A workshop on combating hate speech and promoting social cohesion during the electoral period in Cote d’Ivoire was held on Wednesday in Abidjan in the presence of representatives of the UN system in Cote d’Ivoire, civil society organisations, journalists, bloggers and law enforcement officials.“Through the resurgence of verbal and physical abuse, we are losing all the gains, the fruits of mutual concessions and individual and collective sacrifices that made it possible to achieve the 2015 presidential election,” said Ivorian Minister of Solidarity, Social Cohesion and Fight against Poverty, Prof. Mariatou Koné.
She went on to express concern about the return of “hard feelings” among the Ivorian political scene that create anxiety among the people a few months before the October 31presidential election.
“We must change our relationship with politics. We must change our relationship with the adversary who is not an enemy, but a citizen who wants to bring through his difference his vision of the development of his country,” Koné encouraged, calling on all to “espouse the culture of peace.”
In addition, she questioned the Ivorian political actors on their responsibilities to maintain a climate of peace. “Violence is not an agenda for society. Every death is one death too many,” she said, adding that “we can express our rights without destroying our country.”
“For peace and stability in our country, we must all be pro-Cote d’Ivoire, but not pro-ethnic, pro-religions,” she advised, insisting that “election is not war.”
Earlier, the Resident Representative of the United Nations Programme in Cote d’Ivoire (UNDP), Carol Flore-Smereczniak, noted that “the prospect of the next presidential election on October 31, 2020 is fuelling tensions.”
“The signs of a radicalisation of messages, especially political ones, have unfortunately been noted. Messages that are sometimes stigmatising and hateful, which fuel socio-political tensions and could weaken social cohesion and affect the important gains made in peace-building,” she explained.