Cote d"Ivoire: Updates and Analysis, 1/2, 01/09/03

Cote d"Ivoire: Updates and Analysis, 1/2, 01/09/03

AFRICA ACTION Africa Policy E-Journal January 9, 2003 (030109)

Cote d'Ivoire: Updates and Analysis, 1 (reposted from sources cited below)

This posting contains excerpts from a summary analysis of the current crisis in the Cote d'Ivoire, from the Global Internally Displaced Peoples Project in Geneva. Another posting today contains other shorter documents and links on the same topic.

Note: The Africa Policy E-Journal, with a principal focus on continent-wide policy issues, does not provide regular coverage on specific countries. Occasional updates such as these focus on country-specific issues of wider regional significance, and also include links to other sources which readers can consult for more frequent updates.

+++++++++++++++++end summary/introduction+++++++++++++++++++++++


December 1, 2002

The Global IDP Project of the Norwegian Refugee Council 59, chemin Moise-Duboule, 1209 Geneve Tel:0041 22 799 07 00 Fax: 0041 22 799 07 01

[excerpts from a longer report - see website address cited above]

Many thousands of people have fled fighting, hardship and demolition of their houses in Cote d'Ivoire since a military uprising in September. Displaced civilians remain vulnerable, as the crisis looks set to deepen in the region.

Some 200,000 thousand people have fled recent fighting and worsening hardship in Cote d'Ivoire's second city, Bouake, heading mainly for the capital, Yamoussoukro, before joining families in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and elsewhere. In Abidjan, meanwhile, thousands of residents - West African immigrants, refugees and northern Ivorians - have been left homeless after their houses were demolished by government forces and their supporters following a September 2002 coup attempt. Civilians have been attacked, arrested and killed by both government and rebel forces targeting them for their ethnic origin.

United Nations agencies have launched a humanitarian appeal for around $16m to meet needs in Cote d'Ivoire and the region, while encouraging the Government to ensure protection for all affected people. The agencies have been working together to provide shelter, food, water and medicine in Abidjan, but insecurity has complicated their access to rebel-held war zones, leaving capacities strained in Yamoussoukro. Any renewed fighting could displace more people and overwhelm humanitarian capacity in this crisis-prone region.

Exodus from northern war zone

Many thousands of people have fled recent fighting and hardship in Cote d'Ivoire's second city as rebels gained control of the predominantly Muslim north of the country. The ongoing fighting and worsening humanitarian conditions caused approximately 200,000 people - about one third of the population - to flee the rebel-held town of Bouake (UNHCR, 8 October 2002; IRIN, 11 October 2002). ...

By mid-October 2002, rapidly increasing numbers of civilians were fleeing the designated 'war zones', many of them arriving in the Ivorian capital, Yamoussoukro. The city effectively became a transit town for the displaced with about 1,500 displaced people, mostly women and children, sheltered in the city's cathedral and other church buildings. Some were in a state of extreme exhaustion after walking for several days with little or no food. Church officials reported that food, accommodation and medical attention were the most pressing needs.

Most of the displaced were 'in transit' in Yamoussoukro and would be assisted to join their families in Abidjan or other major towns (IRIN, 11 October 2002). IDPs were usually spending 8-10 days in transit centres before finding transport to other parts of the country, while up to 500 were residing there on a permanent basis, either waiting for family members lost during displacement or waiting for the situation in Bouake to improve if they had no family members to take them in (UN OCHA, 14 November 2002).

For people remaining in Bouake, the humanitarian situation became increasingly difficult. They had little or no access to food, water and medicine (UN OCHA, 15 October 2002). A food security assessment by Action Contre la Faim (ACF) at the end of October 2002 showed that the urban middle-class were most vulnerable, especially as cash reserves were drying up, while for those dependant on a subsistence economy before the uprising, nothing much had changed. Many Bouake residents had reduced their food intake, and while there was no evidence of malnutrition, the situation had the potential of worsening dramatically if the conflict continued (ACF, 30 October 2002).

