January 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2014
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AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire

Expected Council Action

In January, the Council is scheduled to be briefed and hold consultations on developments in Côte d’Ivoire and the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) (S/2014/892).

Key Recent Developments

The security situation in Côte d’Ivoire remains fragile. On 18 November 2014, thousands of Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) soldiers protested about unpaid salaries and benefits, emptying their barracks and blocking streets in Abidjan, Bouaké and numerous other smaller cities. In Bouaké, the protesting soldiers took over state radio and television stations, broke into an FRCI armoury and looted police stations. The government negotiated with the soldiers on 19 and 20 November, agreeing to make payments to the troops initially estimated by the government at $38 million (but projected by others at $75 million) and ending the protest. The disaffected troops were largely former Forces nouvelles rebels who had helped put President Alassane Ouattara in power in April 2011 and were then incorporated into a reconfigured state military.         

Elsewhere in the country, particularly in the west bordering Liberia and in the north, there have been reports of armed attacks. For example, on 15 May 2014 in the western border town of Fété, unidentified gunmen killed thirteen people, including four children and three FRCI troops, resulting in the displacement of 3,500 residents. Armed gangs have also carried out numerous violent attacks and acts of banditry on roads near Bouaké and elsewhere in the north. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, acts of banditry have increased in frequency during 2014 (following a decrease in 2013). The attackers are widely presumed to be former combatants.       

The Secretary-General’s latest report states that since 1 May 2014 former combatants, FRCI elements and police and prison forces have been responsible for six extra-judicial killings, 32 cases of torture and 49 cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. From 22 to 26 September, approximately 300 detainees went on a hunger strike to protest prison conditions and their ongoing detention without trial since the November 2010 elections disputed by former president Laurent Gbagbo. The authorities promised to accelerate the judicial process, which temporarily ended the hunger strike. However, frustrated with the lack of progress in meeting their demands, as many as 500 prisoners initiated another hunger strike on 1 December.      

With respect to judicial proceedings and accountability for post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011, the ICC affirmed on 11 October 2014 that it has the authority to hear a case against Simone Gbagbo, the former president’s wife, on four counts of crimes against humanity. Despite an arrest warrant issued in February 2012, the Ivorian authorities have refused to hand her over to the ICC, arguing that she is being tried for similar charges in the national court system. The trial of Simone Gbagbo and 82 other supporters of the former president, which had originally been scheduled for 22 October, has since been postponed indefinitely. On 17 November, the ICC set a trial date for Laurent Gbagbo of 7 July 2015.  

Statelessness and interrelated land-tenure issues remain an obstacle to social cohesion and are therefore also a potential source of instability in Côte d’Ivoire. According to UN Refugee Agency data, there are approximately 700,000 stateless individuals within the country, accounting for about 3 percent of the total population. The government reports that since a new law went into effect on 1 April 2014 that expanded citizenship eligibility to male foreign nationals married to Ivorian citizens and anyone resident prior to 1972 that 50,000 people have applied for Ivorian nationality.

In response to the government’s request for assistance in preparing and holding the presidential election scheduled for October 2015, the UN led an electoral needs assessment mission from 22 September to 2 October 2014. The assessment mission concluded that UNOCI should deploy specialised expertise to assist with the Special Representative’s good offices mandate, assist national authorities to develop an operational plan and provide limited logistical support. The UNDP could focus on conflict prevention, institutional capacity building, voter outreach, civic education and acquiring needed materials and equipment.           

The Council last addressed Côte d’Ivoire on 29 October 2014, when Ambassador Cristián Barros (Chile), chair of the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee, summarised the midterm report of the Group of Experts. The Group identified several risk factors in Côte d’Ivoire, including: large numbers of former combatants excluded from the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process; persistent difficulties in security sector reform (SSR) due to divisions between former Forces nouvelle rebels and other government soldiers; possible natural resource-related instability; ongoing mercenary activity; and an inadequate border-control capacity. 

