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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Africa > West Africa > Côte d'Ivoire > Côte d’Ivoire: Ensuring Credible Elections

Côte d’Ivoire: Ensuring Credible Elections

Africa Report N°139 22 Apr 2008


Côte d’Ivoire continues towards peace one year after the ex-Forces Nouvelles (FN) rebellion leader Guillaume Soro was appointed prime minister by his former adversary, President Laurent Gbagbo, but violence could still return. All actors must focus on creating the political and security conditions necessary for the free and fair elections that, for the first time in the drawn-out peace process, appear possible within less than a year. However, the competition for the presidency, for which certain politicians appear ready to go to extremes, combined with the proliferation of armed groups and growth of impunity in recent years, present a potentially explosive environment. Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré, who is the facilitator and arbitrator of the peace process, as well as the UN Security Council, must assume their responsibilities to avert another descent into violence in this pivotal West African state.

On 14 April the government announced that the first round of the presidential elections will take place on 30 November 2008. After months of negotiations, crucial texts defining voter identification procedures and amendments to the electoral code were also adopted by the government. These announcements, though very welcome, do not alter the fact that the Ouagadougou Peace Accord (OPA), signed on 4 March 2007, has produced mixed results. There has been a general improvement in the security environment, and the so-called zone of confidence, which amounted to a physical and symbolic partition of the country, has been dismantled.

However, overall implementation is far behind schedule, and there has been no decisive progress on two critical issues: “identification” of the population – the work of the mobile courts has been but a first step towards determining who is a citizen and who may vote –and the disarmament of former rebels and militias, and their reinsertion or reintegration into civilian life or the military. While not wholly unrealistic, the 30 November date for the presidential election will be extremely difficult to attain.

Nothing has been done in the past year that would jeopardise the continuation of Gbagbo’s power and Soro’s political survival. But the most politically sensitive and risky tasks need to be undertaken now, including: identification of the population and electors on a consensual and transparent basis; and regrouping all ex-combatants, proceeding with their disarmament, providing programs to further their learning and economic reintegration, and assigning those who are to join the new Ivorian Defence and Security Forces to the Integrated Command Centre (ICC), which combines ex-rebel and loyalist military headquarters. It will be the progress of these operations on the ground, not the political speeches and pageantry, which will show the real will of Ivorian leaders to finally end the suffering of their fellow citizens.

Technical and financial constraints are real, but the government also used them as excuses to justify delays. The real problems, which threaten the entire peace process, come from the political manoeuvrings of Ivorian leaders in the lead-up to the elections. If all the steps of the electoral process are followed in a transparent manner, none of the main candidates – Gbagbo, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara of the Rassemblement des républicains (RDR) and former President  Henri Konan Bédié of the Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) – can be certain of victory.

Getting all political actors – those who want elections, those who do not and those who only want them if they are assured of winning – to agree to create the conditions for transparent democratic polls will be difficult. The calm political climate since the signing of the OPA, though genuine, should not fool anyone: the struggle to influence the electoral process and the presidential campaign will be harsh and divisive, with the risk of returning the country to turmoil.

To avoid elections even more disastrous than those of October 2000 and to ensure that they contribute to mending the torn social fabric, three things are critical: strict adherence to the OPA by the signatories; implementation of a consensual security plan for the identification operations and the elections; and a conflict prevention strategy with the facilitation of President Compaoré and the UN mission (ONUCI).

Compaoré has a specific responsibility for the OPA. If his good offices are not sufficient to force the actors to respect their commitments, he should expose the spoilers and recommend individual sanctions to the Security Council, of which Burkina Faso is currently a member. If the Ivorian elections occur in a violent setting or the results are contested, regional and wider international efforts to resolve the crisis over the past six years will have been in vain. A successful outcome to the peace process is critical for the stability and economic future of all West Africa.


To President Gbagbo:

1.  Ensure strict application of the OPA, the complementary accords of 28 November 2007, the decisions of the Standing Consultative Mechanism and Resolutions 1765 (2007) and 1795 (2008) of the Security Council, in particular:

a) commitments on the procedures for identification of the population and a census;

b) exclusive responsibility of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for organisation of the electoral process; and

c) certification of all steps by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and President Compaoré’s arbitration of any electoral process problems.

2.  Submit the conclusions of the Working Group on the Reorganisation of the Army to public debate before making a decision on their implementation.

