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Cote d'Ivoire: Updates and Analysis, 2
Africa Policy E-Journal
January 9, 2003 (030109)
Cote d'Ivoire: Updates and Analysis, 2
(reposted from sources cited below)
This posting contains two short documents and additional links for
current information and analysis on the current crisis in the Cote
d'Ivoire. Another posting today contains excerpts from a December
background report from the Global Internally Displaced Peoples
Project in Geneva on the same topic.
Note: The Africa Policy E-Journal, with a principal focus on
continent-wide policy issues, does not provide regular coverage of
specific countries. Occasional updates such as these, focusing on
country-specific issues of wider regional significance, also
include links to other sources which readers can consult for more
France Presses Ivory Coast President for Concessions
January 4, 2003
By Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Nairobi
[excerpts reposted by permission. For full text and additional news
The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, flew to Cote
d'Ivoire Friday and immediately began knocking heads together, to
try to end the four-month civil war which has split the country in
two. He received a commitment from President Laurent Gbagbo, who
pledged to observe a "total ceasefire" and to expel all foreign
Villepin announced that faltering West African brokered peace talks
in Togo, which have made little progress since October, would shift
to a new venue in Paris. He said he expected all parties to meet in
the French capital in mid-January. "We need to have very strong
and fast results and I do believe that everyone wants to have a
political solution," Villepin told journalists shortly after he
arrived in the main city, Abidjan.
In a bid to restore peace to the former French colony, Paris sent
Villepin to Cote d'Ivoire to turn up the pressure on the Ivorian
leader, whose loyalist army has been fighting the rebels who
launched a failed coup d'etat on September 19.
Gbagbo was instructed by Paris to get rid of foreign mercenaries
reported to be fighting on the side of his troops and ground all
helicopter gunships, one of the rebels' main demands. The French
military is currently monitoring a ceasefire between the
government and the main rebel northern Patriotic Movement of Cote
Condemnation of government loyalist attack on civilian village
But Paris announced this week that the government had violated the
truce, with a loyalist helicopter gunship raid behind northern
rebel lines on Tuesday, on the fishing village of Menakro. The
French military said a dozen civilians were killed. France
strongly condemned the attack and called the incident unacceptable.
Menakro is deep inside a ceasefire line being manned and monitored
by French troops.
Washington shared French outrage, describing the government's
aerial bombing as "senseless and ill conceived". But the Americans
said the incident should not be a pretext to end peace efforts.
"Individual actions such as the recent helicopter attack (on
Menakro) should not be used as an excuse to abandon a ceasefire
that has been relatively effective for more than two months," said
Julie Reside, a State Department spokeswoman. She added: "We share
with them (the French) a strong commitment to a peaceful political
solution to the conflict (in Cote d'Ivoire)".
Gbagbo's government said the raid was in retaliation for a rebel
attack on government positions.
Villepin appears to have won immediate concessions on both his
demands. Gbagbo agreed to stricter controls on his troops and to
throw out the mercenaries - this weekend. "The last of them will
leave Ivorian territory tomorrow. There will be no more
mercenaries on our side," Gbagbo told journalists. "We're going to
abstain from all acts of war on all fronts, north, centre, west."
The Ivorian leader added: "We're even going to demobilise our
helicopters and stop our men in the positions they are in, because
in the end we need peace."
The rebels are accused also of using the services of foreign
At a joint news conference on Friday, both Gbagbo and Villepin said
they hoped the French peace initiative would jumpstart stalled
efforts to restore peace to Cote d'Ivoire. France has been itching
to relocate stop-start peace negotiations to Paris as the war
intensified, with the emergence of two new rebel groups to
complicate an already confused conflict in Cote d'Ivoire.
So, government and rebel delegations - and most likely
representatives from the newer rebel groups, the Ivorian Popular
Movement for the Far West (MPIGO) and the Movement for Peace and
Justice (MJP) - are scheduled to meet in Paris, along with West
African leaders. ...
Villepin was scheduled to head to the rebel-held north on Saturday
for discussions with the MPCI.
Anti-French sentiment running high
Gbagbo had to step in to protect the French minister, who was
confronted by a hostile crowd of angry men and women. They
prevented him from leaving the president's home in the main city
Abidjan. Villepin's convoy was blocked outside Gbagbo's residence
in Cocody for half an hour, after a rumour spread that the French
minister was in Cote d'Ivoire to encourage Gbagbo to step down.
This is one of the conditions set down by rebels, which have
dragged out the talks in Togo.
Ivorian soldiers swiftly formed a security cordon, keeping the
screaming hordes from surging forward. But it took Gbagbo's
personal intervention to calm the mob. He struggled to be heard
above the din of whistle-blowing and shouting, but eventually
managed to convince them that he was not stepping down. Yelling
"Dominique has come today to help us quickly find a way out of this
awful war before the end of January - Do you agree?" The crowds
finally responded "yes, yes". Gbagbo then accompanied the French
foreign minister on the two-minute walk to his next appointment
next-door at the French ambassador's residence. ...
Feelings against the former colonial power are running high, with
both sides accusing the French of taking sides.
