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Ivory Coast election crisis: A roadmap for African political reform

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A fundamental problem in African governance

However, this fixation on the personal failings of leaders obscures the deeper problem: a fundamental disjuncture between Africa’s modern political institutions and its ethnic communities and traditional institutions. This disjuncture, so well reflected in Ivory Coast, is at the heart of the continent’s crisis of governance. Contemporary African states are poorly functioning hybrids of indigenous cultures and customs mixed with Arab and European models of governance that arrived with invasions, colonialism, and migration.

Rather than merely search yet again for short-term solutions in the violent aftermath of an election, it would seem more sensible to look for ways to prevent future crises rooted in Africa’s dysfunctional political systems.

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The crisis in Ivory Coast manifests a deep rift between the largely Muslim north and Christian south exacerbated by ethnic tensions – a result of colonial borders drawn without regard for the integrity of African ethnic communities. Since Ivory Coast's borders cut across principal ethnic groups that have a significant presence in neighboring countries, every crisis is a regional crisis.

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