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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bad News and Good News from Africa

Let's have the bad news first. The election in Côte d'Ivoire has turned into a disaster as the
losing candidate and now ex-president refuses to relinquish office.

Alassane Ouattara clearly won the election and the vote has been recognized by the United Nations, Canada and the United States, among other. But the violence perpetrated by the followers of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo is growing daily. Efforts by the African Union to mediate a solution have so far failed.

Now the very good news:

Alpha Condé is now the first legally elected president of the neighboring West African nation of Guinea. The first since France granted the former colony independence in 1958. The election wasn't without its drama and its delays. But as of this week, President Condé was sworn into office in a ceremony that did all Guineans proud.

Back in June I was asked to go to the capital, Conakry to help journalists in Guinea prepare to cover the election and to do it in a way that emphasized the need for social peace and a calm political transformation. The process was almost derailed once or twice when party hooligan attempted to intimidate voters.

There was also some violence and several people were killed at election rallies. So it wasn't entirely without its tragic elements. But with the help of a number of deeply committed people from a variety of NGOs and public diplomacy workers especially from the US and France, a real transformation occurred. Less attention was paid to the election in Côte d'Ivoire.

Working with Guinean journalists was a powerful experience - one of the best in my career -  and I am delighted that the outcome is so affirming, especially after what the people of Conakry particularly have endured under previous military regimes. In September of 2009, a pro-democracy demonstration in the capital was murderously suppressed with 150 dead. This was followed by a rampage of rape by a pro-regime regiment. One local doctor was quoted as saying that hundreds of women had been violated in the streets of Conakry. When I was there, people were still in shock at what had happened.

The Mexican writer Octavio Paz once observed that "anyone who has looked Hope in the face will never forget it. He will seek it everywhere he goes."

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