Since November 2010 the Ivory Coast has been embroiled in a conflict following disputes over the election. This has in effect been an extension of the issues over the Civil War (2002-2007) and the "peace" that resulted out of it.
Embattled President Gbagbo has been fighting an force led by his election opponent Alassane Ouattara, who international observers and others recognized as the winner of the last election. Currently forces loyal to Ouattara are besieging Abidjan, a major port city in Ivory Coast (and the largest in West Africa) where Gbagbo retains considerable support.
It hasn't got as much attention due to the revolutionary wave that has gone through North Africa and the Middle-East, but it seems to be gearing to a showdown as forces loyal to Ouattara begin the final stages of a confrontation with forces loyal to Gbagbo. The outcome will no doubt dictate what "UN mediated" agreement will come out of it.
Over view of Ivory Coast's recent history
It is important to understand the history to understand the current context. From Ivory Coast's independence in 1960 up to his death in 1993, Félix Houphouët-Boigny ruled the nation, as a single-party authoritarian state.
While there were presidential elections and assembly elections, these were always won by Houphouët-Boigny and his party, the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire — African Democratic Rally. In 1990 opposition parties were allowed to field candidates for the presidential election, though Houphouët-Boigny won again. Likewise his party dominated the legislative elections but didn't get all the seats. During this time the Ivory Coast had gained a reputation of being a strong economy in the otherwise weak West Africa. Ivory Coast had an economy based mostly on trade and cocoa.
We have two players on the stage right now whose histories come back to this point. Gbagbo was in exile and formed the Popular Front in the 1980s which contested elections in 1990. Ouattara was a functionary within the regime and served as PM between 1990-1993.
Houphouët-Boigny died in 1993 and his successor was another element of the regime, Henri Konan Bédié. Bédié won the 1995 elections- opposed by only one candidate from the "Ivorian Workers' Party". In parliament the ruling party dominated again but two parties gained seats- the Rally of Republicans (Ouattara's party, a split from the old ruling party) and the Ivorian Popular Front- these two are currently the dominant powers in the Ivory Coast.
These elections were still contested due to what the opposition felt was rigging by the regime. Bédié began to cause some issues with the power balance within the military and the different groups in Ivory Coast (it could be said there's a bit of a north-south divide in the country- Bédié gave preferential treatment to "Ivorian" groups around Abidijan as opposed to those in the north which are descended from immigrants from Burkino Faso (the discrimination was extended to other immigrants in the Ivory Coast), which led to a military coup in 1999, forcing Bédié into exile and creating a military council to oversee a transition to a "democracy" and oversaw a "free" election to that end.
So comes 2000 and the first "free" elections. A referendum passed before the elections had stipulated that in order to run for the presidency, both parents had to be born in the Ivory Coast. It also gave immunity to the officers involved in the Military coup.
Gbagbo wins the presidential elections against four other candidates, including the head of the military's transitional government, Robert Guéï, with 59.4% of the vote. In the parliament his party, the Popular Front, gains a substantial amount of seats- 96- with the old ruling party, the Democratic Party, lost nearly half its seat as did the Rally of Republicans. Gbagbo's victory was followed up with mass rallies which had the government decide in favor of him rather than Guéï.
Alassane Ouattara, of the Rally of Republicans, was not able to run due to a being barred from the election as a result of the courts seeing him as not being a citizen due to the background of his parents (his father being from Burkino Faso).
Needless to say the circumstances of the election and its result did not go over too well due to the divisions between factions. When Gbagbo was in Italy in a state visit on September of 2002, an uprising was triggered by some elements of the military. Their power base was concentrated in the north and accordingly they had pretty much taken this area. During the uprising Robert Guéï, the president during the military transitional period, was killed. His wife, family, the former interior minister, and other suits were also killed.
The pro-regime forces set up a power base from the capital in Abidjan and the south, while the rebels set up a base in the north centered around Bouake. Gbagbo accused Burkino Faso of causing the disorder and charged that the migrant workers and foreigners were hiding the rebels- and to that end began to enter into their communities.
France was quick to respond to the situation, seeing a potential, and deployed a "peacekeeping" contingent under the auspices of the UN in the zone between the two power blocks.
