The Challenges Ahead for Côte d’Ivoire
The Challenges Ahead for Côte d’Ivoire
A Critical Period for Ensuring Stability in Côte d’Ivoire
A Critical Period for Ensuring Stability in Côte d’Ivoire
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Podcast / Africa 8 minutes

The Challenges Ahead for Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara faces the difficult task of rebuilding the country after five months of post-election violence that killed thousands. Gilles Yabi, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director, discusses the tasks Ouattara faces.

In this podcast, Gilles Yabi discusses the tasks Ouattara faces. CRISIS GROUP

You can find below a transcript of this podcast.

Welcome to this podcast from the International Crisis Group. I’m Kimberly Abbott. Following five months of political conflict that rocked the West African country of Côte d'Ivoire and killed thousands, President Alassane Ouattara now faces the difficult task of rebuilding. Joining me to talk about what lies ahead is Gilles Yabi, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director.
Gilles, what are Ouattara’s most pressing issues right now?

We do think that it is a critical period now happening in Côte d'Ivoire. The next six months will be very decisive for the future of the country and the prospect for stabilization. The key issues are, first, security. It is the first priority for Ouattara to bring security back and to make sure that security forces are unified in the country. The second main issue is how to deal with justice and reconciliation, to make sure that what is done to fight impunity is not also going against the objective of national reconciliation. The third main issue is political re-composition. Basically, how to make sure that there is political space for Gbagbo’s partisans, especially ahead of (legitimate) legislative elections--to make sure that we have an opposition and also that we have a voice in the country. The fourth issue, which is important also in the short-term perspective, is economic reconstruction: how to make sure that the economy of Côte d'Ivoire is back on its feet, and how to put an element of reconciliation in the way the economy itself is being rebuilt.
Let’s go through each of those issues. The first thing you mentioned as the top priority is security. What can Ouattara do now to rebuild the army, bring those forces back to the barracks, and also to rebuild trust with the population?

That is a very tough challenge for Ouattara. I think, for now, the main concern is that the forces that fought for Ouattara came from the north of the country via civil war, and are now in control of Abidjan in the south. The fact that they are actually the ex-combatants of a rebellion means that their very presence in Abidjan, and the fact that they are so influential for now, is a problem. It is an obstacle to (the return of) allowing former soldiers and policemen under Gbagbo to come back again to the barracks, to come back to the police stations and to make sure that there is a sound basis for a reunified army and police in the country. What is really important is for Ouattara to make clear that he is committed to a reunified army and that he will not allow former rebels to take over the Ivorian army and security forces more generally. 

There is also an issue of ethnic and regional composition in the army. These former rebels who are now in control of the situation are mostly from the northern part of the country, and it is important that the new Ivorian security and defense forces reflect the diversity of the country and include the people who (have been) were in the army and the police under Gbagbo.
What about the UN peacekeeping troops? The UN Security Council is set to vote on an extension of those peacekeeping troops. How crucial is that?
It is extremely important that the UN Security Council maintain the current level of troops and all the assets of the mission in place in Côte d'Ivoire. It is crucial because of the security situation, because of the importance of security threats in the country. It is important to recall, for example, that there had been a massive distribution of weapons during the post-electoral crisis, and so now the situation is that there is a proliferation of weapons in the country. So we will have security challenges that will remain for some time. 

Again, you have a lot of security threats, and at the same time you don’t have yet a real security sector that is able to cope with threats. There is a space for the UN forces to be more present, to bring security to fill the vacuum that we still have in some parts of the country, especially in Abidjan, where the policemen are not back in the police stations and the armory is not back. So there is really a role to be played by the UN forces, and there is also a necessity to have a new mandate for the UN mission on the ground that will cover the assistance to the security sector reform. That is the key role for the UN forces in the future. They have to stay. They have to admit for now that the country is still very fragile and that they will have to stay for a long period, so that Ouattara can really reunify the country, reunify the defense forces, and so there can be a new stabilization period for the country.
Then there is the question of what to do with Gbagbo himself. He is in the north under house arrest with his family. What is his fate?
The fate of Gbagbo is still uncertain for now. He is in house arrest in the northern part of the country, as are many leaders of Gbagbo’s party. There are different levels of justice going on in Côte d'Ivoire. At the national level, there are a lot of investigations open by the prosecution in Abidjan, looking at the crimes that were committed during the post-electoral crisis. 