Gbagbo's supporters say the French should be doing more to help the
government rout the rebels and allege that Paris is supporting the
insurgents, who have vowed to depose the Ivorian leader. On the
rebel side, France stands of accused of blocking their advance
southwards towards the coastal metropolis, Abidjan, which has
remained under government control since the rebellion began.
Ambiguous French role?
The original rebels signed a ceasefire deal agreed by the
government on 17 October. French troops, already in Cote d'Ivoire
to safeguard theirs and other foreign nationals, took on the task
of monitoring the truce. But the French ceasefire supervision role
became more difficult after the additional rebel groups appeared
and opened up a western front, near the Liberian border. The new
rebels are not a party to the truce agreement.
The French had vowed not to get militarily involved in the Cote
d'Ivoire conflict, but changed that stance last month, with a push
to stop the fighting. The French military mandate was amended from
ceasefire monitoring to enforcement of the truce and Paris saw
itself increasingly sucked into the civil war.
French diplomatic efforts were increased simultaneously, leading to
the latest visit by Villepin to West Africa.
Faltering regional peace efforts
Regional leaders have tried and failed to get the rival Ivorian
sides to end the fighting, despite the best efforts of the Economic
Community of West African States (Ecowas). Fearing that the Cote
d'Ivoire conflict will spread to the rest of the region, heads of
state have held a number of summits to try to find a negotiated
settlement, without success.
Ecowas pledged to sent regional peacekeepers to Cote d'Ivoire to
take over from the French troops and ceasefire a peace deal. They
were meant to arrive by the end of October, then November, then by
the end of the year. But the main West African force is still not
in place, although an advance guard has reached Cote d'Ivoire.
Senegal will take command of the regional peacekeeping army.
Can Cote d'Ivoire step back from the brink?
Meanwhile, Cote d'Ivoire remains divided, literally in two, and
also split on ethnic and regional lines. The government holds the
south, including Abidjan, while the MPCI controls the north, with
the west in a state of volatile confusion. Unlike the original
well-disciplined rebels who are reported to have committed summary
executions sparingly, the western rebels are said to be poorly
disciplined, looting, harassing, killing and raping civilians
This savage and unruly behaviour is reminiscent of the brutal civil
wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where drugged child soldiers were
given orders to kill.
Cote d'Ivoire - an eldorado and home to millions of immigrants -
was long regarded as an island of calm and stability in a turbulent
region. It has now conclusively lost that cherished reputation.
Instead, Ivorians can hardly recognise the image of their own
country, as they watch Cote d'Ivoire hurtle down the same ruinous
route towards civil war, a fate they would never have believed
possible, even a year ago.
[excerpts only; for full text as well as additional documents,
see the website cited above]
Brussels, 3 October 2002
Cote d'Ivoire, A Crisis Foreseen
The Cote d'Ivoire is now undergoing an attempted coup d'etat that
has cost numerous deaths. The situation is worsening and becoming
more complex each day. Some observers are warning of another
For more than two years, the non-governmental organization (NGO),
Prevention Genocides, based in Brussels, Belgium, has attempted
to call attention both to Ivorians and to Western policy makers,
of the dangers of ethnic, xenophobic identity politics that has
developed for a dozen years during the Ivorian economic crisis. A
film was produced entitled, "Ivory Coast, An Explosive Identity
Steps of the original analysis
Our involvement began in October 2000. A team of sociologists of
our NGO was sent to the Cote d'Ivoire. Field research was carried
out including hundreds of in depth interviews at many levels of
the society and in many geographical regions. An analysis of
recorded narratives, testimony, and images by Spring 2001
resulted in a clear diagnosis: Ivorian society is undermined by
- A crisis of the political elites: a battle among four leaders
(Bedie, Guei, Ouattara and Gbagbo) has rocked the political life
of the country for ten years and has often led to petty tactical
calculation to gain or preserve power at the expense of the
long-term goals of development. Corruption has also undermined
the foundations of the rule of law.
- A crisis of finances of the Ivorian state due primarily to the
fall of the price of cacao, and the suspension of certain
international assistance in light of evidence of massive theft of
subsidies from the European Fund for Development in the health
- A deep identity crisis.
For almost ten years the concept of "ivoirite" ("ivorianess") was
fabricated by politicians in search of legitimacy. An ideology
and propaganda directed by those in power created, little by
little, in the social imagination two identity groups: the "100
percent Ivorians" from the "roots"; and the "dubious Ivorians,"
of whom the leader is Alassane Ouattara, leader of the
opposition RDR (former prime minister of Houphoet Boigny.) He was
excluded from elections for his "dubious Ivorianess." Besides
him, his whole community is targeted. Beyond his own community,
there is a linkage of "dubious Ivoirians" with foreigners. An
equation is readily made: Ouattara = RDR militants = people of
the north = Muslims = Dioulas = foreigners. In these
representations, the cleavage "us versus them" is deeply
There is nothing "natural" about such images. They are socially
constructed. In Cote d'Ivoire, there is the desire to portray one
part of the inhabitants as not belonging to the political
community. ... It is an ideology founded on purity of identity
determined by origin.
