Selay Marius Kouassi
4 June 2010
Many footballers have used their influence to great effect in their home country, whether by sponsoring a charity or by linking their names to a project, but none has ever stopped a country tearing itself apart as Didier Drogba did for Ivory Coast.
By requesting that the 2008 African Cup of Nations qualifiers match against Madagascar be played in Bouake, the stronghold of rebel forces, he played a pivotal role in bringing about peace in the country.
There are many reasons underlying the Ivorian crisis. However, the controversial issue of identity is commonly regarded as the bone of contention that had split Ivory Coast - long known as a tranquil place in West Africa - into two parts: the rebel-held north and the pro-government south, separated by a buffer zone controlled by both the UN forces and the French military force called Licorne.
Ivory Coast was known as the 'haven of peace' of West Africa in the early 1960s and 1970s. Its flexible immigration policy, combined with its measured agricultural policy and political stability, under the reign of its first president, the late Félix Houphouët Boigny, attracted many citizens from the poor and unstable neighbouring countries of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
This huge imported manpower worked hard in the coffee and cocoa plantations, propelling the country to the position of the world's top cocoa producer and second coffee producer. Families of these immigrants dramatically increased, thereby outnumbering local inhabitants in many regions of the country. With their numerous descendants, they became aware of their human force and demanded proper care and attention and began to extend their activities beyond the borders of the cocoa plantations.
They also started to participate in the political life of the country, meeting fierce resistance from self-proclaimed … more