´A Critical Period for Ensuring Stability in Côte d’Ivoire´, crisisgroup

A Critical Period for Ensuring Stability in Côte d’Ivoire

Africa Report N°176 1 Aug 2011

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Executive Summary

Rapport en français

Résumé en français

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The full report is currently only available in French.


The coming to power of the elected President Ouattara should not mask reality. Côte d’Ivoire remains fragile and unstable. The atrocities after the second round of the presidential elections on 28 November 2010 and Laurent Gbagbo’s attempt to retain power by all means despite losing the election exacerbated already acute tensions. The next months are crucial. The new government must not underestimate the threats that will long jeopardise peace and must avoid the narcotic of power that has caused so many disastrous decisions over recent decades. The international community must keep careful watch during the transition and stay involved with security, the economy and humanitarian aid. The president must make courageous decisions on security, justice, political dialogue and economic revival, imbuing each with a spirit of national reconciliation.

Security is the first challenge. The murderous events between December 2010 and April 2011 shattered the security apparatus. The military hierarchy was split between desperate, violent Gbagbo defenders, his less zealous supporters, discreet Ouattara supporters and opportunists, all in an atmosphere of mistrust. The new Forces républicaines (FRCI) remains an uncertain project. The priority is to integrate several thousand Forces Nouvelles (FN) fighters into the new army.

The FN former rebels, who helped Ouattara take power by force in Abidjan, play a disproportionate role in the FRCI. Soldiers from Prime Minister Soro’s movement dominate Abidjan and the west, in addition to the north of the country they controlled for the last eight years. They are badly trained, disorderly and commanded by warlords not in a good position to establish rule of law. If the government cannot prevail over FN area commanders quickly and re-establish order before the legislative elections, the president’s standing will be irreparably damaged. Large numbers of weapons must be surrendered – an arsenal that threatens not only Côte d’Ivoire, but also Liberia, Ghana and all members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is, however, not taking a very proactive role in this matter.

In a country where more than 3,000 were killed in five months, often cruelly and not in combat, reconciliation and justice are imperative. This is the second priority. Promised by Ouattara even before the post-electoral conflict, the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Truth Commission was created with ex-Prime Minister Banny at its head. The civil society consultations he began, his enthusiastic approach and the government’s attempt to clarify the mandate in July have not erased doubts about its independence. Quick changes are needed if it is to have adequate credibility.

The government seems to be focusing on punishing the defeated. Several Gbagbo associates have been charged, and the justice system is investigating economic crimes of his clan. There is no doubt about the seriousness of crimes committed by Gbagbo’s military and civilian allies before and during the crisis or the need for investigation. But no charges have yet been brought against supporters of the new president who also committed serious crimes. Statements by President Ouattara at home and abroad, notably in the U.S., clearly indicate a desire for impartial justice. The moment has come to translate intention into action that is politically risky but necessary.

The third challenge is to resist the temptation to over-centralise power, leaving no room for political opposition. Electorally, then militarily defeated, Gbagbo’s Front populaire ivoirien (FPI) is in shock. Ouattara must create conditions for normalisation of political life by creating space for ex-Gbagbo supporters and others to organise opposition to the government. All political forces, including supporters of FPI ideology, should be able to organise for the legislative elections scheduled to be held by year’s end, if they renounce violence and hate rhetoric.

The revival of a badly damaged economy is the fourth challenge. On paper, this seems the simplest. Donors are ready to help a country with much potential, that has been the world’s leading cocoa producer for decades, has more recently become an oil producer and has good infrastructure and human resources. Ouattara is reputed to be a careful economist and manager, but his team must abandon corrupt practices that have curbed economic development for decades and fuelled the frustration of those not invited to the table. And he must not rely exclusively on economic and social policy and a new style of governance to promote national reconciliation.

The international community must help make a smooth passage through a delicate period. The UN mission (UNOCI), whose mandate was renewed for one year by Security Council Resolution 2000 (27 July), must assist in filling the security vacuum in Abidjan and the west. The continued deployment of UNOCI military and police, including reinforcements authorised for the post-electoral crisis, and the opening of new military camps along the Liberian border are welcome. However, more is needed. UNOCI peacekeepers must increase patrols, work with the civilian authorities and the local population and coordinate deployment of the blue helmets with humanitarian agency personnel. Finally, the UN must work with Côte d’Ivoire’s international partners and the government to quickly re-establish the police and gendarmerie forces.

