Three years after the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast, activity has resumed in the country's economic capital. Like the rest of the nation, Abidjan paid a heavy price during the conflict between political rivals Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara. Although bitterness remains and compensation has been long in coming, it is time to rebuild.
Upon arrival at Abidjan airport, the first signs of change are visible: the planes are full, the queue in front of the border police and at the taxi stand are orderly.
Three years after the post-election crisis, I'm back in the Ivorian economic capital. Like the rest of Ivory Coast, Abidjan paid a heavy price during the political standoff between rivals Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, after the second round of the 2010 presidential election. More than 3,000 people died and a million were displaced during the winter of 2010-2011, according to UN estimates.
My driver Diaby, born and bred in Abobo, the largest district in Abidjan, tells me how relieved he is that a state of calm has returned. "We suffered," he tells me constantly. Many people in the district, which mainly supported Ouattara, suffered under repeated attacks by the army and militia loyal to Laurent Gbagbo.
Under a shady tree, I catch up with young people I met three years ago. Their message is the same. They support the current president, Alassane Ouattara, but their words now have a slightly bitter taste. Their situation has not evolved as fast as they would have liked. Most are graduates, but still without work.
For the opposing camp, made up of Gbagbo supporters, the imprisonment of their former leader and other political prisoners in The Hague is a hard pill to swallow. In Yopougon, for example, where the Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission has set up two offices, some residents have come to seek compensation. Numerous crimes, including lootings and killings, were also committed by the Ouattara camp.
The purpose of the Commission, which has had its mandate extended until September, is to hold its first hearings on the violence. Beatrice, a 38-year-old mother, lost her brother during the crisis and fled her home after it was ransacked by pro-Ouattara soldiers. She hopes to receive compensation from the Commission.
Meanwhile, calm has returned to Abidjan, and so has security. The toll bridge that will shorten the journey between the districts of La Riviera and Marcory from more than an hour to 15 minutes is almost finished. Growth has been positive for two years now. The most optimistic IMF forecasts predict 10 percent growth at the end of this year.
Companies that have survived the conflict are trying to catch up or get back on their feet. Stephane Eholié, general manager of a company with 250 employees, whom I met three years ago, had to cut his staff’s wages so as not to lay them off. But today, he has recruited 70 people and wants to look towards the rest of West Africa, saying that Ivorian small and mid-sized enterprises are the cornerstone of the country's economy. However, growth is not benefiting everyone. One in two Ivorians still live on less than one dollar a day.