Also, Ouattara asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into the crimes against humanity and war crimes that were committed in the country during the post-electoral crisis. We are waiting for the decision of the ICC on that, but it is likely that the ICC will open an investigation, and the ICC will be looking at the person most responsible and at the highest level. So it is clear that there is a possibility for Gbagbo at one point to be targeted by the ICC. At the national level, it may be very difficult and also dangerous for the national reconciliation prospect to have a trial of Gbagbo in Côte d'Ivoire. I think the calculation of Ouattara is basically to advocate an international justice deal with the case of Gbagbo.
And the ICC would be looking at crimes on both sides?  
Yes. That is a very important point. For now, one of the problems is that there have been some indictmentS at the national level of political allies and military allies of (former President Laurent) (sounds awkward because he’s already been mentioned in the previous question) Gbagbo. There has been absolutely no indictment of some members of the forces that supported Ouattara who also committed some atrocities in the west of the country and also in Abidjan. There has been absolutely no sign that the justice department is going against these people, and that is giving a very wrong signal to the population, especially the part of the population that supported Gbagbo.
The third thing you mentioned was political re-composition. Ouattara won the election, but it is also important to remember that Gbagbo had 46 percent of the vote, so there’s a huge percentage of the population that did support him. What is the new president doing to open up that political space and make sure that the opposition parties are included in the political process?
I think it is good to acknowledge the fact that Ouattara initially kept his promise of offering Gbagbo’s party the possibility to take part in a government of national unity--but the offer was rejected by the FPI, the party of Laurent Gbagbo What is more important--basically, associating Gbagbo’s party to the current government and creating the space for the party to reorganize and to make sure that they can take part in the legitimate election that has been promised by the end of the year by Ouattara. 

For now, there has been no clear sign from Ouattara of creating a new space for dialogue; also, (on the conditions of a legitimate election) in terms of composition of electoral commission, voter registration--what will be the conditions to organize a legitimate election and how to make sure all the procedures at the justice level are not going to prevent the key members of Gbagbo’s party from taking part in the legitimate elections. 

There is a link between what will be done in terms of the judicial side of things and the prospect for Gbagbo’s partisans to have the possibility to present candidates in the legitimate election and to avoid an exclusion of part of a population in the next national assembly. For now, the signs are not very clear from Ouattara’s side, and that will be one of the key indications of his true commitment to national reconciliation. To give space to the opposition would avoid having a national assembly which would not be representative of the political diversity of the country.
The fourth big challenge is reviving the economy. Now, Côte d'Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world, so that is one positive. The other one is that Ouattara has a lot of international business connections and he has a lot of credibility from his time as deputy director of the IMF. So with those two things going for the country, is that enough? What will it take to revive the economy?

Reviving the economy won’t necessarily be the most difficult task. It is clear that Ouattara will have a tougher job in terms of security and national reconciliation. 

For the economy, he has a lot of competency and he has a lot of connections at the international level. He already got a lot of support from the French government and also from the IMF, which is resuming its financial operation with Cote d’Ivoire. Also, private sector international investors have been waiting for some time for stabilization of the country.

A lot will depend on (the credibility of) a return to security in the country, so that investors can come back into the country. 

It will be quite a wrong calculation from Ouattara just to count on the revival of the economy and influx of foreign money into the economy to make sure that everything will be fine. It is important for Ouattara to recognize that he is a kind of a divisive figure in Ivorian politics--for bad or good reasons, but it is a fact. It is important that there is an element of national reconciliation in all decisions made by Ouattara, including the economy. What I mean is that the allocation of resources--for example, in terms of public spending--should be distorted deliberately in favor of some regions, which have suffered the most from the post-electoral crisis, especially the west of the country, and also to try to target the people who have been victims from the violence--in the west, for example, from Gbagbo’s ethnic group. It would be important for Ouattara to show that he cares about the population and that he cares about the population of the west, including the population that has been quite favorable to Laurent Gbagbo for a long time.

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