‘There hasn’t been a major breakthrough for the struggles from below since Laurent Gbagbo came to power in 2000.
The question of Ivoirité had become hardened and the workers and students never really confronted these questions. The tragedy is that the insurgent student movement made up of independent activists—based around resistance to neoliberal policies—were unable to make a breakthrough.
The movement fragmented, unable to develop an independent agenda.
When the ruling class reasserted its own agenda through ethnic mobilisation, the student movement fell prey to that.
Some 80 percent of the militias today are made up of university students. Student politics became factionalised along the lines of the ruling groups—which soon became “ethnicised”.
This is the most acute expression of the depths and roots of the ethnic divisions that have taken hold.
So without a politics from below that cements different sections together—workers, unemployed, students—it has been extremely difficult since 1993 to build a resistance. But even in the most difficult of times, the elements of resistance can begin to emerge.
Even in the depth of the civil war, lots of self defence groups were mobilised in the communities—across inter-ethnic communities.
Ivory Coast is a sharp contrast to what is happening in North Africa. Look at Egypt—even if the military has taken over from Hosni Mubarak, the dynamic that led to that was not one from above but from below.
That is why the movement was able to transcend the divisions between Coptic Christians and Muslims—how women and students and workers were able to come to the fore. That is precisely because it is a democratic movement.
Ivory Coast is now more of a playground for outside forces than ever. But this can also provoke resistance.
And any attempt to mend the economy using neoliberal methods will require attacks to ordinary people.
The concrete questions mean there is always chance for resistance—against food prices, education, wages—any or all of these could be a spark.
We have to normalise resistance—and raise the different visions and practical possibilities inside Ivory Coast, Africa and the rest of the world.’