Given the immense difficulties in imposing the results of a free and fair election on the losing political leader in Ivory Coast, observers might be tempted to conclude that the reform process in this West African country will unfold relatively easily. Not so fast. As hard as it was to arrest Laurent Gbagbo for refusing to accept his electoral defeat, rallying the country behind Alassane Outtarra, a longtime political opponent and Muslim northerner, may be just as difficult, or even more difficult, given the ethnic and geographic divisions in Ivory Coast, and the costs in human suffering and economic stagnation brought about by years of civil war and political instability.
Outtarra deserves time to sort out his plan for governing one of the best-endowed nation-states in the sub-Saharan. For today, at least, congratulations are in order. At last, Ivorians of good will must no longer say, Gbagbo must go. He is gone, and good riddens. Soon, however, the celebrating will give way to a sober appreciation of the difficult days ahead. As John Kerry, the U.S. Senator, declared today, “This is an important step forward, but there will be challenges ahead and I urge President (Alassane) Ouattara to support a peaceful dialogue that will ensure the long-term stability and prosperity of Cote d’Ivoire.”