Art Students in Côte d'Ivoire Paint Murals to Promote Peaceful Elections

Speeches Shim

Public murals promote peaceful elections in Cote d'Ivoire
A mural in Yopougon details the election process and encourages peaceful citizen participation.
Adaora Okoli/Chemonics
Displays educate public about voting process
“Today we are all eating out of the same pot; this has to continue after elections no matter what.”

October 2015—Following the contentious 2010 presidential elections, Côte d'Ivoire experienced violence that claimed more than 3,000 lives. The majority of the violent clashes took place in the neighborhoods of Abobo and Yopougon in the country’s largest city, Abidjan, where youth perpetrated many politically motivated attacks.

Looking back, it is clear that a lack of understanding of the electoral process and the regulations governing the elections by the youth in these neighborhoods contributed greatly to the violence. This lack of knowledge on their civic rights and responsibilities made them vulnerable to manipulation to perpetrate acts of violence. With the next presidential elections on Oct. 25, 2015, many feared that the situation could repeat itself if nothing was done.

In June of this year, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives partnered with the students of the National Institute of Art to create murals in Abobo and Yopougon depicting the electoral process and promoting peaceful elections. With the support of an art critic and consultant in social communications, the students learned about the electoral process and developed concepts for paintings that best expressed the message for peaceful civic participation.

The students then painted murals explaining the electoral process and promoting peaceful participation in the elections on walls in several strategic, highly frequented sites in the two neighborhoods. Every site had monitors present, explaining the objectives of the murals to passersby, who were invited to sign a pledge to participate peacefully in the elections.

“The 2010 vote really affected us. But thanks to everything we’ve learned, I am reminded that life goes on after elections. Today we are all eating out of the same pot; this has to continue after elections no matter what. That’s why I am working on these murals, sensitizing our population to nonviolence and acceptance of results,” said Kouadio Paterson, a National Institute of Art student and mural artist.

“Because of the disastrous aftereffects of the 2010 elections, I did not want to have anything to do with this year’s voting,” said student Kouassi Alberic. “But having proper information about the process alleviated my fears. I went to register to vote recently. It’s interesting to see that things are going according to what I learned.”

“I really like this … the paintings enhance the environment and it’s easier to understand these elections events through images because I don’t know how to read well,” said Pascal Mably, a resident of Yopougon.

“Being able to see the information on these paintings from afar is good for me. There are many like me who want to take part in the process, but are still afraid,” said a 30-year-old woman who preferred to remain anonymous.

In the hope of reaching a maximum number of people and ensuring the success of the October elections, the colorful murals will remain on display until November.


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