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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Africa > West Africa > Côte d'Ivoire > Côte d’Ivoire: Peace as an Option

Côte d’Ivoire: Peace as an Option

Africa Report N°109 17 May 2006

The full report is available in French.


For the first time in nearly four years, Ivorian political actors seem tempted by peace. International intervention, the exhaustion of a population overwhelmed by its leaders’ bad faith, and a good start by Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny have primed the country for presidential elections, meant to be held before 31 October 2006. However, progress is far from irreversible. Simultaneous steps must be taken to restore the government’s presence throughout the divided country; launch a process to identify who is an Ivorian citizen and so entitled to vote; start disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants; and dismantle militias. International efforts, frequently hampered by squabbles between France and South Africa, need better coordination.

None of what the Ivorians must do will be easy or cheap, and the history of the crisis cautions against too much optimism. The protagonists are engaging in trench warfare to get the upper hand in the electoral process, and there is little indication that any of them are actually prepared to risk their power and protection in an election they might lose. There remain plenty of reasons and opportunities for spoilers to sabotage the painstakingly resuscitated peace process. President Laurent Gbagbo and his FPI party (Front Populaire Ivoirien), the Forces Nouvelles (FN) former rebels who control the north of the country, and hard liners in other groupings all retain their capacity to resort again to violence.

The last few months have shown how volatile the situation remains. The violent outbreak of 16-19 January 2006 targeted the UN peacekeeping operation (ONUCI) for the first time, along with all other symbols of an international community accused of trying to “recolonise” the country. In the west, even humanitarian organisations independent of the UN were not spared. Those who planned the violence and those around President Gbagbo who welcomed and supported it sought to destroy, at the start of his term, any possibility that Bannycould exercise effectively the powers the Security Council conferred on him in Resolution 1633 of 21 October 2005. Similar events hobbled former Prime Minister Seydou Diarra’s government from the beginning in 2003, but Banny has recovered by combining dialogue and determination.

The results so far are largely symbolic but nevertheless significant. The government organised school exams, which had been delayed for two years in the North. Political dialogue resumed with the 28 February summit, which brought the four key figures of the conflict together with the prime minister. The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) began its work. Guillaume Soro, the FN chief, returned to Abidjan and to his work as a government minister. Political parties are preparing for an election many still doubt can be held on schedule. The belligerent forces restarted military dialogue, although it was suspended shortly thereafter.

The next several months are crucial. If the government can achieve concrete results in the parallel processes of identifying who has citizenship and DDR, the momentum toward peace and reunification may become harder to stop. Maintaining a working relationship with Gbagbo, who is likely to try to delay elections in order to prolong his stay in office, is important, but Banny’s personal qualities will not be sufficient to guarantee a positive outcome. The International Working Group (IWG), which includes the key states, international organisations and international financial institutions, has a chance to be proactive in discouraging those who still want the process to fail. It needs to resolve its internal power struggles and weigh in with strong financial and political support for the government.


To the Ivorian Prime Minister:

1.  Continue an inclusive dialogue with all political actors and sectors of society in order to mobilise public opinion behind the government’s actions.

2.  Continue to work in tandem with President Gbagbo, referring any intractable differences to the International Working Group.

3.  Insist that State Minister Soro continue in the government and play a full role in the DDR process, and refer any instances of refusal to do so or of insufficient engagement by the Forces Nouvelles in the peace process to the International Working Group.

To the Government of National Reconciliation:

4.  Conduct a nationwide public information campaign about the steps necessary in citizen identification, DDR, dismantling of militias, registration for elections, and return of government presence across the entire country in order to engage the population in these crucial measures.

5.  Simultaneously pursue the process of identifying who is an Ivorian citizen in a transparent manner that conforms to the letter and the spirit of the peace accords and implement DDR, starting with the cantonment of the belligerent forces.

6.  Restore the authority of the ministers of defence and interior over the security forces, who must no longer be in the service of political actors rather than the nation.

7.  Strictly enforce the presidential decree banning street protests.

8.  Restore the authority of the minister of economy and finance over all state financial operations and institutions that collect obligatory payments from the business sector, especially the cocoa-coffee marketing board.

9.  Suspend all financial operations of the cocoa-coffee marketing board and related professional organisations until the board can be reformed and consider abolishing all fees and taxes which go into the accounts of these organisations.

To the World Bank, the European Union and Other Donors:

10.  Give the government rapid and major financial support for the multiple processes it must undertake in advance of and in preparation for elections.

To the International Working Group (IWG):

11.  Resolve internal power struggles, particularly between its most active members, South Africa and France.

12.  Give the government strong political support and inform the Security Council immediately of any obstacle put in the way of necessary measures it is undertaking, in particular the citizenship identification and DDR processes.

To the UN High Representative for Elections in Côte d’Ivoire:

13.  Verify, within the framework of his mandate from Security Council Resolution 1603 (2005) to certify the election process, that the process of identifying who is a citizen permits all Ivorians who are entitled to vote according to the laws in force to register on the new lists.

14.  Stand ready to organise the identification of citizens program, using both Ivorian and international staff, if the government cannot start it by 1 July 2006.

To the UN Sanctions Committee on Côte d’Ivoire:

15.  Update the list of those who could be subject to UN targeted sanctions (travel ban and asset freeze), pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1572 (2004), as individuals responsible for serious violations of human rights or war crimes or inciting violence aimed at blocking the peace process.

To the UN Security Council:

16.  Apply targeted sanctions pursuant to Resolution 1572 (2004), without waiting for further violence, to all those identified by the sanctions committee as responsible for serious violations of human rights or war crimes or of inciting violence aimed at blocking the peace process.

17.  Authorise ONUCI’s immediate reinforcement, as the Secretary-General requests, by 3,400 soldiers, three police units (375 men) and 100 civilian police.

18.  Request the Secretary-General to make preparations, including financial measures, for the High Representative for Elections to assume responsibility for the identification of citizens program if the government cannot start it by 1 July 2006.

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

19.  Visit Côte d’Ivoire in the near future to evaluate the possibility of opening a formal investigation into atrocity crimes committed since 2002.

Dakar/Brussels, 17 May 2006

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