It is a paradox that such an illusion of identity founded on
blood, on a myth of a common past, appears in particularly mixed
societies, thereby including some and excluding others. It is
said of a naturalized Ivorian whose family has lived in the
country for many generations,"It is not because of his papers
that he is Ivorian." Thus the culture is "naturalized." ...
certain people call themselves "100 percent Ivorian" of
multisecular origin. It is this way that collective life is
deeply racialized and ethnicized. It leads to practices of
apartheid, of forced emigration, and finally of ethnic cleansing.
A second aspect of this ideology and propaganda is the
self-perceived victimization of the "true Ivorians." They are
would-be victims of the RDR, the Dioulas, the foreigners, the
foreign press, etc. Stereotypes are durably fixed in people's
minds and feed their hatreds. These social markings are powerful.
The propaganda feeds fear and hatred of the "other", perceived as
impure and menacing. Humiliations, extortions, and
discriminations are daily. They constitute social landmines, and
the smallest thing can make them explode.
The virus of origins and the powderkeg
The Cote d'Ivoire appears to us to be a veritable powderkeg. Most
of the elements that preceded the conflagrations like the ethnic
cleansings in Bosnia and Kosovo or the Rwandan genocide are
present. ... Among the most important of these is the policy of
manipulating identity and ethnicity. ...
A powderkeg and the pyromaniacs
Today, in the light of the sparks from the fire, we see that the
risks that we pointed out yesterday, are unfortunately becoming
realities. Listening to the speeches of political leaders and
reading the press, one is led to conclude that the fragile
reconciliation process is dead. More than ever, fear and hatred
of the other are manufactured. Old stereotypes are again
dominant. Everything is to be done again. If only the worst could
What is to be done?
As administrators and directors of the NGO, "Prevention
* We earnestly and strongly call upon all Ivorians (political,
press, and leaders of civil society) to voluntarily abstain from
any act that could accentuate the ethnicization of the conflict.
This often results from speech that is indirect but damaging.
- When Alassane Ouattara reported that "the police who came to
assassinate me spoke the Bete language," his words could be
perceived as suspicion cast upon the whole ethnic group of his
rival, the president Gbagbo.
- When the President called on television for the "cleansing of
the neighborhoods" and the press of his party cited explicitly
Burkina Faso as an invader of the Cote d'Ivoire, such statements
could appear as encouragement of ethnic cleansing of Burkinabes
living in the country. They are about three million out of
sixteen million inhabitants - Passing from these words to deeds,
the police have burned many Abidjan shantytowns where the
majority of foreigners live.
All references to individual acts can in this context lead to the
collective: it is the whole group that is immediately designated
for popular revenge, if not for massacres.
The most xenophobic Ivorian press fans the flames, accusing
pell-mell the Western media, neighboring African countries,
opposition parties, and foreigners on Ivorian soil of wanting to
destroy the country. They are thus putting in place all the
conditions necessary for a large-scale conflagration.
* We ask the international community to quickly conceive an
integrated plan for the support of the Cote d'Ivoire in order to
create conditions for long-term reconciliation. We reiterate our
call for criteria of good government and formal democracy to be
well-suited to socio-cultural conditions in the Ivorian context.
Without this intervention, the worst-case scenario is to be
If the calls for xenophobic and ethnic hatred do not stop and if,
on the contrary, politicians continue to exploit ethnicity, the
following may occur:
- Massive emigration of a major part of the three million
Burkinabes living in Cote d'Ivoire to their country of origin.
For Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries on earth, this
would be a catastrophe; they would be unassimilable because of
incapacity to receive, much less to feed, such an influx of
refugees. An essential resource of its fragile economy would
disappear - financial transfers from its citizens working in
- The economy of the Cote d'Ivoire would probably be heavily
affected by the brutal disappearance of such a large number of
laborers essential to the survival and vitality of its economy.
Consequences for Ivorian society would be frightening: virulent
ethnic hate speech, growing rancor, search for economic
scapegoats, and social catastrophe that could lead straight to
Contrary to what is sometimes prophesied, this will not be a
"simple" war of secession between North and South. Many religious
and ethnic groups of the Cote d'Ivoire are present in each city,
village, neighborhood, and courtyard of the country, as
intricately inter-related as are the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda.
A civil war in Cote d'Ivoire would soon turn into thousands of
local pogroms, and if there were secession, it would come at a
price of mass forced displacements of the population as occurred
in India and Pakistan.
The dissolution of the state and the rule of force that would
follow could only lead the Cote d'Ivoire into a situation like
Sierra Leone or Liberia, with all the predictable effects on the
stability of the sub-region, of which the Cote d'Ivoire is the
economic heart (40 percent of the GDP of the West African
[names of signatories available on website cited above]
October 1 background article by Philippe Leymarie (in French),
with extensive set of links to other sources.
English-language edition has article by Tiemoko Coulibaly, "Cote
d'Ivoire: north vs. south." Available to site subscribers only.
Friends of Cote d'Ivoire - includes humanitarian and advocacy
actions by group as well as links to current news.
IRIN web special, with five-part background article from
November as well as current news.
Date distributed (ymd): 030109
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+ +political/rights+
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