By Daouda Coulibaly
In Ivory Coast, the Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation (CDVR) made way in March 2015 for the CONARIV, the National Commission for Victims’ Reconciliation and Compensation. What’s the goal of this new commission? Our sister site, Ivoire Justice, spoke to Yabah Berthe Bognini, the CONARIV’s chief of staff. Some of the questions were crowd-sourced among Ivoire Justice Facebook followers.
Q: What is the CONARIV and what does it do exactly?
The CONARIV’s goal is to complete the work of its predecessor, the Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation, and respond to the government’s desire to provide reparations to the victims. The CONARIV’s main missions are to identify and make an inventory of the remaining victims who are entitled to reparations and then compensate them based on a single, consolidated data base. There’s also another mission, which was not mentioned in the law under which we were established, and that is reconciliation.
Q: How is the inventory of the victims being made? Some people say that the list only includes people from the north of the country. Is that true?
The law that established the CONARIV states that it’s responsible for drawing up a list of the people who have not yet been identified. That implies that some of this work has already been done.
After national consultations, the CDVR decided to consider the victims of violence between the period from 1990 to 2011. These are the victims of all the crises that occurred during that period. The CONARIV will use the same time frame. The basis of our work is a file with the names of 74,000 victims, created by the CDVR. The CONARIV is now finishing that mission. On top of this data, we’re also getting information from (the government-run) Victims Agency and from all the victims associations which have compiled files. The CONARIV has appealed for all of them to provide us their data. In addition, we’ll include the remaining victims who were identified during the period between 18 May and 30 June 2015.
If some people believe that only one particular ethnic group suffered from the violations that took place in Ivory Coast, then they don’t know the country’s history very well. The CONARIV, according to the law, takes into account all the crises and everyone who was affected. It’s not only about one ethnic group nor just about the post-election crisis.
Q: Many Ivorians believe that the CDVR was a failure. How do you think you will succeed where you predecessor failed?
Ivorians say that the CDVR probably failed because they thought that the presentation of the final report meant that Ivorians had reconciled once and for all.
Let me use a metaphor to explain what the CDVR had to do. It’s as if we were a hospital, and the CDVR had to play the role of doctor. The patient is the Ivory Coast, and the president of the republic is the patient’s parent. The president and the patient go see the CDVR for a check-up. The doctor listens to the sick person’s chest. Then, the doctor makes a diagnosis and gives the sick person’s parent a prescription. The prescription are the recommendations of the final report.
Providing a prescription isn’t synonymous with healing. The sick person’s parent (the state) has to purchase the drugs and give them to the patient. To continue with this example, the creation of the CONARIV is one of the CDVR’s prescriptions. It’s part of a process for individual and collective healing. So, we can’t say the CDVR failed because during its three-year mandate, it had to find the root causes of the conflicts in the country and to give a voice to the victims and the perpetrators in order to make recommendations that could bring about reconciliation.
Q: What does reconciliation mean for you? And who needs to be involved?
Reconciliation does not mean that everyone has to move towards a single view point. Reconciliation doesn’t mean that everyone thinks the same. Reconciliation, for me, is about having everyone accept different points of view, silence the differences, everything that could weaken the process of social cohesion, and look at the main element which is the nation. The actors in this reconciliation process are everyone: you, me, priests, politicians, civil society, the state, etc.
Q: Some of the victims of the crisis say that without former president Laurent Gbagbo, there cannot be reconciliation for them. What do you have to say those people?
I’d say it’s a completely legitimate desire on the part of people who have respect and believe in their political leader. But, let me ask you a question. On the one hand, you have political affiliation and ideology. On the other, you have the CONARIV, which was set up to pay reparations to the victims. Would you renounce your fundamental right to reparations because of political considerations? You have lost everything, your house is occupied, and the CONARIV, which is there to provide remuneration, tells you your house will be given back to you. Would you say no? Our mandate is to provide reparations and to make the interests of victims who have suffered for a long time our priority. Reparations are just one step in the reconciliation process.
We are listening to the victims. So, if the victims who have lost everything (their house and family) and who still suffer the consequences of the violence believe their leader’s current situation is more worrying than their own, it’s a point of view which I respect, but I repeat that we are here to provide reparations to the victims.
Q: You speak of reparations. Concretely, what will the victims receive?
Ivorians need to realise that compensation is a type of reparation. People shouldn’t expect the CONARIV to hand out money. For example, if there are 10 billion CFA francs and 100,000 victims, that we will divide 10 billion by 100,000. No, that’s not what this is about.
The compensation programme will be implemented by our executive organ: the National Social Cohesion Programme (PNCS). The reparations will take several forms. Returning property is a form of reparation. We will support the wounded, propose tax relief measures, support orphans who aren’t going to school, build health centres or schools, help people obtain administrative documents, etc. In other words, a whole series of measures that don’t only boil down to money. Money is just one aspect of the reparations, and it can only be symbolic because how can you put a price tag on the death of a loved one?
Q: In the run-up to the presidential elections, scheduled for October, do you think the situation in the country is peaceful? Could there be a new outbreak of post-election violence?
We aren’t afraid. On the contrary. We have one mission: to provide reparations to the victims and, in the long term, work for reconciliation. Our role is to speak with the victims, to all Ivorians, so that we don’t repeat the crises and violence we’ve seen in the past because the loser is Ivory Coast.
This is an excerpt from the interview with Yabah Berthe Bognini. Click here for the full interview (in French).