By this point we had these players on the scene, according to wikipedia:
-Official government forces, the National Army (FANCI), also called loyalists, formed and equipped essentially since 2003
-The Young Patriots: nationalist groups aligned with President Laurent Gbagbo
-Mercenaries recruited by president Gbagbo: -Belarusians (allegedly) -Former combatants of Liberia, including child soldiers, forming the so-called "Lima militia"
-New Forces (Forces Nouvelles, FN), ex-northern rebels, who held up to 60% of the country
-French military forces: Troops sent within the framework of Operation Unicorn and under UN mandate (UNOCI), 3000 men in February 2003 and 4600 in November 2004;
-Soldiers of the CEDEAO (West African Economic bloc), White helmets, also under the UN.
Warlords from Sierra Leone and Liberia also got involved, attempting to grab some territories on the western end on the border with Liberia.
Gbagbo tried to form a "national unity" government that year, leading to the formation of one in 2003. It wasn't successful, as violence continued, and by 2004 it broke apart completely over negotiations regarding the disarmament of militias. Gbagbo ordered air strikes on the rebel stronghold in the north Bouake, resulting among the deaths nine French soldiers and an American aid worker, prompting France to strike in the capitol in Yamoussoukro. French air forces struck at the city's airport destroying some air power and subsequently occupying the airport. Ivorian forces proceeded to have a low-level firefight with French forces occupying the airport. State media then proceeded to have Young Patriots attack properties of French Nationals in retaliation for the air strikes.
French forces proceeded to evacuate its nationals, and opened fired on rioters killing a considerable amount. Naturally the two pointed fingers, with France accusing Gbagbo of intentionally killing French in his air strikes (Gbagbo later said that he doubted these deaths even occurred) with the Ivorian government accusing France of imperialist ambitions in its former colony.
Naturally due to the civil war, the presidential election of 2005 never occurred.
Fighting continued into 2007. It seemed to decrease, particularly helped by the Ivory Coast's football team making it into the 2006 World Cup. In 2007 government forces met with the rebels in Burkino Faso and signed a peace agreement. A leader of the rebels, Guillaume Soro, was appointed Prime Minister under Gbagbo in a power sharing agreement. Ceremonial disarmaments occurred of the various militias involved in the conflict.
UN forces were still present in the country leading to some notable conflicts between the government and within the international community charging it with furthering France's ambitions in the country.
As a part of the agreement, presidential elections were supposed to occur in at some point in 2007 or 2008 at the latest, but it kept getting pushed back due to conflicts between political factions over how the elections were being handled, disarmament of militias, and identity cards to prevent fraud. This led to election delays six times until the November 2010 elections took place.
We had Gbagbo and Ouattara (having been cleared to run for elections now) throw their hats in for the election, for the Popular Front and Rally of Republicans respectively. Bédié, who had returned from exile in 2005, represented the Democratic Party. Bédié and Ouattara both tried to appeal to the rebel forces to support them. The Rally of Republicans and the Democratic Party entered into agreements regarding parliamentary elections (refering to themselves as the Rally of Houphouëtistes, invoking the legacy of the old leader) and to support the other if they made it into the second round of voting.
The first round of voting occurred the 31st of October. The militias were still out in force and accusations of fraud and intimidation were widespread. The government placed the results at Gbagbo with 38.04%, Ouattara with 32.07%, and Bédié with 25.24% as the top three candidates. The government proceeded to open up a second round of voting.
The second round took place on November 28th and according to observers, Ouattara won 54.1% against Gbagbo's 45.9%. The government on the other hand had invalidated some votes from northern provinces citing irregularities, having Gbagbo winning 51.45% to Ouattara's 48.55.
Considering the situation was tense as it was, with the factions probably not accepting defeat and accusing the other of fraud, this was just waiting to explode. Gbagbo was declared the winner by the government, prompting international observers to decry the whole thing. It seems only Lebanon and Zimbabwe sent functionaries to Gbagbo's swearing in- no other nation or body (including the African Union and United Nations did not recognize him as president but rather see Ouattara as the legitimate winner. PM Guillaume Soro resigned and said that he says Ouattara is the legitimate president, who in turn appointed Soro as his PM.
