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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Africa > West Africa > Côte d'Ivoire > Côte d’Ivoire: Defusing Tensions

Côte d’Ivoire: Defusing Tensions

Africa Report N°193 26 Nov 2012


A volatile security situation and mounting political tensions are threatening Côte d’Ivoire’s recovery. In the last few months the country has been subjected to a series of deadly attacks, whose targets have included: a police station, an important military base, several army positions and a power station, in addition to an outbreak of violence in the west. Although these incidents do not pose a direct threat to stability, they reveal that for some groups the war is not yet over. Other signs are also worrying: security sector reform has been slow, political dialogue is stalled, the ruling coalition appears weak, violent discourses have returned, coup plots have been devised and uncovered and there is a clear lack of political will to promote national reconciliation. Given this state of affairs, President Alassane Ouattara and his new government should not solely be relying on economic recovery and the tightening of security measures to consolidate peace. International attention should not be diverted away from Côte d’Ivoire’s stabilisation, which has become all the more crucial given the decent of its neighbour, Mali, into a deep and lasting crisis.

Eighteen months after the end of a post-election conflict which caused over 3,000 deaths and which was merely the epilogue of a decade-long political and military crisis, no one could have expected a complete return to normalcy. Côte d’Ivoire has to cope with the numerous challenges commonly faced by post-war countries. For one, the security apparatus is struggling to get back in order and, despite some progress, the Ivorian forces remain unstable and divided between the former members of the Gbagbo-era Forces de défense et de sécurité (FDS) and the former rebels of the Forces armées des forces nouvelles (FAFN). Both attitudes surrounding, and the modalities of, their expected integration within the Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), are posing an impediment to reconciliation. Moreover, the former FAFN still remain the dominant force, with the police and gendarmerie continuing to be sidelined.

A further security issue lies in the over 18,000 traditional hunters, known as Dozos, deployed across the territory, who helped secure the country but now continue to play a security role for which they have neither the legitimacy nor skills to do so. This military and militia apparatus working for the government is unpopular, especially among supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who is now in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands and who could soon be joined by his spouse, Simone Gbagbo, against whom the ICC unsealed an arrest warrant on 22 November. This configuration of the security sector aggravates tensions, particularly in the west, where intercommunal land issues are adding up. Furthermore the slow progress in reintegrating the tens of thousands of youths who participated in the conflict back into civilian life causes yet more security-related problems through increasing the frustration of this section of the population and encouraging them to keep their weapons as a guarantee of their economic survival.

Dialogue between the government and the opposition – a vital component of reconciliation – is stalled and does not go beyond statements of intent. The Front populaire ivoirien (FPI), former President Gbagbo’s party, has chosen isolation by withdrawing from the electoral process and basing its return to the political game on unrealistic conditions. The FPI’s moderate wing has not been able to distance itself from the exiled hardliners who nourish hope of regaining military power. Political dialogue and reconciliation prospects have been paralysed since the uncovering in June, September and October 2012 of a number of coup plots orchestrated by Ghana-based former ministers of Gbagbo, his family members and close associates. These plots have convinced hardliners from the other side of the political sphere – members of the Rassemblement des républicains (RDR), the presidential party, and the Forces nouvelles (FN), the former rebellion – of the need to consolidate their military victory and maintain a repressive stance toward all representatives of the old regime, including the moderates.

This political turmoil is accompanied by a return of hateful and dangerous discourses relayed by the partisan press. In this climate of polarisation, the government is making decisions that are gradually moving it away from its campaign promises of better governance and a break with the past, which was key to Ouattara’s victory in the November 2010 presidential election.

The judicial system is also adding to tensions, due to its biased stance: not a single FRCI member has been charged, either for crimes committed during the post-election crisis or for those committed since. Arbitrary arrests have been taking place in the pro-Gbagbo media and have been widely carried out by the powerful Direction de la surveillance du territoire (DST) and military police.

In the administration and public companies, some appointments have been made on regional or political criteria, in the name of an “adjustment policy” – a form of reverse discrimination – that contradicts promises of improving governance. The Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CDVR) is still struggling to start its work. The establishment of its local committees is proving difficult. More worrying is that the commission does not seem to be supported by the political power that established it last year, amid wide media coverage. The government has still not provided it with the necessary financial resources, and the personalised management style of its president, Charles Konan Banny, remains under sharp criticism.

