Côte d'Ivoire Enlists Celebrities to Promote Peaceful Elections

Speeches Shim

Ivorian stars promote participation in peaceful elections
Ivorian sports personalities recorded messages on peaceful participation in the October 2015 elections which appeared on TV, radio, billboards, flyers and social media.
Politicians and sports stars take to field for soccer game
“I knew very little about what was going on and wasn’t really interested in taking part in the elections. But the information campaign rekindled my interest in the process.”

March 2016—Election periods often have the potential to stoke tension and threaten social cohesion. Rising tension can sometimes spill over into outbreaks of violence, as Côte d'Ivoire experienced in 2010 before, during and after the polls.

Factors leading to the crisis included a lack of understanding of and confidence in the electoral process and rules and regulations governing the elections, in addition to manipulation of individuals or marginalized groups, particularly urban youth, by unscrupulous politicians.

There was a clear need in the run-up to the 2015 elections to make people aware of the circumstances that led to the post-electoral crisis to ensure that the country was not led down that path again. It was also important to expose people, particularly youth, to a sustained awareness campaign to create a culture of peace and non-violence ahead of the polls.

To achieve this, USAID supported NGO Foot Attitude to produce and distribute messages of peace by world-famous Ivorian sports and music personalities such as Didier Drogba and Kolo Touré, using the slogan “Elections C’pas Gnaga!” (“Elections are not about fighting!”) Each recorded message or poster from the star encouraged tolerance and peaceful participation in the elections.

“I knew very little about what was going on and wasn’t really interested in taking part in the elections. But the information campaign—with messages from people like Didier Drogba—rekindled my interest in the process,” said Touré Soumaïla, a resident of Abobo, Abidjan.

Posters and flyers as well as a comic strip were distributed in Abidjan by youth volunteers on roller skates. This new approach caught the attention of the public. “You don’t see this very often and the information shared is really interesting,” said Yao Sandrine of Yopougon.

The videos uploaded on YouTube and Facebook were viewed over 162,000 times. They were also aired on national TV every day during the election season, reaching as many as 1.7 million viewers each day. The slogan went viral prior to and during the electoral debates.

On the eve of the elections, Foot Attitude organized a friendly soccer game at the Champroux stadium, which seats around 5,000 people. Filled to capacity, the stadium echoed with chants of “Elections C’pas Gnaga!” The game involved various political personalities from opposing political parties and soccer stars from different parts of the country.

Even Minister of Finance Abdourahmane Cissé of the ruling coalition took part, saying afterwards, “We have demonstrated through this game that we Ivorians have learned to live in harmony because life goes on after elections.” He jokingly added: “I had fun discovering the talents of my brother Konaté Navigué,” referring to the president of the youth wing for the Front Populaire Ivoirian—the largest opposition party in Côte d'Ivoire.

The presidential election last October was the first time in over 20 years that Cote d'Ivoire held an election without any major incidence of violence. For many in the international community, the accomplishment signals that the country has turned the page on its turbulent and violent electoral past.


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