C�te d’Ivoire: The Worst May Be Yet to Come

INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP

Dakar/Brussels, 24 March 2005: Cynically exacerbating social tensions for political gain, Côte d’Ivoire’s leaders risk losing control and sparking a disastrous regional conflict.
Côte d’Ivoire: The Worst May Be Yet to Come,* the latest report by International Crisis Group, examines the on-again-off-again civil war that has divided the country since 2002. With both UN and French peacekeeping mandates expiring in April, the international community must act decisively to prevent an explosion of violence.
“With each cycle of violence in Côte d’Ivoire, the killing gets worse”, says Suliman Baldo, Director of Crisis Group’s Africa Program. “The next cycle might not only bring wide-spread ethnic cleansing in this country but also a regional war. Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso could easily be drawn in, and Liberia’s fragile peace could also fall apart”.
Côte d’Ivoire has seen worsening cycles of violence since 1999, when General Robert Guei seized power. Several coup attempts and open fighting, partly sponsored by ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, led to continuous war in the western part of the country. Though peace talks in 2003 produced a government of national reconciliation, quarrels over criteria for presidential eligibility, land, formation of an independent electoral commission, disarmament, and security remain sources of severe unrest.
This highly polarised political situation means there is presently no prospect of independent and effectively supervised elections, and it may be necessarily to push back the timetable for the presidential and legislative elections, currently planned for October and December respectively, by several months. Taking charge of elections, as Prime Minister Seydou Diarra requested the UN to do, is more than an organisational task: those actors whose interest is not to have free and fair elections can be expected to actively block the process.
The UN Security Council should strengthen the efforts of the African Union (AU) mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, by publishing the report its commission of inquiry carried out. Targeted sanctions should be introduced against those who attempt to block the peace process. The AU, together with the UN, should organise the process to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate former soldiers; undertake voter registration; and establish a new calendar for the elections.
Since November 2004, when Ivorian forces killed French troops, and the French responded by destroying the Ivorian air force, the French peacekeeping presence has been controversial. Paris should negotiate with the UN over a possible gradual withdraw of its troops, but any departure of French peacekeepers should only happen once replacement troops under UN command are in place on the ground.
“The UN and AU have only two choices: apply strong pressures to compel the belligerent parties to do what they won’t do willingly, or disengage and let matters run their course”, says Mike McGovern, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “The most probable result in the second scenario would be a long, ugly war”.
Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 485 555 946
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) 1 202 785 1601
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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation covering over 50 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.
Côte d’Ivoire: The Worst May Be Yet to Come
This report is currently only available in French.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The next seven months are a time of great danger for Côte d’Ivoire. Under pressure of an increasingly suspect 15 October 2004 election deadline, its political class may lose control of the cyclical violence it has orchestrated during the on-again, off-again civil war that has divided the country since September 2002. With both UN and French (Licorne) peacekeeping mandates expiring on 4 April, the international community must act decisively to renegotiate key aspects of its involvement to prevent an explosion. The African Union (AU) and its mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, should work to organise in close cooperation with the UN the implementation of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) program, voter registration and a new schedule for three polls — presidential and legislative elections preceded by a referendum on a key constitutional article determining who is eligible for the presidency. It is imperative that a clear agend a be set now to allow the international community to achieve its redefined objectives in Côte d’Ivoire within the next eighteen months.
While this may push back the electoral timetable — presidential elections are currently set for October, legislative elections for December — by a few months, it is necessary because the present situation is so polarised that no Ivorian electoral commission can be expected to operate independently and effectively. Taking charge of elections, as Prime Minister Seydou Diarra requested the UN do after his 3 March meeting with President Mbeki, is more than an organisational task; it is a political imperative. Those actors whose interest is not to have free and fair elections can be expected to actively block the process. The Security Council should strengthen President Mbeki by publishing immediately the report of its commission of inquiry (finished since October 2004) and making clear it is prepared to apply targeted sanctions to all who attempt to block the process, as indicated in Resolution 1572 (15 November 2004).
The international community faces a clear dilemma: it can either apply strong pressure to compel the belligerent parties to do what they will not do willingly, or disengage and let matters run their course. Since it does not appear either side is strong enough to win militarily, the most probable result in the second scenario would be a long, ugly war of attrition, accompanied by large-scale massacres. The pressures building as a result of the actions of the armed militias, the drumbeat of hate media, and the political extremism that characterise the Ivorian scene are such that a middle course between coercion and inaction is not viable.
