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Armed Forces of the Forces Nouvelles (FAFN)

In 2002, a failed military coup resulted in rebel forces loyal to Ouattara gaining control of the north. Northern army units mutinied in September 2002. Robert Gu, who had returned to the country, was killed at the outset in unclear circumstances and amid government claims of his involvement. The rebellious northern soldiers called themselves the Mouvement Patriotique de Cte d'Ivoire (MPCI), which fought loyalist, southern forces, resulting in thousands of deaths. The MPCI established its headquarters in the northern town of Bouak and established control over the northern half of the country. French forces already in Cte d'Ivoire monitored a cease-fire agreed in October 2002.

The cease-fire signed one month later led to the division of the country between the loyalist south and the rebel-controlled north, separated by a Zone of Confidence. The rebel groups were consolidated into the Forces Nouvelles (FN) under leader Guillaume Soro, and violence continued throughout 2003 and 2004. In support of the UN Operation in Cte dIvoire (UNOCI), the French force Licorne has been on the ground in Cte dIvoire since 2002. March 2007 saw the signing of the Ouagoudougou Political Agreement (OPA) by President Gbagbo and rebel leader Soro, and the appointment of Soro as prime minister. Violence decreased after the signing of the OP.

The origins of the Forces Nouvelles came from the question of identity, which motivated the youth of the North in general to take up arms. I.B.Coulibaly was, and remained, very popular with certain segments of the Forces Nouvelles, particularly those from the Dioula group. Many of the Forces Nouvelles chiefs are Dioula, as was Coulibaly himself. Their Dioula affiliation, as well as the Christian orientation of many of their number, contrast with the Senefo and Muslim origins of most of the Forces Nouvelles rank and file (although Soro himself is Christian).

By 2007 DDR was frustrated by the question of ranks; the armed forces' (Forces Armees Nationales de Cote d'Ivoire - FANCI) officer ranks are loath to accept integration of their contemporaries in the Forces Nouvelles who have been promoted faster than they, and the question about what will happen to former non-commissioned officers who have become high-ranking FN officers (many of whom are Zone Commanders, or "ComZones") has not been definitively settled.

The "integration" of the militaries would likely be achieved by some voluntary demobilization of Forces Nouvelles fighters who don't expect to be integrated into the combined armed forces. Some to-be-determined percentage of the Forces Nouvelles standing units would then simply be declared to be FANCI at some point after the next elections.

US ambassador in Cote dIvoire, Wanda L. Nesbitt, in July 2009, advised the U.S. government: "It now appears that the Ouaga IV agreement, [the fourth agreement to the Ouagadougou Political Agreement which prescribed that disarmament should precede the elections], is fundamentally an agreement between Blaise Compaore [President of Burkina Faso] and Laurent Gbagbo to share control of the north until after the presidential election, despite the fact that the text calls for the Forces Nouvelles to return control of the north to the government and complete disarmament two months before the election . . . But the 5,000 Forces Nouvelles soldiers who are to be disarmed and regrouped into barracks in four key cities in the north and west until a new national army is created, represent a serious military capability that the FAFN [Forces Nouvelles] intends to keep well-trained and in reserve until after the election. The hand-over of administrative power from the FAFN to civilian government authorities is a pre-requisite for elections but, as travelers to the north (including Embassy personnel) confirm: the FAFN retain de facto control of the region especially when it comes to finances."

The mixed brigades (joint FAFN-FDS units) slated to provide security for the elections were intended in part to give both sides a window onto what is happening in the north, and increase confidence that massive fraud will not take place. But the 5,000 Forces Nouvelles soldiers who are to be "disarmed" and regrouped into barracks in four key cities in the north and west until a new national army was created, represent a serious military capability that the FAFN intends to keep well-trained and in reserve until after the election. The hand-over of administrative power from the FAFN to civilian government authorities was a pre-requisite for elections but, as travelers to the north confirm: the FAFN retain de-facto control of the region, especially when it came to finances.

A surge of violence ensued in November 2010 following contention over the results of long-postponed elections between incumbent Gbagbo and former prime minister Ouattara. The election dispute escalated into military conflict between forces loyal to Gbagbo and those loyal to Ouattara, sparking renewed postelectoral conflict. In addition to using his own security forces, Gbagbo hired armed militia and mercenaries, some from neighboring Liberia, to assist with the destabilization of Ouattaras government, attacking both civilians and pro- Ouattara forces. The FN hired mercenaries as well, among them members of the Dozo Brotherhood, a group of initiated traditional hunters found in Cte dIvoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali. Overall, the postelectoral crisis is thought to have killed more than 3,000 people and displaced more than a million citizens. After several months of violence, Ouattaras forces seized control of most of the country and arrested Gbagbo in April 2011.





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