Severin Yao Kouamé
Severin Yao Kouamé is the founder and coordinator of Indigo Côte d’Ivoire, Interpeace’s local team. He holds a PhD in sociology and is a research professor at the University of Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire. During a recent interview he spoke about his views on peace, and how he sees the peacebuilding process evolving in his home country.
“For me, peace is when a society has the necessary institutions and instruments to anticipate the risk of violent outbreaks, or the destabilization of society,” he explains during the interview. “When these risks manifest themselves and materialize in the form of violence, the society must be able to address them.”
Early on in his career he was pessimistic about peacebuilding. When introduced to the inclusive and participatory approach, which he now practices, he said that his view began to change. Now he works closely with the Ivoirian population, focusing on community reconciliation, and firmly believes that “peace is possible if you know how to bring it about.”
Severin suggests that the principle of inclusivity involves more than simply including everyone, it is “about taking into account all the people who matter and whose voice isn’t always heard.” The way to achieve this, in his view, is to accurately map out who the groups are in a society, figuring out who is engaging with whom and how to go about including them. Only then can you begin to be truly inclusive.
When asked about the state of peace in his own country he responds that the time for peace may not have arrived yet. “We have not yet realized that our society must be introspective and must reflect on what happened not so long ago in the Ivorian context,” he says. To be able to reach this crucial stage it is necessary to engage in collective dialogue so that people can share ideas and also draw lessons from the process.
“So long as this step in the history, and in the lessons of Cote d’Ivoire, in our shared history, hasn’t been reached, I don’t think we can say that the time for peace has arrived,” he continues.
He concludes with thoughts on the future of his country, a vision which he hopes will come to pass. “I dream of a Cote d’Ivoire where people accept to talk to each other…where we take the time with each other…despite what may oppose us, despite adversity, despite resentment to question our future.”
To reach this vision it will be important to reflect upon the present and also draw lessons from the past. Severin believes that only if this vital condition is met will real change become possible in Côte d’Ivoire.
You can watch the full interview on vimeo ici (en anglais).