April 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 April 2016
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AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire

Expected Council Action

In April, the Council is expected to receive a briefing by Ambassador Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), chair of the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee, regarding the final report of the Group of Experts, which is due on 8 April. The Council is also expected to receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s report on the strategic review of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), due on 31 March.  

The Council is likely to adopt resolutions on the drawdown of UNOCI and the termination of the sanctions regime.

Key Recent Developments

The Council last met on Côte d’Ivoire on 20 January when it adopted resolution 2260, which mandated the decrease of UNOCI’s military component from 5,437 to 4,000 military personnel by 31 March. The resolution set the same deadline for the Secretary-General to provide the Council with recommendations on the further downsizing of UNOCI based on the conditions on the ground and the ability of Côte d’Ivoire’s government to take over security responsibilities from the mission.

The successful conduct of the 25 October 2015 presidential elections was one of the main preconditions set by the Council and the Secretary-General before further consideration would be given to the downsizing and possible termination of UNOCI. In resolution 2260, Council members commended the government of Côte d’Ivoire for facilitating free and peaceful elections, as a result of which Alassane Ouattara was elected to a second term in office.

In January, Ouattara appointed a new cabinet, making changes from the previous cabinet to certain key positions. Although Daniel Kablan Duncan was reappointed as prime minister, Ouattara replaced his foreign and justice ministers as well as several deputy ministers including of finance and defence.

On 28 January, the joint trial of the former president of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, and former youth leader Charles Blé Goudé began at the ICC for their role in the violence following the 2011 election, during which around 3,000 people died in clashes between Gbagbo’s forces and Ouattara’s supporters.  Gbagbo is the highest-ranking official and the first head of state to stand trial at the ICC. On the opening day of the trial, both Gbagbo and Blé Goudé said they were innocent of the charges against them, which include crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and persecution.  

Some of Gbagbo’s supporters in Côte d’Ivoire have voiced their discontent with the ICC indictment and expressed concern that none of Ouattara’s supporters have been prosecuted for their role in the post-election violence. Prior to the start of Gbagbo’s trial, chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the media that prosecutors have intensified investigations involving Ouattara’s supporters. Nonetheless, the ICC still has not brought charges against any of Ouattara’s supporters.

Following the meeting with French President François Hollande on 4 February in Paris, Ouattara reiterated that he would not be sending any more Ivorians to the ICC now that the country has an operational justice system and is ready to try cases in domestic courts. This led some in the political opposition to reiterate their claims that Ouattara is actively trying to protect his supporters who may have played a role in violent clashes during the crisis in 2011. 

On 18 February, the military court in Côte d’Ivoire sentenced three high ranking military officials to life imprisonment for their role in the 2002 murder of Robert Guei, former junta leader, and briefly president of Côte d’Ivoire. All three military officials were close associates of Gbagbo.

Although the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gbagbo’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, in 2012, the Ivorian government refused to transfer her to the ICC and instead decided to try her in Côte d’Ivoire. Simone Gbagbo is set to face trial in Côte d’Ivoire on 25 April for charges of crimes against humanity. In March 2015, a court in Côte d’Ivoire sentenced Simone Gbagbo to 20 years in prison for undermining state security.

Regarding regional cooperation, the presidents of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire held a second Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting. They agreed to strengthen their cooperation on issues of mutual concern, which include security and stability in cross-border areas, further political cooperation and resettlement of refugees in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency. On 7 March, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire reopened a humanitarian corridor between the countries and officially began a family re-unification program with the assistance of the ICRC.

On 13 March, three attackers opened fire in the tourist resort town of Grand-Bassam, killing at least 16 people and injuring more than 30. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack. All three assailants were killed by Côte d’Ivoire security forces. The following day, President Ouattara held an emergency meeting of his cabinet at Grand-Bassam, after which he gave assurances that this attack would not impair Côte d’Ivoire’s ongoing economic resurgence.   

Though this was the first time AQIM had struck Côte d’Ivoire, there has been an upsurge in AQIM activity in the region. The group carried out terrorist attacks in neighbouring Mali in November 2015 and in Burkina Faso in January. The Council reacted to the March attack by issuing a press statement that condemned the attack and stressed the need to strengthen regional and international efforts to combat violent extremism and terrorism.  

Economic growth in Côte d’Ivoire continues to be robust for the fourth year in a row. According to the findings of an International Monetary Fund evaluation mission conducted in March, the economy grew at a steady rate of 8.6 percent in 2015, with similar growth anticipated for this year.  

Human Rights-Related Developments

The Human Rights Council considered the report of the independent expert on capacity-building and technical cooperation with Côte d’Ivoire in the field of human rights, Mohammed Ayat, during its 31st session in March (A/HRC/31/78). The report, which covers the period from 1 September to 31 December 2015, applauds the holding of peaceful presidential elections on 25 October 2015, and concludes that the main challenges facing the country are consolidating the national reconciliation process and maintaining peace and security. The report includes recommendations to strengthen the rule of law, reinforce the reconciliation process and improve prison conditions, and it reaffirms the importance of maintaining UNOCI until the achievements of Côte d’Ivoire in maintaining security and making progress towards greater respect for human rights are properly consolidated.

Key Issues

At the moment, the main issue for the Council is the future of UNOCI, including further drawdown of the mission and its subsequent termination.

A related issue for the Council will be assessing the usefulness of continuing the sanctions regime given the improved stability and security in the country, particularly after the successfully organised  presidential elections in October 2015. 

Following recent terrorist attacks in Grand-Bassam, a related issue is the threat of terrorism and its implications on the security situation in the country and the wider region.

Political tensions resulting from the ICC trial of Gbagbo could be a future issue for the Council.

Options

With respect to sanctions, the most likely option is for the Council to terminate the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire sanctions regime, which includes an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban. Alternatively, the Council could choose to renew the sanctions regime for a specified time period while making certain modifications to the regime. In addition, the Council could request a strategic review of the sanctions regime before considering its termination. Considering current Council dynamics, the most unlikely option would be to renew the regime in its current form.

Regarding UNOCI, an option would be to renew the mandate of UNOCI for a period of one year, after which the mission would be terminated. The Council could also recommend gradually downsizing the mission in the next year while setting a specific time period for ending it.

Looking ahead, over the longer term the Council could discuss the options for the future UN presence in country. To this end, the Council could consider the possibility of establishing a special political mission that would succeed UNOCI and could support the government in areas such as security sector reform; disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration; human rights; and political processes including reconciliation and national dialogue.

Council Dynamics

There seems to be overwhelming support among Council members for the drawdown of UNOCI and its subsequent withdrawal. Within the Council, France, the former colonial power and penholder, is the strongest advocate for both withdrawal of UNOCI and termination of the sanctions regime. Most Council members share the view that Côte d’Ivoire is a well-functioning country with a vibrant economy and that its security forces are capable of maintaining security in the country. This view was further reinforced by the successful organisation and execution of the presidential elections in October 2015.  The Secretary-General’s report with his recommendations following the strategic review of the mission, which is due on 31 March, is expected to play an important role in shaping the positions of Council members regarding the further actions on downsizing the mission.

France is the penholder on Côte d’Ivoire while Uruguay serves as the chair of the 1572 Sanctions Committee.

UN Documents 

Security Council Resolutions
25 June 2015 S/RES/2226 This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNOCI for an additional year.
28 April 2015 S/RES/2219 This was a resolution renewing sanctions measures (partial arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze) until 30 April 2016 and renewing the mandate of the Group of Experts until 30 May 2016.
Security Council Press Statement
14 March 2016 SC/12279 This was a press statement on the terrorist attack in Côte d’Ivoire.
Secretary-General’s Report
8 December 2015 S/2015/940 This was on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.
Security Council Meeting Record
17 December 2015 S/PV.7586 This was a briefing by the chairs of subsidiary bodies.