"Côte d’Ivoire: Defusing Tensions", crisisgroup

Côte d’Ivoire: Defusing Tensions

Africa Report N°193 26 Nov 2012

The full report is currently only available in French.


The volatile security situation and political tensions are threatening Côte d’Ivoire’s recovery. The last few months have seen a series of deadly attacks against a police station, one of the main military bases of the country, several army positions and a power station. Violence also broke out in the west. Although these incidents do not pose a direct threat to stability, they show that, for some segments of the population, the war is not yet over. Some signs are particularly worrying: slow security sector reform, stalled political dialogue, a weak ruling coalition, a return to violent discourses, uncovered coup plots, and an apparent lack of political will to promote national reconciliation. President Alassane Ouattara and his new government should not rely solely on economic recovery and the tightening of security measures to consolidate peace. International attention should remain focused on Côte d’Ivoire’s stabilisation, which is all the more crucial as its neighbour, Mali, has descended into a deep and lasting crisis.

Eighteen months after the end of a post-election conflict which caused over 3,000 deaths and 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 challenges commonly faced by post-war countries. The security apparatus is struggling to get back in order. Despite some progress, the Ivorian forces remain unstable and divided between former members of the Gbagbo-era Forces de défense et de sécurité (FDS) and former rebels of the Forces armées des forces nouvelles (FAFN). Their attitude, as well as the modalities of their integration within the Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), are an impediment to reconciliation. The former FAFN are still the dominant forces, while the police and gendarmerie remain sidelined.

Over 18,000 traditional hunters deployed across the territory, the so-called Dozos, helped secure the country, thus playing a role for which they have neither legitimacy nor skills. This military and militia apparatus working for the government is not well accepted, especially by supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who is being detained at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, in the Netherlands. He could soon be joined by his wife, Simone Gbagbo, against whom the ICC unsealed an arrest warrant on 22 November. The configuration of the security sector aggravates tensions, particularly in the west, where intercommunal land issues are adding up. Slow reintegration into civilian life of tens of thousands of youths who participated in the conflict increases their frustration and encourages them to keep their weapons as a guarantee of their economic survival.

Dialogue between the government and the opposition – which is 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 imposing unrealistic conditions to its effective return in the political game. 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 are paralysed since the revelation in June, September and October 2012 of coup plots allegedly orchestrated from Ghana by former ministers of Gbagbo, his family members and close associates. These plots have convinced hardliners on the other side – including members of the Rassemblement des républicains (RDR), the presidential party, and the Forces nouvelles, the former rebellion – of the need to consolidate their military victory and maintain a repressive stance toward all representatives of the old regime, may they be moderate or not.

Political turmoil is accompanied by a return of hateful and dangerous discourses relayed by a partisan press, loyal to one side or the other. In this climate of polarisation, the government is making decisions that gradually move it away from its campaign promises of better governance and a break with the past, which allowed Ouattara to win the presidential election in November 2010. The judicial system remains biased: 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 were 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 difficult. More worrying still, the commission does not seem to be supported by the political power that established it last year with wide media coverage. The government still has 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, culminating 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. Kablan Duncan, who held the same position 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 toward national reconciliation.

The political class does not seem to have learned all the lessons from the post-electoral crisis, and is repeating the very attitudes that have led the country to the brink. It is urgent for President Ouattara, the new government and the entire ruling political class to resist the temptation of abusing power, which has already cost many lives in Côte d’Ivoire. It is time for the African organisations and the international community to publicly and firmly denounce the current Ivorian regime’s dysfunctions.


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 and the Forces armées des forces nouvelles, including training, public utility work or joint exercises.

2.  Speed up the redeployment of the police and gendarmerie, and provide them with an important budget for re-equipment, focused on transport, communications and work 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 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 to the Ivorians for all the suffering inflicted on the populations since the December 1999 coup.

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 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) so as to enable it to improve its follow-up work on violations across the territory and increase its capacity to respond adequately.

To Regional and International Partners:

15.  Condemn more strongly and regularly 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.

Brussels/Dakar, 26 November 2012