conflict. And just maybe cooperation and unity are as well.

PBS Newshour Will Water Pumps Bring Peace to the Ivory Coast?

Pulitzer Center for Crisus Reporting: Special Project on the Extreme Lack of Water in Africa — Waiting for Water

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