TBH at the moment it just seems like political-linked factional infighting with neither side accepting anything short of total control in the government. Battlelines seem to be a repeat of the Civil War, with Gbagbo and his supporters holding down their stronghold of Abidjian and the south with opposition controlling the north. Recently it appears the opposition forces advanced in the southwest and cut off the link with Liberia, seizing the second largest seaport of San Pedro. They've also seized control of the capital in Yamoussoukro recently, tilting the odds in their favor and opening the way to Abidjan.
As we speak the opposition forces are now encircling Abidjan and preparing to attack. Gbagbo and his supporters are making their stand and the outcome here will probably dictate what kind of "peace" agreement will arise between the factions, no doubt overseen by foreign powers under the auspices of a UN mandated agreement.
For the most part this has been occurring but by the time it went into full swing, the media was already fixed on the events in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya. As such there was not much attention on it.
7th December 2003
Incredible how much stuff can be going on at the same time.
Apparently Gbago is hiding in a bunker that is under siege by Ouatarra's forces, so this might be over soon.
And it seems the French have been the first to commit to UN action against Gbago by caputring the airport in Abidjan. As some UN troops have been killed by Gbago troops the UN responded with air strikes.
High as a kite
29th May 2008
MrFancypants;5487198Incredible how much stuff can be going on at the same time.
There has been NOTHING in the media over here. Obviously I don't watch every news station or read every paper but my God, how haven't they mentioned this?
It will hopefully be over soon, it just seems to be another 'dictator' clinging to whatever power he has left.
Well, about the time the shit hit the fan Egypt blew out and the media went elsewhere.
I don't think this is as simple as a "dictator" cling to power. Honestly I think if the tables were switched we'd be seeing the same thing. It's just power struggle considering the divisions present in Ivory Coast.
I'm too cool to Post
17th July 2003
Well done French military on the rescue of the Japanese diplomat.
SCHOFIELD DID 4/30
10th August 2004
Commissar MercZ;5488241I don't think this is as simple as a "dictator" cling to power. Honestly I think if the tables were switched we'd be seeing the same thing. It's just power struggle considering the divisions present in Ivory Coast.
Agreed, ones a Christian, ones a Muslim, ones a democratic socialist, ones a democratic liberal and so and so on and so on.
It appeared at first Gbagbo was willing to negotiate but he's shut himself up in his compound's bunker and Ouattara's forces have surrounded the place. I think he knows his time his up- it appears now he is trying to drag things out and frustrate them to try and secure himself an exit of some sort when this thing blows over. In all events this probably means some sort of exile ( internal or external) or removal from politics with the demand that Ouattara or anyone else doesn't bother him or let people take revenge action on him.
13th December 2009
As I read in my newspapers, UN has found hundreds of corpses of what appears to be an ethnic cleansing. It is being said that troops of Ouattara have done such crimes, on which Ouattara himself says that he'll punish the criminals. Furthermore, he asks his soldiers to behave as a examples.
The victims of these massacres were either burned alive or threwn into holes (massgraves ?) by Liberian mercenaries.
Embee;5488986As I read in my newspapers, UN has found hundreds of corpses of what appears to be an ethnic cleansing. It is being said that troops of Ouattara have done such crimes, on which Ouattara himself says that he'll punish the criminals. Furthermore, he asks his soldiers to behave as a examples.
The victims of these massacres were either burned alive or threwn into holes (massgraves ?) by Liberian mercenaries.
The point of the strife derives from political feuding. Like we've seen in Libya with mob violence against those from sub-saharan Africa, though there are people getting caught up in personal and ethnic feuds which are still sore in the country. Considering that the state is virtually broken until this is resolved, there's really not much they can do to prevent this kind of violence from breaking out.
Gbagbo didn't surrender and this led to Ouattara's forces leading an assault on his compound and capturing him from his compound.
He is now asking his supporters to stand down and recognize the new president. It's not clear though whether the ethnic strife that got unleashed in the past four months will abate when Ouattara assumes control.
France naturally assures this was purely the work of Ouattara- not of French peacekeepers operating under UN auspices.