Chelsea star Drogba in Ivory Coast peace mission

Chelsea football star Didier Drogba is taking a leading role in a bid to bring peace to his native Ivory Coast, torn apart by post-election violence.

Chelsea football star Didier Drogba is taking a leading role in a bid to bring peace to his native Ivory Coast, torn apart by post-election violence.

The West African nation’s new government and dignitaries from the region have launched a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The 11-member commission is headed by former prime minister Charles Konan Banny and includes the nation’s favourite son, Drogba, as well as religious leaders.

At least 3,000 people were killed from December to April, when United Nations air strikes finally forced the country’s entrenched ruler Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to President Alassane Ouattara.

The commission, styled after the effort in South Africa which helped repair the wounds of apartheid, is expected to hear grievances from the families of people killed by Gbagbo’s military.

Human rights groups have urged the government to ensure that it will equally hear testimony about those killed by the rebel fighters Mr Ouattara enlisted to help him take power.

It remains unclear how the commission will be involved in the judicial process.

South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who headed his country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of apartheid, said reconciliation and justice were intertwined and that “victor’s justice” would “greatly undermine the reconciliation process”.

“We encourage President Ouattara to demonstrate to his people and the world that the judicial process he has started is both fair and completely impartial,” he said.

Since Gbagbo’s arrest in April, dozens of his supporters have been charged with crimes, but no Ouattara supporters have faced charges. However, both sides are accused of carrying out gross human rights violations during the crisis.

“We have the impression right now that there is victor’s justice,” said law student Frank Kouassi, 26, who said he did not vote in the last election. “It was a war. It wasn’t just one side that pulled the trigger.”

Mr Kouassi said he did not think the commission’s role was to say who should be prosecuted.

He said: “There is a fracture in society” and that the commission may help if they “go door to door, talk with people”, and teach them to be tolerant of different beliefs.

Ivory Coast, once one of the most prosperous nations in Africa, was brought to its knees by a decade of conflict which started with a 1999 coup, followed by the flawed 2000 election which first brought Gbagbo to power. He failed to hold elections five years later.

Then when another five years was up last November, he refused to accept his electoral defeat, setting off a five-month-long crisis that turned the once-chic commercial capital of Abidjan into a war zone.

For the first four months of the stand-off, the victims were overwhelmingly Ouattara supporters, whose neighbourhoods were shelled by the pro-Gbagbo army. That changed in March when Mr Ouattara finally accepted the help of a former rebel group.

The fighters swept across the country, torching pro-Gbagbo villages, gang-raping the women in them and executing suspected supporters of the former president.

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