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
The Challenges Ahead for Côte d’Ivoire
The Challenges Ahead for Côte d’Ivoire
Report 176 / Africa 4 minutes

A Critical Period for Ensuring Stability in Côte d’Ivoire

Forced to fight five months for the power his November election should have given him peacefully, Côte d’Ivoire’s new president  now faces multiple urgent challenges to keep the country from fragmenting.

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Executive Summary

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 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.

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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.

Dakar/Brussels, 1 August 2011

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