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Côte d'Ivoire: A Big Step Forward

AfricaFocus Bulletin
ô Nov 4, 2010 (101104)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

An orderly, peaceful, and fair presidential election on Sunday, with an agreed voters' roll and some 80 percent participation, is clearly a big step forward for Côte d'Ivoire, and well deserving of the accolades from former Ghanaian President John Kufuor and other international observers. Results announced by the electoral commission yesterday reported 38.3 percent for incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, 32.1 percent for Alassane Outtara, and 25.2 percent for Henri Bedié. But the real test of whether the country can return to stability and its leading economic role in the region will come in the run-off expected later this month.

According to freelance journalist Lauren Gelfand, a former AFP correspondent, the mood of the country, fed up with years of instability, as the election approached was well reflected by the popular dance song by DJ Francky DiCaprio, "On Est Fatigué ("We Are Tired"; But both Ivoirians and observers are still wary of the prospects that the run-off might lead to violence.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two background articles written before the election, an analysis by David Zounmenou of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa and an interview by's Cindy Shiner with Rinaldo Depagne of the International Crisis Group. It also includes excerpts from the executive summary of an preliminary statement from the Carter Center observation mission, which was headed by former President of Ghana John Kufuor and Dr. John Stremlau, Carter Center vice president for peace programs.

For another particularly useful background article, not included here because of copyright considerations, see:
Côte d'Ivoire Elections: Avoiding a 'Danse Macabre'
Laura Gelfand 3 Nov 2010

Additional sources of reports and analysis include:

Review of Abidjan press reports on election results

UN Operations in Côte d'Ivoire

European Observer Mission
Includes full preliminary report by Mission, in French only

Carter Center Observer Report

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Côte d'Ivoire, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note++++++++++++++++++++

Côte d'Ivoire: Finally a Light at the End of the Tunnel?

David Zounmenou

26 October 2010

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane/Pretoria)

[David Zounmenou is a senior researcher at the African Conflict Prevention Programme at the Institute for Security Studies.]

Already postponed six times in the past five years, the presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire now scheduled for October 31 2010 is understandably a source of much anticipation and anxiety. However, although numerous challenges remain to be addressed, there are credible signs that the election will effectively take place on the set day.

The election is seen as a defining moment in the political history of the country and as providing an opportunity for re-mapping its socio-political and economic future, including restoring its image as a beacon of peace and stability on the continent. It was the inability of major political actors to manage underlying cleavages in the Ivorian polity in the aftermath of the demise of the country's founding father, Felix Houphuet Boigny that plunged what was arguably one of Africa's most stable and prosperous countries into a protracted armed conflict.

Efforts to create a conducive environment for election have been long and complicated, with several disruptions that raised concerns about a possible return to violent armed conflict. While the government of President Lauren Gbagbo insisted on disarmament, demobilisation and demilitarisation and reintegration (DDDR) as the first step to any lasting peace, the former rebels emphasised the completion of the issuance of identification documents. Many mediation efforts were frustrated and even current ECOWAS-mandated mediator President Blaise Compaor‚ threatened throwing in the towel.

Fortunately, the resilience and patience of various stakeholders seem to be yielding some fruit and Côte d'Ivoire is on the path to real stability. Although disagreement over the voter registration process lasted longer than expected, various actors eventually understood that compromise was necessary if the peace process was to have any chance of success. Therefore, with the UN certification of the final voter list of 5,725,720 and the effective commencement of the distribution of identity documents, it could be argued that Côte d'Ivoire is now set to embrace the next step in its peace building process.

The stakes are high. On the one hand, it is about completing successfully the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement (APO) initiated by and agreed upon by the protagonists - a home-grown dynamic peace initiative which was seen as the ultimate attempt at bringing about peace in a divided Côte d'Ivoire. A key outcome here is the holding of the election as the ultimate test of the political will that inspired the Ouagadougou Agreement. This aims to close one of the most complex and violent chapters in post-independent Côte d'Ivoire.

Whenever the political will dwindled along the way, the activities of the Cadre Permanent de Concertation - a negotiating committee consisting of the main protagonists in the political crisis - was instrumental in reviving and keeping the dialogue among Ivoirian actors alive. Here again, the role of the UN in certifying the final results of the elections will be crucial but challenging, knowing that the institution had been for years been pushed at the periphery of the peace process by the ruling party.

