The UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire
In 2004, Security Council Resolution 1528 authorized the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to support implementation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement. This agreement was signed by the Ivorian government forces, who controlled the south of the country, and the New Forces (former rebels), who controlled the north. In July 2012, the Security Council extended the mandate in Côte d’Ivoire through the 31st of July, 2013. The General Assembly appropriated $575 million for the maintenance of UNOCI from1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.
The Mission's mandate includes:
• Monitoring the ceasefire and movement of armed groups
• Facilitating free and transparent elections
• Disarming, demobilizing, reintegrating, repatriating, and resettling former combatants
• Protecting government ministers and UN personnel; and
• Facilitating access to humanitarian assistance.
Due to conflict surrounding the election process in late 2010 and early 2011, the Security Council raised troop presence incrementally, even diverting troops from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). In addition, on March 20, 2011, the UN adopted Resolution 1975, which urged an immediate cease-fire, called for presidential power to be ceded to elected leader Alassane Ouattara, authorized UN workers to use all necessary means to protect civilians, and placed further sanctions on former president Laurent Gbabgo, his wife and key political leaders. With the conclusion of election, the troop presence in Côte d’Ivoire was returned to its original levels.
Several attacks carried out between August and October 2012 underscored on-going security problems in the country. These attacks, which were allegedly plotted and financed by people associated with former President Gbagbo’s government, occurred along the borders with Ghana and Liberia, as well as in and around Abidjan, primarily targeting national security forces. Coupled with incidents of abuse against Gbagbo supporters and outbreaks of inter-communal violence in the north and west of the country, these events strained national reconciliation efforts, contributing to Côte d’Ivoire’s precarious security situation.
Given the continued incidence of violence, the UN Secretary General asked the Security Council to postpone the reduction of UNOCI’s military contingent until an assessment in early 2013. UNOCI continues offering training, assistance and capacity-building support to the government, as it works to implement a national strategy for security sector reform.
Côte d’Ivoire, a former French colony, had one of the most developed economies in West Africa until late 1999, when a coup and subsequent failed elections plunged the nation into civil war. The beginning of 2003 saw the first attempt at reunification, when the country’s opposing political factions signed the French-brokered Linas-Marcoussis Accord (LMA), agreeing to a power-sharing government which included the rebel group New Forces. The parties also agreed to work together on modifying national identity, citizenship and land tenure laws, which are considered among the root causes of the conflict. On July 4, 2003, the government and New Forces signed an "End of the War" declaration that recognized President Gbagbo's authority and vowed to work for the implementation of the LMA and a program of demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR). Read more || Hide text
After relative stability, the LMA unraveled. In February 2010, violent protests erupted when President Gbabgo announced that he had dissolved both the government and the Independent Electoral Commission. At President Gbabgo’s urging, a new coalition government was formed by opposition leader Guillaume Soro. In April, President Gbabgo appointed a second Electoral Commission which soon began work, while he and Soro held private meetings. The elections, critical to securing long-term peace, were finally held on October 31, 2010 after being continually postponed since the end of President Gbabgo’s term in 2005. Run-off elections were held on November 28, 2010 between Alassane Ouattara and incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Ouattara won the run-off election, but Mr. Gbagbo refused to accept the results and cede power. After a nearly 5-month standoff between the two factions, Mr. Gbagbo surrendered to pro-Ouattara forces on April 11, 2011, who were supported by UN and French forces. The political crisis following the November election led to the displacement of nearly 1 million Ivoirians and the death of some 3,000, most of whom were civilians. On December 11, 2011, with little violence or disruption, the nation successfully completed parliamentary elections, in which Alassane Ouattara’s Republican Party maintained a majority coalition. Côte d'Ivoire remains in a fragile state as President Ouattara consolidates power over a country that is still deeply divided.
On June 8, during a routine patrol in the south west border near the village of Para and border town of Tai, Côte d’Ivoire, UN peacekeepers were attacked by unidentified armed militia elements, killing 7 peacekeepers and 8 civilians. This violence prompted thousands of Ivoirians to flee from the area, and many into Liberia. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York that he was "saddened and outraged" by the attack. "I understand that their colleagues are still in danger. Even tonight, after the attack, more than 40 peacekeepers remain with the villagers in this remote region to protect them from this armed group," he said. In response to the attacks, UNOCI and UNMIL met on June 14th to coordinate a quadripartite meeting with Liberian and Ivoirian authorities. The parties agreed to cooperate in implementing measures to address the fragile situation, such as increasing air and foot patrols along the borders.
