We would like to share this powerful commentary from peace activist Leymah Gbowee about the current situation in the Ivory Coast. We hope that you can share, circulate, and post this among your family, friends, and colleagues.
Statement On the Situation in Cote D’ Ivoire
Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
On March 3rd 2011, hundreds of women gathered to protest peacefully in Cote d’Ivoire to end the political stalemate and the worsening security situation. Unarmed, chanting peacefully. What were they thinking? I guess, they thought since women of Liberia protested peacefully and contributed to the end of their war, which was bloodier than theirs, they were in a better position to demand peace to preserve their beautiful country. But it ended in blood, with more than six sisters paying the ultimate prize.
As I watched the video on CNN, I recognized the similarity of their dress code, songs, and chants for peace to what we did in Liberia years ago. They were dressed in modest costumes—head-ties, some white t-shirts, palm branches, and no jewelery. Muslim and Christian women hand in hand, marching together for peace. I said to myself, as I watched those women, this could have been me, Sugars, Asatu, Vaiba and Etty…. Except that these were our neighbors—women of Cote D’ Ivoire. These were the same women we danced with less than two years ago, when we lobbied the 1st lady, Simoen Gbabgo, for peaceful elections and a peaceful settlement to all elections related conflict. She promised us that she and the women of Ivory Coast would ensure that peace prevailed.
Even as I write this piece, I can’t help but wonder how Mrs. Gbabgbo is feeling as she watches her husband gun down her own sisters, mothers, and grandmothers? I recalled Mrs. Gbagbo proudly showing off her grand daughter to a group of us she hosted during our campaign for a peaceful election in Cote d’Ivoire. How can she sleep, eat and play with her grand children when her husband is responsible for other children losing their mothers, grand mothers, and aunties?
I am at a loss as to how to engage Cote d’Ivoire now. My heart weighs me down as I see the price for peace get higher, fatal, and complicated day-in-day-out in West Africa, especially for women who are determined to champion the struggle for lasting and just peace.
Six of our peace activist sisters have been gunned down in Cote d’Ivoire, apparently, to destroy women’s resolve for peace. Gbagbo and his killers failed to realize just one thing—the women of Cote d’Ivoire are not alone. They belong to a wider, more determined army of women peace activist in West Africa and across the World. He and his heartless killers will not escape justice for the lives of those women and the thousands they continue to gun down to hold on to power. Women of West Africa are determined to rise to the occasion.
By this, I call on all sisters to break the silence on Cote d’Ivoire. The time is now to rid yet another West African country of a tyrant and a psychopathic leadership. This 100th Anniversary celebration of International Women’s Day should go down in history as the clarion call to all sisters. We must mourn for the sisters but our mourning should not be a sorrow of victims and the vanquished. It must be tears of courage, tears of indignant. This roadblock on our sojourn for lasting peace, democratic freedom, and civility must also be removed collectively. This too must end in our triumph.
Leymah R. Gbowee
Peace and Women’s Rights Activist
Further information on the situation can be found on CNN.com, and links are listed below.