In this context, the ruling coalition has been showing signs of fragility, which culminated in the dissolution of the government on 14 November, a decision which exposed the cleavages between the RDR and its main ally, the Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI). The appointment on 21 November of a senior PDCI member, Daniel Kablan Duncan, as prime minister replacing Jeannot Ahoussou-Kouadio, who is also from that party, should abort the crisis within the coalition and ensure stronger unity in the new government, which has hardly been changed. Kablan Duncan, who had previously served as prime minister from 1994 to 1999 and was the incumbent foreign minister, is a respected member of his party, a personal friend of President Ouattara and, like him, an economist. The clear priority given to the promotion of strong economic growth to reduce unemployment and poverty is welcome, but it cannot be a substitute for political gestures dedicated to national reconciliation.

It appears as if the political class has not learned the vital lessons from the post-electoral crisis, and consequently it is now repeating the very attitudes that previously led the country to the brink. It is urgent that President Ouattara, the new government and the entire ruling political class resist the temptation of abusing power, which has already cost many lives in Côte d’Ivoire. It is also time for the African organisations and the wider international community to publicly and firmly denounce the current Ivorian regime’s errors.


To improve security of the state and the populations

To the Government of Côte d’Ivoire:

1.  Encourage and increase initiatives to promote coexistence between former members of the Forces de défense et de sécurité (FDS) and the Forces armées des forces nouvelles (FAFN), including training, public utility work or joint exercises.

2.  Speed up the redeployment of the police and gendarmerie, and provide them with a significant budget for equipment, focused on transport, communications and working conditions, as well as with the weapons necessary to perform their tasks.

3.  Organise a nationwide conference, which would include the main Dozo leaders, in order to define their role within society and the security apparatus, as well as the type of weapons they are allowed to have; and start identifying, disarming and reinserting into civilian life the “fake Dozos”.

4.  Declare publicly a deadline for the Autorité pour le dés­armement, la démobilisation et la réinsertion (ADDR) to identify and reinsert former combatants; and encourage the ADDR to determine available economic opportunities and provide them to a matching, realistic number of former combatants.

To the Governments of Ghana and Togo:

5.  Execute, within their national legal framework, the arrest warrants issued by Côte d’Ivoire against exiled former leaders or close associates of the Gbagbo regime.

To International Partners, notably France, the U.S. and the European Union:

6.  Ask the Ivorian authorities to define short-term objectives for security sector reform, based on immediate problems, and direct assistance to this reform mainly toward fulfilling these objectives.

To promote dialogue and normalise political life

To the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and leaders of the ruling coalition:

7.  Include the FPI and other parties that are not represented in the National Assembly in the most important debates of the president’s five-year term, notably concerning institutional reforms and rural land reform.

8.  Modify the composition and functioning of the Electoral Independent Commission (CEI) ahead of the 2013 regional and local elections, in order to ensure a more balanced representation of different political forces, while waiting for an overhaul of the electoral system through broader constitutional reform.

To the leaders of the Front patriotique ivoirien (FPI) and close associates of the Gbagbo former regime:

9.  Condemn unequivocally all activities seeking to destabilise the government and generate insecurity; distance themselves from all individuals – civilians and military – linked to the Gbagbo regime, who are currently in exile and nurture hopes of military revenge; and accept government proposals to join political dialogue.

To promote justice and reconciliation

To the President of Côte d’Ivoire:

10.  Call all political leaders whose parties have elected representatives to gather and publicly and collectively ask for forgiveness from the Ivorians for all the suffering inflicted on them since the December 1999 coup.

To the justice minister:

11.  Clarify the judicial situation of some Gbagbo associates who are detained in Côte d’Ivoire, including his son Michel Gbagbo and the former FPI president, Pascal Affi N’Guessan; and release members of the old regime and Gbagbo associates who are detained on insufficient grounds.

12.  Follow-up quickly, through impartial judicial proceedings, on the conclusions of the report released last August by the National Inquiry Commission on human rights and international humanitarian law violations that were committed in Côte d’Ivoire during the post-election crisis, ie, from 31 October 2010 to 15 May 2011.

To the President of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

13.  Establish quickly, with civil society support, the CDVR’s local committees, without, however, conditioning the beginning of their work to simultaneous opening of the 36 committees, which should be gradually established, primarily in priority zones such as Duékoué in the west.

To the UN Secretary General and his Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire:

14.  Reinforce the human rights division of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI) to enable it to improve its follow-up work on violations across the territory and to increase its capacity to respond adequately.

To Regional and International Partners:

15.  Condemn publicly, regularly and more strongly the repeated human rights violations and remind President Ouattara and the government of their commitments to fair justice and national reconciliation.

To the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court:

16.  Continue her investigations, pursuant to the October 2011 ruling by the ICC judges, including on crimes that could fall under the court’s jurisdiction and that have allegedly been committed between 2002 and 2010.

Dakar/Brussels, 26 November 2012

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