Abidjan residents lose homes

Thousands of Abidjan residents have also been displaced in recent weeks by attacks on their houses following the September 2002 coup attempt. The Cote d'Ivoire Government had openly accused neighbouring states of supporting the rebels, Burkina Faso in particular. This accusation apparently gave security forces and civilian supporters of the Government a green light to systematically attack and burn down Abidjan shantytowns housing West African immigrants, refugees and Ivorians accused of supporting the rebels.

In the two weeks following the attempted coup, UNHCR reported that in Abidjan more than 6,000 Ivorians, immigrants and refugees were made homeless by the demolition policy (UNHCR, 2 October 2002). Residents often received little or no notice of the demolitions, and lost all their wordly possessions as bulldozers razed their homes (IRIN, 24 October 2002). Furthermore, thousands of immigrants in Cote d'Ivoire - especially Burkinabes - returned to their home countries to escape reprisals (UNHCR, 11 November 2002). ...

Civilians attacked, arrested, killed

Civilians have been attacked by government forces and rebels, often targeted for their ethnic origin, and in some cases, arrested or killed arbitrarily. Since the military uprising on 19 September 2002, human rights abuses against civilians have been committed by both the security forces in Abidjan and rebel forces controlling parts of north and central Cote d'Ivoire, the latter subsequently calling themselves the Mouvement Patriotique de la Cote d'Ivoire (MPCI). Both parties to the conflict targeted civilians suspected of supporting the opposing side. Often, targets were identified arbitrarily on the basis of their origin or their alleged political sympathies.

Amnesty International documented wide-ranging abuses by the security forces, including extrajudicial executions of mainly foreigners, arbitrary arrests and secret detentions, the destruction of homes apparently to flush out dissidents - leading to the displacement of thousands of residents - and the harassment and intimidation of those made homeless. Civilians reported that during the raids on the shantytowns they were beaten and abused by police, who also tried to extort money from them. Human Rights Watch also interviewed numerous victims and witnesses of Government abuses, describing the assaults on neighbourhoods of Abidjan as degenerating into "a serious pattern of human rights violations, accompanied by excessive force, extortion, arbitrary arrests and destruction of property with the consequent mass dislocation of vast numbers of inhabitants" (HRW, November 2002).

In the western town of Daloa, briefly held by rebel forces, there were reports of Government soldiers rounding up residents suspected of supporting the insurgents and summarily executing them, dumping their bodies in mass graves (BBC News, 22 October 2002). Several dozen civilians - Ivorian Muslims, Malians and Burkinab,s - were reportedly killed by people dressed in military uniform (HRW, November 2002).

Abuses committed by MPCI forces in Bouake included arbitrary killings of suspected government sympathisers, secret detentions, recruitment of young people including minors, and the capture of civilians (AI, 18 October 2002).

Responding, UN agencies seek $16m

In a flash appeal, launched in November 2002, the UN requested almost US$16 million to address priority humanitarian needs in Cote d'Ivoire and the West Africa sub-region from November 2002 - January 2003 (UN, November 2002). Humanitarian organizations in the country have rapidly expanded their emergency operations to meet growing needs and prepare for possibly massive population movements if the anti-immigrant backlash worsened.

In October 2002, UN agencies, NGOs, the ICRC, IOM and donors, as well as ambassadors from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), met in Ghana to discuss and agree on key elements of a flash appeal to address the pressing humanitarian needs in Cote d'Ivoire and the sub-region over coming months. They acknowledged that a total of eleven countries in the sub-region could be affected by the crisis, most particularly Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana, with immigrants seeking to return to their countries of origin and refugees in Cote d'Ivoire looking for a safer haven elsewhere in the region. ...

Insecurity and access problems

Protecting civilians and allowing safe access for relief workers to assess their needs and provide relief has been a main concern of humanitarian organizations. Such concerns are particularly acute amid the ongoing demolition of shantytowns in Abidjan, and with civilians trapped inside government-designated war zones (UN OCHA, 2 October 2002). ...