The protagonists of the Ivorian crisis are adept at pretending to cooperate in what diplomats under the peace process framework. However, this has nearly always meant one step forward, two steps back. The explosion of violence that follows a period of relative calm has become more serious each time. Not many more cycles will be needed before the dynamic morphs into qualitatively worse violence, probably including large-scale ethnic cleansing. That would be a tragedy for more than Côte d’Ivoire: Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso would likely be drawn into a regional conflict. The greatest damage could be done to Liberia’s fragile peace process, which is meant to culminate in presidential and legislative elections just four days before Côte d’Ivoire’s scheduled presidential vote.
The composition of the international peacekeeping forces should also change, reflecting the events of November 2004, during which the Ivorian armed forces killed French troops and the French responded by destroying the Ivorian air force and killing between twenty and 57 civilians.[1] These events undermined the impartial stance of the French contingent. Without judging whether the Ivorian attack was intentional or the French response justified, the Licorne peacekeepers have become too vulnerable and controversial to be able to perform their work with the effectiveness required in the an explosive an environment as that prevailing in Côte d’Ivoire.
In order to give a peacekeeping mission that is accepted by all parties a chance to succeed, the French government should begin negotiations with the UN about a gradual drawdown of its contingent, and a parallel substantial strengthening of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). The new UN troop deployment must include a robust rapid reaction unit, well-equipped, with helicopters in particular, as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan requested on 9 December 2004. South Africa should play a crucial role in strengthening UNOCI, adding to its political commitment in the name of the African Union (AU), a strong military engagement. In the absence of this suggested recomposition of peacekeeping troops, it is imperative that the French government maintain its military presence in support of UNOCI.
In November 2004, a lid was placed on the bubbling violence because the UN, the AU, ECOWAS, France and the U.S. spoke with one voice. There is a grave risk that unless the international community acts in unison again to provide an alternative to the political uncertainty, Côte d’Ivoire’s conflict is bound to get much worse in 2005.
RECOMMENDATIONS
To the African Union (AU):
1.  Organise, with the UN, and carry out over eighteen months:
(a) a referendum on changes to Article 35 of the constitution, determining the criteria for eligibility to run for the presidency;
(b) presidential elections;
(c) legislative elections; and
(d) a comprehensive DDR process, which includes the armed militias in the south.
2.  Request the UN Security Council strengthen President Mbeki’s mediation and request President Mbeki allow the application of targeted sanctions against those who constitute a threat to the peace and national reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire, as specified in Security Council Resolution 1572.
To the United Nations Security Council:
3.  Apply targeted sanctions, as specified in Resolution 1572.
4.  Pass a Resolution that:
(a) renews the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) with (i) more troops and a rapid reaction unit that can effectively replace departing Licorne troops; (ii) an expanded and strengthened mandate that focuses on organising and holding elections, and organising and undertaking DDR in collaboration with the AU; and (iii) a finite, eighteen-month timeframe;
(b) orders immediate publication of the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Allegations of Serious Violations of Human Rights and of International Humanitarian Law in Côte d’Ivoire; and
(c) instructs the Secretary General to (i) plan in cooperation with the French Ministry of Defence the gradual withdrawal of French Licorne troops and their simultaneous and imperative replacement by qualified UNOCI peacekeepers, including troops from South Africa and, possibly, troops from EU member states with rapid reaction units, engaged either on the basis of national decisions or as a result of common action in the context of the European Security and Defence Policy; (ii) transfer some equipment from UN Missions in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and Liberia (UNMIL) to UNOCI; and (iii) reinforce the Human Rights Division of UNOCI including by adding offices in Odienne, Korhogo, Bouna, and San Pedro.
To France:
5.  Remain engaged with and continue to contribute to the Ivorian peace process and the UN peacekeeping mission in the accomplishment of its new tasks.
6.  Do note begin withdrawing Licorne forces before they can be replaced by a credible, strengthened UN force with a rapid reaction unit.
To South Africa:
7.  Deepen its political commitment to the Ivorian peace process with a strong military contribution to UNOCI.
To the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI):
8.  Cease support for armed “patriotic” militias and use the Forces Armées Nationales de la Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI) to stop all breaches of the ceasefire between those militias and the Forces Nouvelles.
9.  Support a referendum organised by the UN and the AU on changes to Article 35 of the constitution.
10.  Abide by results of the referendum and participate in presidential and legislative elections organised by the UN and AU.
11.  Disarm all armed “patriotic” militias, including the GPP, the FLGO, and the MILOCI.
To the Forces Nouvelles:
12.  Return to the Government of National Reconciliation.
13.  Support a referendum organised by the UN and the AU on changes to Article 35 of the constitution and abide by results of the referendum.
14.  Guarantee freedom of movement and access to all AU and UN staff working on elections and DDR.
To all other political parties in Côte d’Ivoire:
15.  Support a referendum on changes to Article 35 of the constitution, organised by the UN and the AU, and campaign for a “yes” vote with a view to encouraging reunification of Ivorian society.
16.  Participate to the different votes organised by the AU and the UN.
Dakar/Brussels, 24 March 2005
[1] Around twenty civilian victims according to French sources, 57 according to Ivorian officials.

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