On the other hand, and closely related to the previous argument is the restoration of legitimate leadership, the absence of which had been one of the trigger factors of the conflict. The failed transition from Houphouet Boigny's regime to that of former president Henri Konan Bedié, coupled with rigged elections under former military ruler Robert Guei, paved the way for Côte d'Ivoire's woes. It is worth noting that former rebels and militia leaders are mobilising supporters for a free, fair and peaceful vote. Whether that momentum will be sustained depends largely on a continued engagement with key actors by ECOWAS, the African Union (AU) and other partners throughout the process.

It now seems that issues revolving around the nationality of former Prime Minister Allassane Dramane Ouattara have faded away momentarily and the battle of ideas has replaced the hate speeches, political exclusion and malicious political manipulation. These all contributed to the North-South divide which tarnished Houphouet-Boigny's political heritage.

Interestingly, political leaders who had been brandishing the infamous concept of "Ivoirité" to win votes are now focusing all their energy on socio-economic projects. Through the concept of Ivoirité they had not only created resentment towards Ouattara, a candidate for the presidency, but had created divisions between northerners and southerners.

The already positive start of the electoral campaign is expected to culminate in meeting the election deadline of 31 October.

The three major candidates, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, Ouattara and Bedié are vying to win the hearts and minds of Ivoirians. Strategies are being crafted to secure votes. In particular, Gbagbo understands that in order to win, he must break the regional and ethnic cluster rethoric, which is no longer favourable to the ruling party, the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI). His attempt to position himself as a patriot, a nationalist and a pan-africanist, fighting for the liberation of Côte d'Ivoire, might be seen as an old-fashioned political ideology but could help in maintaining his urban youth support base with a radical stance on foreign intrusion, mainly from France. Though relations with Paris have improved recently, the ill-feeling of the youth towards the latter will take some time to die down.

Bedié relies on his experience as a former Head of State and the powerful electoral machinery of the former ruling party, the Parti Démocratique de la Côte d'Ivoire-Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (PDCI-RDA) to return to power. Ouattara of the Rassemblement des R‚publicains (RDR) seems to be counting on securing the votes of Ivorians from the North of the country, whose citizenship was questioned and at a time denied. Both Ouattara and Bedié also have commendable support in rural areas that represent at least half of the voting population. Moreover, they have forged an alliance and have drafted a common political programme with the hope to support each other in the likely event of a run-off. Of major concern is that they are running the risk of falling into a political trap by not presenting a single candidate right from the first round.

Assuming there is no hiccup on the road to the elections, tentatively, there are three possible scenarios. Firstly, an outright victory of the ruling party. Many think the ruling party has set the scene to win an outright victory stymieing any dream of a run-off for the opposition coalition.
However it is highly unlikely that any of the candidates gets an outright majority in the first round. Though the ruling party has the incumbency advantage, having been in power for virtually ten years, shifting loyalties might have caused Gbagbo's initial support, which he enjoyed when he first came to power, to wane. Moreover, such a claim cannot be conclusive, as Côte d'Ivoire has not held any major election for the past decade. Reliance on opinions polls should also be limited as these polls, conducted by foreign companies who are government-affiliated, are limited in scope and objectivity. It remains to be seen whether the panafricanist, anticolonialist rhetoric will bring good fortunes to President Gbagbo.

The most likely scenario is the distribution of votes along ethnic and regional lines among the three main candidates in such a way that the two best candidates will stand for the run-off. Inevitably, the opposition's alliance will be put to test. At various stages of political contestation in the country, alliances were built and broken between Gbagbo, Ouattara and Bedié. There is no guarantee that this time around the coalition will survive, given the likelihood of attractive political promises, except perhaps if the desire to defeat Gbagbo as an act of personal political revenge is stronger than the opposition leaders' political ego.

The third scenario is derived from the previous one. Though unlikely, it cannot be excluded. One of the members of the opposition coalition might join hands with the ruling party in the run-off to secure access to power and privileges. If it happens to be Ouattara this would be the end of Bedié's political career given his old age. On the long term it would create an opportunity for the FPI to "manage" Ouattara, within a coalition government.

It is a norm in Africa that the incumbent hardly loses an electoral contest held under his rule. Whoever wins the election will be subject to contestation and the question is will the others accept the results? If they do not, what is likely to be the implications? The UN representative Ambassador Choi Youn-jin has started putting in place measures to counter any violence that may ensue.

