Published April 13, 2012
Ivory Coast was once a model of stability and prosperity in West Africa. But since the outbreak of a civil war in 2002 and former President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to leave office after he was soundly defeated in a 2010 election, the country has been riven by ethnic and factional strife. Violence peaked last spring when militias backing Alassane Ouattara, the man who won the election, moved against Gbagbo. The former president was eventually captured and turned over to The Hague for war crimes prosecution.
The task now is to heal the ethnic and political divisions. As Pulitzer grantees Steve Sapienza and Selay Marius Kouassi report this week for PBS NewsHour, some fractured villages have discovered that water can help. Communal wells and water points that were once used as weapons of war—many wells were poisoned to deprive ''enemies'' of this vital resource—are now being used to foster reconciliation. According to Selay, an Ivorian journalist, new water management committees in the villages are much more effective than central government truth and reconciliation committees in restoring social cohesion.
The West Africa water story is part of a larger collaboration in which Pulitzer Center journalists have teamed with local African journalists to expand the reach of their reporting on vital but often neglected issues. Pulitzer Center Multimedia Projects Coordinator Jake Naughton has just returned from a reporting swing through Liberia and South Africa for a project on women’s reproductive health. Jake’s powerful images from a maternity ward on the outskirts of Monrovia underscore the importance of bringing this story to a wider audience.
Until next week,