Continuing insecurity has made UN relief agencies "cautious" about a permanent presence in the war zone beyond Yamoussoukro (UN OCHA, 30 October 2002). In November, UN agencies such as WFP and UNICEF began setting up offices in central Cote d'Ivoire in order to gain improved access to vulnerable populations in rebel-held areas, while NGOs also strengthened their presence (IRIN, 8 November 2002). Assistance to address critical humanitarian needs was being provided by ICRC, the Ivorian Red Cross, MSF, WFP, CARE, ACF, WHO and UNICEF, among others (UN OCHA, 14 November 2002). Humanitarian assessment missions to rebel-held areas of the country in October 2002 had found a critical lack of food, water and medicine, but access to much of northern and central Cote d'Ivoire remained limited.

More people fleeing violence

During last year, thousands of Ivorians were displaced by political and ethnic violence. President Gbagbo failed to resolve the growing ethnic and religious divisions across the country, which in January 2001 led to an attempted coup by opposition elements within the army and continuing high political tension (HRW, August 2001; BBC News, 19 September 2002). According to the US Committee for Refugees, at least 10,000 Ivorians - and possibly far more - became internally displaced by political and ethnic violence in 2001, although it was unclear how many remained displaced at the year's end (USCR, 2002). In addition, tens of thousands of foreigners, mostly Burkinabes, fled the country following harassment and attacks by state security forces and vigilante groups. This was triggered by President Gbagbo's government accusations against nationals of Burkina Faso for involvement in the coup attempt (HRW, August 2001).

The disaffected troops who began the insurgency in September 2002, numbering about 750, said they were unhappy with their imminent demobilisation and about their treatment by the government (BBC News, 8 October 2002). They subsequently demanded a new government. These men, recruited by General Guee during his ten months in power, simultaneously attacked strategic locations in the economic capital, Abidjan, and in the towns of Bouake and Korhogo in the north. While they were overpowered in Abidjan, they succeeded in establishing themselves in the other two areas. State media reported that at least 270 people were killed and 300 injured in various parts of the country in the days following the uprising (IRIN, 23 September 2002). General Guee and the Minister of the Interior, Emile Boga Doudou, were killed in Abidjan. Alassane Ouattara's Abidjan residence was also attacked. He managed to escape and took refuge in a nearby embassy, suggesting to some observers that he had no forewarning of the coup attempt (BBC News, 27 September 2002).

Ivoirite: root cause

The fighting came on a wave of rising xenophobia and ethnic discord in Cote d'Ivoire that threatened the country's massive immigrant population, as well as 70,000 refugees, and ultimately the stability of the entire sub-region. For more than three decades after independence from France in 1960, Cote d'Ivoire was a beacon of peace and stability in West Africa. The autocratic but tactical rule of the country's first President, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, ensured religious and ethnic harmony as well as economic prosperity until after his death in 1993.

Houphouet-Boigny's successor, Henri Konan Bedie, sowed the seeds of ethnic discord in 1995 when he introduced the concept of 'Ivoirite', or 'Ivorian-ness'. This was used to deny Ivorian citizenship to his main political rival, Alassane Ouattara, and thereby exclude him from running in elections held that year. Bedie insisted that Ouattara, a Muslim from the north of the country, was actually from Burkina Faso. Since that time there has been an increasing number of attacks on people of foreign descent (HRW, August 2001). About one quarter of Cote d'Ivoire's population of 16 million are immigrants, or descended from immigrants, many from neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana and Niger.

The start of protracted political crisis was assured when the military, under the leadership of General Robert Guee, overthrew the elected government of Konan Bedie in the country's first ever coup, staged on Christmas Eve 1999. Although the coup d'etat was ostensibly prompted by soldiers' unhappiness over pay and conditions, it soon became apparent that, like Bedie, General Guee was also ready to incite ethnic and religious rivalries in order to remove political opposition. Continuing the theme of 'Ivoirite', Guee introduced even stricter eligibility requirements for the 2000 presidential elections, once again excluding Alassane Ouattara on the basis of his alleged links with Burkina Faso.

Daily life for many Ivorians became increasingly militarised. Widespread human rights abuses were committed under the new regime, principally by groups of military personnel operating a parallel justice system, including the extrajudicial execution of alleged criminals (AI, 19 September 2000).