The electoral commission still has the daunting task of distributing 11 million ID cards in just a few days and to ensure that all logistics are in place, in order to have a successful election that will bring about a new legitimate leadership. Additionally, the institution is to recruit and train 66 000 voting agents ahead of the elections. One can only hope that, no matter who wins the elections, Côte d'Ivoire's leaders would remain conscious of their responsibility to heed the AU's call to make 2010 the Year of Peace on the continent. For elections alone are not enough to bring back national cohesion in Cote d'Ivoire. Key issues at the origin of the conflict will require s tremendous amount of political will. Among them, the real completion of the DDDR process is vital and necessitates the continued engagement of local as well as external stakeholders.

Côte d'Ivoire: Security Fears as Nation Heads to Polls

Cindy Shiner

29 October 2010

After being delayed six times, Cote d'Ivoire's landmark presidential elections will go ahead on Sunday. The nation has been in turmoil since a military coup in 1999, six years after the death of the country's first post-colonial president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

The unrest included a disputed election in 2000 and a brief civil war. The conflict ended in 2007 but deep political tension remains. In addition, the nation is awash in arms - disarmament has not been completed and there are concerns of further violence should Sunday's polls turn out badly. Rinaldo Depagne, senior West Africa analyst of the International Crisis Group, spoke with allAfrica this week about the potential risks and hopes associated with Sunday's election.

Q: Your latest report on Cote d'Ivoire, published in May, says that unless senior Ivorian politicians refrain from xenophobic language and more is done to ensure the security of the whole electoral process, they may be preparing the ground for violent chaos, either before, during or in the immediate aftermath of elections. Does that analysis still stand?

A: Overall, the situation is better and the campaign is running quite smoothly and we are happy about this. But they didn't really improve the security and the securitization of the vote. This is the problem in the [coming] days, especially in the west of Cote d'Ivoire where you still have former pro-government militias, armed. Our colleagues from Human Rights Watch published a report speaking about the very high level of criminality still going on in this region. It is not a good environment in which to organize an election. We fear trouble because of this lack of securitization.

Q: It seems like the trickiest part of this whole process might be the post-election period. It certainly has been difficult in neighboring Guinea - getting to the run-off vote. Do you expect a run-off in Cote d'Ivoire and do you think Ivorians, and political leaders, will accept the winner of the election?

A: There are two concerns. The first one is what if one of the three main candidates wins in the first [round], how will the two losers react? Even if there is a second [round] how will the loser of the first round react?

It's very difficult to say and we really don't know. But what we do know is that if there is trouble, the securitization won't be enough to cope. What we have here is a very, very unprepared and very sloppy securitization plan. A few months ago the securitization plan was based on the "mixed forces" - a force composed of 4,000 soldiers of the regular army and 4,000 soldiers of the former rebellion (Forces Nouvelles). This force today is not operational and so you don't have the core of the securitization plan.

To replace it you've got ... a unit from the Defense and Security Forces. These guys, they are 800, are not really a force that can securitize a poll or an election. It has been invented to cope with armed robbers in Abidjan. So they apparently don't have anything to do with politics or elections but they will be there and it will be a danger.

And then you've got the UN (Unoci - United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire), who hasn't got a mandate to intervene. Their mandate is to assist the Ivorian forces. But as the Ivorian forces are not well prepared we don't know how they will behave if there is serious trouble after the first [election] results.

Q: Do you think there was sufficient international pressure - either from the West or the West African region - to secure disarmament or was the focus overwhelmingly on making sure the elections finally occurred?

A: Yes - massive pressure. You've got all those people from the UN involved, you've got Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) diplomatically involved. Nobody today in the international community has an interest to see Cote d'Ivoire in shambles. It will affect the [entire] region. Foreign diplomats are not stupid so they know they need to put some pressure on Ivorians to stabilize the country. Cote d'Ivoire hasn't been abandoned. You've got many people still coming to Abidjan trying to make Ivorian politicians understand that their interest is to have peace in their country. Now it depends on the will of those senior politicians and will they be able to restrain their appetite for power and their passion for power? The key to the answer belongs to senior Ivorian politicians. And those three guys (candidates Henri Konan Bedié, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara) they have a very special story with Cote d'Ivoire and they've got a special story between them. They are quite old and so for them it is the last chance to reach power and to count in history - that's why you've got all this passion around this election. I think the answer belongs to them.

Q: The issue of national identity has been one of the main obstacles to holding elections. During the civil war the country was divided between the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south. Politicians, especially, have whipped up anti-northern sentiment, saying residents there were not genuine Ivorians because many are immigrants from neighboring countries. This came into play with the issuance of voter identification cards, with the fear being that non-Ivorians could tip the scales toward a certain candidate. Has the identity issue been sufficiently resolved?

A: This is an issue that is the main root of the conflict. It's not over; it's not finished. A new president will have to find a solution to solve the problem of identity. One of the solutions is to impose new rules for land ownership - who has the right to own the land of Cote d'Ivoire. It is a very important matter and I think it will be one of the first big issues that the new president will have on his desk.

Q: Have any of the politicians given any indication how they will handle this?

A: This question of identity has been used by politicians to reach power. They've got to understand that, again, it's not in their interest to play with this kind of question. The interest is to solve it if Cote d'Ivoire wants to be a new country or an important country in the region of West Africa.

In Crisis Group we are very concerned about the west of Cote d'Ivoire ... [and] measures to stop the violence in this region and bring back law and order. In Guiglo or [other cities] you don't even have a police station and you don't have courts. So how can you stabilize a region like this? Moyen Cavally region is the size of [the U.S. state of] Connecticut and there is no tribunal for all of this region, so when somebody is committing a crime he won't be judged because there is no place to judge him. So one of the big measures you've got to impose is to bring back law and order - courts and a sufficient amount of policemen.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

A: Cote d'Ivoire is a very special country to West Africa. It is the economic engine of West Africa--with Nigeria, but for French-speaking Africa it is the economic engine. This country has so many possibilities. This is a very strange country because it is always swinging between hell and paradise, and what we can hope is that the swing this time will be on the side of paradise, and not the side of hell. Perhaps "hell" is a little bit too strong, but it's always between peace and conflict. You can't call this war. You can call the Liberian situation as it was in the 1990s a war, but in Cote d'Ivoire you had perhaps four days of fierce battles and the rest was a kind of a very strange slow-motion conflict.

We hope that this time Ivorian politicians will have in their hearts and in their minds enough love for their country to avoid the use of extremist militias or this xenophobic language as a weapon to get in power.

Q: Do you think Houphouet-Boigny ever imagined that this would happen to Cote d'Ivoire?

A: No. I remember I was in Cote d'Ivoire at the beginning of the war in October, November 2002 and the people you met at this time they were absolutely surprised about what happened to them. For them it was impossible that their successful and big country was at war. And I think Felix Houphouet-Boigny, if you told him in 1991, "There will be war in your country," I think he maybe would tell you, "Are you crazy?"

Cote d'Ivoire Presidential Election Marks Historic Milestone in Peace Process

Preliminary Statement

Nov. 2, 2010

[Excerpts from Executive Summary only. For full press release and preliminary report, visit]

Executive Summary

Abidjan - The Oct. 31 presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire was conducted in a calm environment with a high-level of voter participation. These elections marked a crucial step in Cote d'Ivoire's peace process and gave voters the opportunity to elect their next president in the country's first truly open contest. The Ivoirian people have exercised their right to vote; they also have the right to have their vote accurately recorded and ultimately respected by all candidates.

The election process was initially marked by a number of planning and operational challenges for the Independent Election Commission (IEC), most notably as they related to the timely distribution of voter cards, the delivery of essential election materials throughout the country, poll worker training, and the effective distribution of voter information regarding election day procedures.

The international community has strongly supported the Ivoirian electoral process with a range of deep investments in the provision of security, as well as diplomatic, financial, logistical, and technical assistance. Presidential candidates and their supporters, the IEC, and Ivoirian civil society organizations cooperated at many levels in the face of a long-standing political crisis in the effort to ensure a credible, transparent, and peaceful election process.


The Carter Center has been present in Cote d'Ivoire since December 2007 and launched a formal election observation mission following the an invitation from Prime Minister Guillaume Soro in October 2008. The Carter Center international election observation mission was led by former President of Ghana John Kufuor and Dr. John Stremlau, Carter Center vice president for peace programs. Ten long-term observers were deployed throughout the country in early-October to assess election preparations. For election day, a total delegation of 50 observers from 23 countries to observe voting and counting. Carter Center observers continue to assess the conclusion of vote tabulation and will remain in Cote d'Ivoire to observe the post-election environment. The mission is assessing Cote d'Ivoire's electoral process against the Constitution and the electoral law, commitments made in the Ouagadougou Peace Accords, other agreements, and regional and international commitments.[1] The Center's observation mission is conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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