3.  Accept that the presidential elections and legislative elections be held concurrently.

4.  Refrain from the use of force or actions that could undermine a stable and transparent electoral environment.

To the Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the Forces Nouvelles (FN), Guillaume Soro:

5.  Ensure strict application of the Ouagadougou Peace Accord (OPA), the complementary accords of 28 November 2007, the decisions of the Standing Consultative Mechanism and Resolutions 1765 (2007) and 1795 (2008) of the Security Council, in particular:

a) commitments regarding disarming ex-combatants and militias; launching the national civil service program and programs aimed at economic reinsertion and community rehabilitation of ex-combatants; identification of ex-rebel combatants who are willing and qualified to join the new Defence and Security Forces (DSF) and their placement under the temporary responsibility of the ICC; and

b) commitments regarding the restoration of the state’s authority on the entire territory, including the end of political, military and economic control by the FN.

6.  Continue to favour consensus between all political forces in government on all questions relating to resolution of the crisis, particularly the identification and electoral processes.

7.  Ensure that the cabinet tasked with managing post-conflict programs has sufficient human resources and that the representatives of the International Consultative Organ (ICO) are more closely associated with the technical, financial and operational planning of operations stipulated in the OPA.

To Ivorian Civil Society Organisations:

8.  Support full implementation of the OPA and launch an independent national program of election observation, including the identification process and the electoral census, with the help of appropriate funding from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other partners.

To the New Administrative Councils of the Ivorian Radio and Television (RTI) and the Government Media Group Fraternité Matin:

9.  Prioritise free and fair access for all political parties to public information organs and provide more coverage of politics so as to make the public aware of the importance of participating in the identification process and electoral census.

To Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré:

10.  Make full use of the role of facilitator, mediator and arbitrator in the implementation of the OPA, in particular:

a) set deadlines for concluding negotiations between political parties on the procedures of each operation stipulated in the OPA and offer to arbitrate if the government cannot compromise;

b) indicate to all political actors that basic conditions must be fulfilled before the organisation of elections, including completion of identification; acceptance by all parties of the new electoral list; disarmament of ex-rebel combatants and militias; and adoption of a security plan prepared by the ICC and accepted by all parties prepared to contest the elections;

c) task his special representative in Côte d’Ivoire to maintain regular contact with all political actors as well as civil society organisations so as to identify risks to the electoral process, including intimidation and political violence at local level;

d) ensure respect for the commitments of the prime minister and the president regarding free and fair access to the media for all political parties in the lead-up to the elections; and

e) suggest to political leaders and the IEC that presidential and legislative elections be held concurrently.

To the UN Security Council:

11.  Apply targeted sanctions foreseen in Resolutions 1572 (2004), 1643 (2005) and 1782 (2007) to Ibrahim Coulibaly (alias IB) for his attempts to destabilise the peace process, as well as to rebel (FN) zone commanders Morou Ouattara and Issiaka Ouattara (alias Wattao), for serious human rights violations committed in Bouaké in December 2007.

12.  Maintain UNOCI at current strength, reaffirm its responsibility to protect civilians under immediate threat of physical violence and retain its complete freedom of movement and initiative to carry out the mission.

To the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Côte d’Ivoire:

13.  Focus the attention and activities of civil and military ONUCI personnel on:

a) certification of all steps of the electoral process;

b) recovery and storage of arms acquired during disarmament and demobilisation operations;

c) assisting the ICC in preparing and implementing a security plan for the identification process and elections and reconfiguring ONUCI’s presence according to this plan; and

d) collecting information on actions by those with the potential of creating political violence at the national and local levels.   

14.  Publicise the criteria for certification of the elections and ensure they include:

a) acceptance by all political parties of the new electoral list to result from the identification process;

b) freedom to undertake political activities on the entire national territory;

c) absence of pressure on the IEC members and of political manipulation of the Constitutional Council to modify the result of the popular vote; and

d) free and equal access to the media by all political parties during the electoral campaign.

To the Government of France:

15.  Maintain the personnel level of Operation Licorne and its capacity for rapid reaction support of ONUCI at least until the end of the electoral process.

To the Members of the International Consultative Organ (ICO) on Côte d’Ivoire:

16.  Provide promptly all financial and technical support promised to the government to implement the OPA as well as for economic reinsertion programs for ex-combatants and militias, the national civil service and rehabilitation of infrastructure.

Dakar/Brussels, 22 April 2008

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