How This Affects American Interests
Assists refugees and displaced persons. Currently, there are about 80,000 internally displaced Ivoirians, a significant improvement since the peak of the 2011 violence that saw nearly 1 million Ivoirians displaced. The largest populations of Ivorian refugees can be found in Liberia, Ghana and Togo. To assist these populations UNHCR signed a Tripartite Agreement with the Governments of Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, establishing a legal framework for the voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees from Liberia. A similar agreement was signed with the Government of Ghana. The UNHCR also facilitates the distribution of World Food Program-provided assorted food and commodities to Ivorian refugees. UNHCR's overall budget for Côte d'Ivoire will amount to $27.8 million in 2013, enabling it to carry out repatriation and reintegration programs. Managing the return of over 70,000 displaced persons from Liberia and other countries is an ever-present concern in light of recent insecurity, lack of social services and poor road conditions. The U.S. supports UNOCI in promoting stability in West Africa by addressing displaced people and refugees.
Promotes Human Rights. Laurent Gbagbo is currently standing trial at The Hague, having been charged with four counts of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed following the 2010 presidential election. The court has fixed a hearing date for February 2013, and has also unsealed an arrest warrant for Simone Gbagbo, the former First Lady, implicating her in post-election crimes against humanity. Based on an investigation conducted by the UN Human Rights Council, human rights abuses during Gbagbo’s presidency led to the deaths of over 3,000 individuals. UN peacekeepers continue to monitor and investigate human rights violations across the country, while providing human rights training courses to improve the situation. Promoting human rights is a U.S. foreign policy priority.
Supports the electoral process. As Côte d’Ivoire continues its democratic transition, UNOCI is supporting the electoral process, providing logistical support for elections, registering voters and deploying troops for security. After legislative elections in 2011, which were carried out peacefully and partially certified by UNOCI (193 out of 204 constituencies), the country will hold residual legislative elections and local elections in February 2013. The government has emphasized the need for local elections to widen the political spectrum and strengthen governance at the local level. It also stresses the need for continued logistical support and technical guidance from the United Nations.
Disarms former combatants. The UN is helping restore order in Côte d'Ivoire, by working with the government in creating a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Authority. So far, the Authority has disarmed and demobilized 1,194 former combatants and collected 861 weapons. Five hundred former combatants have been assigned work roles in prisons, and another 443 are in training. UNOCI has prepared two disarmament sites in Guiglo and Bouaké, and six more are slated to be ready by mid-2013. UNOCI also supports the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, which recovered 112 weapons and 6,323 rounds of ammunition in operations around the country.
- Human Rights. As Cote d’Ivoire embarks on a national process of reconciliation, human rights violations remain a pressing concern. In the second half of 2012, UNOCI reported 57 killings, 72 incidents of torture or ill treatment and 382 cases of illegal arrest. The National Commission of Inquiry, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council, released its report on violations of human rights following the 2010 elections, implicating both pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo forces in serious abuses, including torture and summary executions. According to the report, 3248 people were killed in the wake of the elections. President Ouattara has asked the Prime Minister to implement the Commission’s recommendations, while UNOCI continues to raise human rights concerns with the government, stressing the importance of due process and impartial judicial treatment.
- Border Security. Attacks along Côte d’Ivoire’s borders have been a recurrent problem in the aftermath of the 2010 elections. In June 2012, seven UNOCI peacekeepers and 27 civilians were killed in Western Côte d’Ivoire, close to the border with Liberia. Another attack occurred in August 2012, leaving one assailant dead and three government soldiers wounded. Attacks along the Liberian border have displaced thousands of Ivoirians, forcing them to seek refuge in Liberia. To handle ongoing unrest, UNOCI and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) coordinated a four-party meeting between Liberian and Ivoirian representatives. The parties agreed to cooperate in enforcing their borders and in the judicial procedure for handling combatants and refugees. In September, the first reported attack at the Ghanaian border resulted in eight deaths, and led the Ivoirian government to temporarily seal its air, land and maritime borders with Ghana. Following the attack, the UN Secretary General facilitated contact between the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, and a Special Representative visited Ghana in October to encourage Ivoirian refugees to come back to Côte d’Ivoire. Recent events in Mali pose yet another threat to stability in Cote d’Ivoire, which shares a northern border with Mali. President Ouattara has been instrumental in coordinating a regional response to the crisis, but the head of the UN Office for West Africa warned that the conflict in Mali heightens the threat of terrorism in the sub-region.
- Increasing Food and Cocoa Prices. Due to instability in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest supplier of cocoa, international cocoa prices have risen to 34 year highs. This, combined with a tripling in local food prices, has had a strongly negative effect on Ivoirians ability to feed themselves. The price of cassava has doubled while the price of rice rose 15-30 percent; both are staple crops for Ivoirians.
- Sexual and gender-based violence. Sexual violence remains pervasive throughout the country. The issue is particularly acute in the far west of Côte d'Ivoire, where armed men sexually assault women and girls in their homes, as they tend to their fields, and when they walk to or from the market. Victims are typically attacked during a robbery and attacks are especially common during the cocoa harvest and on market days. Victims' access to health and legal services remains extremely limited. Attempts to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual violence are hampered by lack of political will among police and court officials, and by severe deficiencies in the justice system.
Updated: January 2013