Military rule was, however, short-lived. General Guee was forced to flee by a popular uprising after he claimed that he had won the presidential elections in October 2000. This left Laurent Gbagbo as the winning candidate. But the elections were marred by violence against civilians by all sides, and by "state-sponsored human rights violations, with a clear ethnic and religious focus" (HRW, 20 December 2000). More than 150 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. As documented by Human Rights Watch, state security forces summarily executed political protesters and other civilians in the streets, and detained and tortured hundreds of political activists and foreigners (and Ivorians whose nationality was questioned). In one incident alone, security forces massacred fifty-seven young men, who were then buried in a mass grave in Yopougon on the outskirts of Abidjan (HRW, December 2000 & August 2001).

Victims of the violence were, initially, supporters of both Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and Ouattara's Rally of the Republicans (RDR), but once Guee had fled the country the main victims were suspected members of the RDR, foreigners and Muslims (HRW, August 2001). Gbagbo, just like his predecessors, made the issue of nationality central to his political agenda. The thorny issue of Ouattara's citizenship was indicative of the political marginalisation of the mainly Muslim north (BBC News, 15 October 2002). ...

Renewed conflict could overwhelm

Tension has continued to rise in Cote d'Ivoire, increasing the risk of an all-out conflict. Despite a fragile ceasefire between the two sides that led to peace talks in Togo at the end of October 2002, and the presence of French troops to monitor the truce, there were continuing reports of violence and human rights abuses by both government and rebel forces. As of December 2002, the peace talks were stalled, leaving Cote d'Ivoire facing the possibility of all-out war. The rebels were demanding President Gbagbo's resignation, a revision of the constitution and new elections, while the government demanded that the rebels disarm. And despite the arrival in Abidjan of an advance team of peacekeepers sent by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), tension continued to build, with both sides reportedly preparing to fight (IRIN, 18 November 2002; BBC News, 14 November 2002). Then, at the end of November 2002, the western towns of Danane and Man fell to two new rebel groups, who said they were not linked with the MPCI rebels but were fighting to avenge the death of former junta leader, General Robert Guei. These troops included both Liberians and Sierra Leoneans, providing a chilling 'deja vu' of the brutal civil wars that wrecked both of those countries (BBC News, 30 November 2002).

New fighting could overwhelm rapidly overwhelm humanitarian capacities and sink Cote d'Ivoire and neighbours into deeper crisis. Observers feared that further fighting would not only destabilise the rest of Cote d'Ivoire, it would also have serious repercussions in the whole sub-region. As noted by USCR, more than 500,000 people are already uprooted throughout the region as a result of conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone (USCR, 7 October 2002). Further population movements, both inside Cote d'Ivoire and to neighbouring countries, would put further strain on already overstretched humanitarian organizations and could ultimately wreck the socio-economic development of the entire sub-region.


1. The Global IDP Project, based in Geneva, monitors internal displacement worldwide, as requested by the United Nations in 1998. It is part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, an organization that has assisted refugees worldwide since 1953. For more information about IDPs from conflict in 49 countries, visit our website

2. Contacts:

Cote d'Ivoire researcher: Claudia McGoldrick

Tel: +41 (0)22 799 0711 Email: Media contact: Andrew Lawday Tel: +41 (0)22 799 0703 email:

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

AFRICA ACTION 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 frequent updates.

+++++++++++++++++end summary/introduction+++++++++++++++++++++++

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 see]

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 mercenaries.

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 d'Ivoire (MPCI).

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 mercenaries.

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 indiscriminately.

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.


Prevention genocides

[excerpts only; for full text as well as additional documents, see the website cited above]

Press Release

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 Rwanda.

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 Crisis". ...

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 several crises:

1. 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.

2. 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 sector.

3. 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 embedded.

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 be avoided!

What is to be done?

As administrators and directors of the NGO, "Prevention genocides" :

* 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. For example,

- 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 feared.

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 Cote d'Ivoire.

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 civil war.

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 Economic Community).

[names of signatories available on website]


Other Links: 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.

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Thu, 9 Jan 2003 20:00:22 -0500 Subject: Cote d"Ivoire: Updates and Analysis, 1/2

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific