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Votes and Hope in Côte d’Ivoire

Here's a piece Brian Klaas and I co-wrote in Foreign Affairs about Côte d'Ivoire's upcoming elections.

On March 29, 2011, at least 800 villagers were massacred in Duékoué, a town in western Côte d’Ivoire. Militias loyal to Alassane Ouattara, a candidate in the recently held and hotly disputed presidential election, went house to house, AK-47s in hand, rounding up the men and systematically executing them. Witnesses recount the soldiers’ chants of “You voted Gbagbo! We are going to kill you all!” as they fired their rounds. 

In other towns, militias loyal to (and allegedly under the control of) the sitting president, Laurent Gbagbo, used similar tactics, leaving behind a path of “murder, rape, other inhumane acts, and persecution.” Before the fighting ended, 3,000 people had died and roughly a million others were displaced.

That conflict was sparked by Côte d’Ivoire’s last election. On Sunday, the country votes to elect a new president. Will this time be different?