Human Rights-Related Developments

The Human Rights Council adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Côte d’Ivoire on 18 September 2014 where Côte d’Ivoire accepted 178 of the 186 recommendations. In the discussion, Côte d’Ivoire’s efforts in the field of peace and reconciliation, as well as the establishment of a national human rights institution, were welcomed but the necessity of addressing impunity, violence against women and girls and sexual violence was underlined.

The Human Rights Council’s working group on the use of mercenaries carried out an official visit to Côte d’Ivoire from 7 to 10 October 2014. In a press conference in Abidjan on 10 October, the working group mentioned numerous reports regarding mercenaries from neighbouring countries who fought on both sides of the conflict and, along with armed counterparts, reportedly ravaged villages and carried out atrocious human rights violations, including torture and summary executions. The working group commended positive initiatives by the government, including the disarmament and reintegration of former combatants, but emphasised that justice for victims was paramount for lasting stability and reconciliation. The activities of private military and security companies were also examined, with serious concerns raised regarding the need to strengthen areas such as licensing in order to address the large number of illegal or unlicensed companies operating in the country.

Key Issues

The central issue is a possibility that the October 2015 presidential election could serve as a catalyst for renewed large-scale armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. Highly relevant risk factors include a large number of ex-combatants outside DDR processes, porous borders, lootable natural resources, the availability of small arms and ammunition, perceptions of victor’s justice, active mercenary groups within the region, incomplete SSR and inadequate command and control within the FRCI.    

Options

Although UNOCI’s mandate does not expire until 30 June 2015, one option would be for the Council to adopt a resolution expanding UNOCI’s mandate explicitly for the purpose of electoral assistance, as requested in the Secretary-General’s report. (While resolution 2162 includes a good offices mandate and language regarding political support, it does not have provisions for providing electoral planning advice and logistical support.)

Short of adopting a resolution, another option for Council members would be to welcome the recommendations of the electoral needs assessment mission during the briefing and consultations.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Within the context of negotiating resolutions on sanctions and UNOCI this year, minor differences became evident among Council members. France advocated a partial lifting of the arms embargo, which was initially opposed by the US but was eventually authorised in resolution 2153. Resolution 2162 decreases UNOCI’s deployment by 1,700 troops as of 30 June 2015, which is a reduction by 600 more troops than had been recommended by Secretary-General. Some elected members had expressed reservations at the pace of drawdown, particularly in light of the security challenges posed by the October 2015 presidential election.  One event that has the potential to affect both political dynamics within the Council and conflict dynamics in Côte d’Ivoire is the upcoming ICC trial of Laurent Gbagbo. Council members will likely consider the trial—which starts less than four months before the election—as a factor in their future decision-making regarding Côte d’Ivoire.

France is the penholder on Côte d’Ivoire and Chile is the chair of the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution
25 June 2014 S/RES/2162 This resolution renewed UNOCI for a year; reinforced the role of the Special Representative in supporting political processes underway in Cote d’Ivoire; reduced UNOCI military and police components by 30 June 2015; and called for the establishment of a quick reaction force within UNOCI.
29 April 2014 S/RES/2153 This resolution lifted the diamond embargo on Cote d’Ivoire and partially lifted the arms embargo. It renewed for a year the financial and travel measures on target individuals as well as the sanctions on arms and lethal material, and it renewed for thirteen months the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1572 Sanctions Committee on Cote d’Ivoire.
Security Council Meeting Record
29 October 2014 S/PV.7292 This was a briefing by Ambassador Cristian Barros (Chile), chair of the 1572 Cote d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee.
Secretary-General’s Reports
15 December 2014 S/2014/892 This was a report of the Secretary-General on Côte d’Ivoire.
15 May 2014 S/2014/342 This was a report of the Secretary-General on Côte d’Ivoire.
Sanctions Committee Document
10 October 2014 S/2014/729 This was the mid-term report of the Group of Experts for the 1572 Cote d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee.

Useful Additional Resource

Côte d’Ivoire: Nowhere to turn for protection, Human Rights Watch, 15 December 2014