- By Elizabeth DickinsonElizabeth Dickinson is a Gulf-based Deca journalist.
For the last several months, the Ivory Coast has been crawling back to civil war. Now, both sides are actively bulking up their forces in what looks like an alarming calculation that this country’s crisis will get worse before it gets better. The Ivory Coast has been divided between a rebel-controlled north and a government-controlled south for the last decade. The fragile detante that restored peace in 2005 is shattering. Thousands upon thousands are fleeing the capital today in fear of exactly that.
In the southern city and capital of Abidjan, "thousands" of youth have joined the army, heeding a call from outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, the man who lost November’s presidential election. The drive has been led by Gbagbo’s notoriously militant youth minister, Blé Goudé, who is under U.N. sanctions for violating the country’s peace agreement and impeding the U.N. peacekeeping missionin the country. He told Reuters, "Our country is under attack, so we’re organising ourselves to re-establish order … The legal way to do it is to put them in the regular army."
Meanwhile in the country’s rebel-controlled north, forces loyal to election winner Alassane Ouattara told the BBC that they are waiting for orders to march on the capital, unseating Gbagbo. Clashes are already ongoing in the countryside, where the two forces are trading territory.
As I’ve reported before, the region is scared. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told Reuters today, "We are already at war." The crisis has already sent about 100,000 refugees fleeing the Ivory Coast into Liberia.
Interestingly, the most recent refugee status report from the U.N. Refugee Agency notes that more than 50,000 of those refugees are under the age of 18. Many are surely young children — but many more are adolescents, afraid of being recruited by one side or another.