Letter to Secretary of State Pompeo on Instability and Elections in Côte d'Ivoire, April 2, 2020
April 2, 2020
The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace, I write to support the concerns raised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Côte d’Ivoire (CBCI) regarding the potential for violence as a result of elections due to occur in Côte d’Ivoire later this fall. I attached their two statements for your reference. I am keenly aware of the potential crisis the coronavirus will inflict not only on our own country, which is far more able to respond, but also especially in Africa where many of the poorest people in the world live. I want to thank Congress and the Administration for the recent allocations for countries overseas and hope that we can work together to complement those funds in phase four of the coronavirus response plans.
Returning to Côte d’Ivoire, in the CBCI’s June 2019 statement, the Bishops of Côte d’Ivoire deplored the climate of fear that prevailed over their country’s people which they linked to recurrent intercommunal conflict and insecurity, problems of land tenure, the illegal occupation of forest reserves, and illicit gold mining. They also raised the deep divisions over Ivoirian identity. They are alarmed that every time a crisis erupts, deadly weapons are indiscriminately deployed with a high cost to life and property.
The bishops returned to a constant refrain, “Let us avoid another war!” They have called for the disarmament of those who have no right to military weapons that allow people to turn hatred and vengeance into deadly violence. They called on people to adopt a culture of peace and forgiveness.
In their January 2020 statement the Bishops of Côte d’Ivoire turned their attention to the rising tensions evoked by the elections scheduled for October 2020. Many of the government’s past commitments such as the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Commission for Reconciliation and Indemnification of Victims have not been met. As a result, hatred and the ever present ethnic and communal violence have not been resolved and continue to create an atmosphere of fear. Deep political divisions and the recent fracturing of political parties have increased tensions even more.
Since the inception of democracy in 1990, no political transition in Côte d’Ivoire has ever taken place without serious violence, destruction and the loss of life. I encourage the U.S. Government to work in collaboration with international and regional partners to persuade the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to:
- Work with Christian and Muslim religious leaders to promote reconciliation between the political parties and the people by allowing the return of all exiles and the release of all political prisoners,
- Ensure regular dialogue between political actors and civil society leaders to promote concerted action and consensus to fulfill the aspirations of the Ivoirian people,
- Protect the rule of law, the electoral process, the independence of the Electoral Commission, and integrity of the voting district boundaries, the electoral lists, identity papers and the electoral code,
- Ensure that the elections will be transparent, free and fair to offer all candidates a level playing field,
- Joining with Pope Francis’ injunction to CBCI in 2014, work with religious leaders to promote national unity through Christian-Muslim dialogue and facilitate joint programs to develop peaceful political discourse.
Many of the bishops’ concerns and calls for free and fair elections and peace are echoed by a recent report published by the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the Holocaust Museum. The Center is also worried that partisan divisions in the national army could greatly exacerbate the level of political violence that might occur during elections.
Since the inception of democracy in 1990, no political transition in Côte d’Ivoire has ever taken place without serious violence, destruction and the loss of life.
I and the Office on International Justice and Peace will be in contact with CBCI and will work with them to support their efforts to build a peaceful future for their country. We hope this analysis is helpful in our shared aspirations for peace in Côte d’Ivoire.
Most Reverend David J. Malloy
Bishop of Rockford
Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace