Arrow Left Arrow Right Camera icon set icon set Ellipsis icon set Facebook Favorite Globe Hamburger List Mail Map Marker Map Microphone Minus PDF Play Print RSS Search Share Trash Twitter Video Camera Youtube
Côte d’Ivoire’s Great West: Key to Reconciliation
Côte d’Ivoire’s Great West: Key to Reconciliation
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Report 212 / Africa

Côte d’Ivoire’s Great West: Key to Reconciliation

Working to reduce tensions in western Côte d’Ivoire, a flashpoint for ethnic, political and economic rivalries, is imperative to ensure lasting stability and pave the way for national reconciliation.

  • Share
  • Save
  • Print
  • Download Full Report

Executive Summary

Western Côte d’Ivoire’s land, security and identity problems make this vast border territory the country’s most unstable area. Reconciliation has yet to begin there and communal tensions remain acute. Two administrative regions are especially problematic: Cavally and Guémon. Outside Abidjan, these are the two regions where the post-electoral crisis claimed the most victims and which saw the gravest violence. The Ivorian government’s preference for a security clampdown there, rather than measures to address political and economic problems has done little to address instability, which could provide the spark that reignites the crisis. Since December, the government has taken some steps nationally to lower political tension and promote national reconciliation: these should be immediately extended to these two regions, which remain strongholds of former President Laurent Gbagbo.

Since independence, the central government has ignored Cavally and Guémon when distributing the nation’s wealth. These two outlying regions produce a significant proportion of the cocoa that makes Côte d’Ivoire the world’s biggest producer, as well as large quantities of other plant-derived raw materials. Yet they missed the “Ivorian miracle” and have remained undeveloped. Their exceptionally fertile land is both a source of wealth and their main problem. Poorly regulated and subject to fierce competition, land ownership is a recurring cause of conflict. Land is a magnet for migrants, both from other parts of the country and from abroad, who often outnumber those “native” to the area and leave them with a strong sense of dispossession.

For a long time, conflicts have been resolved peacefully through local and customary dispute resolution systems. However, the economic crisis, demographic pressures and the spread of a xenophobic political discourse in the 1990s have exhausted these systems. Land conflicts, exploited by the three major political parties that disputed the succession to President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, have increasingly provoked violence between “native” landowners and migrants.

The government of then-President Henri Konan Bédié tried in 1998 to resolve the situation by introducing a land code that was never enforced. The war in September 2002 and its aftermath then considerably worsened the conflicts. During this period, the violence that affected the west was worse than anywhere else in Côte d’Ivoire, bar the capital Abidjan, with large-scale criminality claiming dozens, even hundreds, of victims.

This was partly due to Cavally’s and Guémon’s strategic location, not only because they produce cocoa but also because they are at the centre of the transport network that takes the raw material to the coast for export. Whoever controls these two regions also controls the country’s main source of foreign currency. Liberia’s proximity is another aggravating factor. Mercenaries from that country have exported the brutal behaviour that characterised the Mano River wars and make regular, deadly incursions into Ivorian territory, taking advantage of the weakness of Liberian and Ivorian armed forces.

During the 2011 post-electoral crisis, further massacres took place in Cavally and Guémon. The gravest, with a death toll of hundreds in just a few days, took place in the town of Duékoué. Then, in July 2012, more than one year after the end of the crisis, other violent crimes were committed at the Nahibly camp for the internally displaced, just outside Duékoué. In 2013, several incursions into Côte d’Ivoire by Liberian and Ivorian militia from Liberia claimed further victims and displaced thousands. These recent events proved just how volatile these two regions are, and showed they are likely to be the first to boil over if political tensions increase.

At the moment, serious crimes against members of ethnic groups considered to be supporters of former President Gbagbo remain unpunished, which lends credibility to allegations of a two-tiered justice system. The government in Abidjan must shed light on these crimes and take other significant measures to stabilise Cavally and Guémon.

Report 193 / Africa

Côte d’Ivoire: Defusing Tensions

President Alassane Ouattara’s coalition is walking a dangerous path toward polarisation by repeating mistakes made by previous governments that could ultimately lead Côte d’Ivoire back to crisis.

  • Share
  • Save
  • Print
  • Download Full Report

Executive Summary

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 spouse, 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 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.

Brussels/Dakar, 26 November 2012