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An eyewitness to the civil war in Ivory Coast

A reader warns that there is no easy or quick solution to the violence in Ivory Coast, blaming the government for running the country "chaotically".

In reference to the news article Ivory Coast opposition wants Gbagbo gone by force (December 23), it is not going to be easy to remove the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo. I was based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, between the years 2002-2003 on a Unilever assignment when civil war broke out between factions of the ruling president and the opposition. The experience remains one of the most traumatic and harrowing experiences of my life.

The root cause of intense and protracted unrest in Ivory Coast is the government, which runs the country chaotically. The political upheavals and exodus of workers from Burkina Faso and Liberia in the last 10 years have depressed the cocoa harvest by 30-40 per cent. Farmers abandoned their fields. The crops rotted.

When a new prime minister was selected in the previous election, his plane could not land at Abidjan because the president's followers invaded the airfield. Helicopters with French soldiers in battle gear were landing on the road in front of my house to control swelling crowds. From the gallery of my apartment, I could see army helicopters shooting at mobs looting in the streets. Every night was a curfew, windows tightly shut, doors barricaded.

It was impossible to travel to the villages for work. Local youngsters carrying rifles checked the papers of every traveller. These villager guards were not uniformed soldiers, but self-appointed vigilantes with fingers perpetually on triggers.

All foreigners were the targets of the wrath of the rulers of the streets brandishing machetes and iron rods.

"Carry your valuables with you," was the advice each of the three times I was evacuated from Abidjan under armed escort. When the chips are down, you just pack your passport, cash, and vitally, your family photographs. The family photos become the most crucial valuables when you leave suddenly, with no prospect of return. You walk out alone into the cold night. And never look back.

Rajendra K Aneja, India

 

Labour reforms on the right track

In response to Employers criticise new labour regulations (December 28), I would like to commend the minister Saqr Ghobash and the FNC for bringing about reform to some outdated labour regulations and helping the country and its residents sail smoothly on the path to development.

It is horrifying to read how employers are worried that they will not be able to "control" their employees anymore and for a change have to pay their employees end-of-service benefits once the contract ends in two years.

These "worried" employers should check out the work regulations in other developed and developing countries. The fear of losing an employee is now going to affect the way employers treat their employees and companies will make employee satisfaction one of the most important agendas in their human resources policies.

Highly skilled workers are finally going to be able to search the job market and land themselves a job where they like the hours and the work, have fewer hardships and, most importantly, where they will be paid salaries according to their qualifications.

A prospective employee is finally going to have the power to say no to an employer. Wait and see how that's going to improve the job market and the economy.

F Baasleem, Dubai

 

Humans are not property and to view us with a mind to "control" us is morally repugnant.

Rather than fear losing staff, employers should look for ways to retain us, including training and professional development opportunities, team building and improved customer service standards. When we feel empowered, valued and allowed to make a valuable contribution to our employment, we are far more likely to want to stay, not run from those who utilise arbitrary power for the sake of control.

Elan Fabbri, Abu Dhabi

 

Finish half-built construction sites

In the article Enterprising plan for not-yet-finished buildings (December 24), a Dubai-based businessman advocates turning construction sites into playgrounds or public squares. Is this guy for real? There is a reason why people don't try to use building sites for purposes other than trying to get buildings completed - they are building sites and inherently dangerous. Would you really want kids running around playing ball when there are jagged edged girders and nonexistent walls all over the place? What if someone pushes a piece of equipment or some material off the side of a building by accident? And do you really think that the insurers would allow for this?

What needs to be done is completion of buildings and possibly a real look at how buildings could possibly be redesigned to reduce capacity and units. Then pressure the buyers and financiers to get the thing done. There is going to be pain in this, but making no decisions and allowing things to fester is more painful.

Sean Eagles, Dubai

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