At the political level, the UN must help install a climate favourable to holding legislative elections by promoting dialogue between all Ivorian parties. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative should define new criteria for his mandate to certify those elections. He could also work to prevent and mitigate local conflicts by focusing on his roles as mediator, facilitator and adviser to the government. And in the short term, the UN, African organisations and donors must prioritise economic development projects that also promote reconciliation, with emphasis on the regions and communities most affected by the recent conflict.


For Security

To the Defence and Interior Ministers:

1.  Begin withdrawing the Forces Nouvelles from Abidjan by the beginning of September, except for personnel selected and trained by the Integrated Command Centre (Centre de Commandement Intégré, CCI) during the peace process, starting with:

a) the civilian volunteers recruited during the post-electoral crisis, who should be redeployed into community service or employed in a national program of major infrastructure development, followed by

b) area commanders and their units.

2.  Repeat the call for military personnel to return from exile and provide guarantees for their security and rights, including the presumption of innocence.

3.  Respect the provisions of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (APO) scrupulously, especially with regard to the number of ex-rebels integrated into the new security forces.

4.  Establish a procedure to select soldier, police and gendarme candidates for the reunified army, excluding those implicated in serious human rights and international humanitarian law abuse.

To the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI):

5.  Deploy more members in Abidjan so as to fill the security vacuum left by an FN withdrawal and conduct nocturnal land and air patrols along the Liberian border, in cooperation with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

6.  Establish a collection program in districts of Abidjan and the west most affected by weapons proliferation; create a reward mechanism for communities that help recover the most.

7.  Ensure integration of the peacekeeping operation and the entire UN system, in particular coordinated deployment of blue helmets and humanitarian agency personnel engaged in restoring basic social infrastructure.

For Reconciliation and Justice

To the President of the Republic:

8.  Consider changes to the 13 July 2011 decree on the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Truth Commission (CDVR), after structured consultation and a listening exercise that takes into account criticisms by the main civil society human rights organisations and West African and international NGOs with expertise on transitional justice elsewhere in the world.

9.  Request the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor to extend his investigation to include war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since September 2002.

To the Ivorian Government:

10.  Involve prefects, sub-prefects and mayors in the initiatives led by local reconciliation committees and, with donor help, provide these committees with appropriate funding.

11.  Meet with senior media figures to discuss their inclusion in national reconciliation work.

12.  Do not use judicial procedures to dismantle the Front populaire ivoirien (FPI); distinguish between supporters of the ex-president who actively participated in serious crimes and those who were only associated with his illegal exercise of power after the election.

13.  Prioritise re-establishment of courts in the centre, north and west and Guiglo and appoint competent judges throughout the country.

To the Justice Ministry:

14.  Ensure that investigations are opened into members of the Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) suspected of serious crimes, especially those named in the report of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Côte d’Ivoire.

To the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC):

15.  Determine whether crimes within ICC jurisdiction were committed after 19 September 2002 and, if so, request the judges to expand the investigatory scope to 2002-2011.

On Politics and the Legislative Elections

To the Ivorian government:

16.  Resist the temptation to further weaken the party of Gbagbo and his followers; and create the atmosphere of peace that is indispensable to allow them to prepare for the legislative elections.

17.  Organise legislative elections by the end of 2011 on the basis of an agreement with all political parties about their conduct, especially concerning the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), the electoral list and the UN role.

To the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General:

18.  Facilitate dialogue between Ivorian parties so as to promote peaceful, inclusive elections.

On the Economy

To the Ivorian government:

19.  Undertake labour-intensive infrastructure work, including repair of main roads and projects in smaller towns/villages most affected by the post-electoral crisis, especially in the far west.

20.  Give displaced persons urgent support, especially in the west; set up a fund to help them return home, thus avoiding indefinite residence in camps.

21.  Make economic choices whenever possible that also promote political reconciliation.

To the civilian and military leaders of the Forces Nouvelles:

22.  Dismantle the economic control mechanisms in the centre, north and west, including by:

a) ending tax collection imposed on markets and all other forms of parallel taxation;

b) closing any remaining check-points;

c) returning all service stations to their legitimate owners;

d) re-establishing Ivorian customs posts on the northern borders; and

e) vacating all administrative premises occupied since the rebellion of September 2002.

Dakar/Brussels, 1 August 2011