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Forces armées nationales de Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI)

Created in 1960, the Ivorian army has evolved until recently with three infantry battalions which were added specialized units: Armoured Reconnaissance Squadron, airborne Company, ground to ground artillery batteries and anti-aircraft. These specialized units will later armored battalion names respectively commando Battalion and Parachute Artillery Battalion ground-ground and ground-to-air artillery battalion. The Air Transport Group and Liaison and the Navy completed the outfit.

The conflict in Côte d’Ivoire began in 2002 with a military coup that led the country to be divided into two territories separated by a buffer zone, or “zone of confidence”. In October 2010 the country held its first presidential election in 10 years. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, candidate of the Ivoirian People’s Front (FPI), and opposition RDR party leader Alassane Ouattara advanced to the November 2010 presidential runoff. In December 2010 the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) declared Ouattara the winner of the runoff with 54.1 percent of the vote. Gbagbo, however, refused to accept the results, and Ouattara and Gbagbo remained in a standoff over the presidency and took separate oaths of office in December 2010. Gbagbo retained control of state resources including the national television station, the security forces, and the treasury.

During the post-electoral crisis the security forces were either supportive of former president Gbagbo (such as the presidential security force) or relatively neutral (such as the police). Building upon almost a decade of politicization of the military, during the postelectoral crisis former president Gbagbo disarmed and marginalized forces suspected of being pro-Ouattara and concentrated his power in security forces with close ethnic ties to his regime. These security forces were used solely to consolidate Gbagbo’s hold on power, and they ceased all other functions or activities for the nation as a whole. Gbagbo also used militia groups during the postelectoral crisis to maintain power, such as the Young Patriots, the Group of Patriots for Peace, and the militant Student Federation of Cote d’Ivoire (FESCI). Militia groups fought alongside government security forces and in some cases were given weapons and encouraged to join the national army.

The political stalemate that resulted from contested Presidential elections in November 2010 brought Côte d’Ivoire to a standstill in early 2011 as fighting erupted between loyalists to the incumbent President, who refused to step down, and the Forces Nouvelles rebel group, who supported the opposition candidate. Fighting between the two warring parties ended in April 2011 when the Forces Nouvelles seized the capital city of Abidjan and deposed the incumbent President.

As the FRCI advanced through the South, they were joined by a variety of irregular volunteers. These volunteers were not a part of the FRCI but fought alongside them on some occasions and for a similar cause. As the FRCI advanced, their numbers swelled due to these additions, but officially none of those who joined were considered FRCI despite wearing a t-shirt or hat with the FRCI insignia. The matter was further complicated because the Ouattara government had not completed a survey of those under the official control and command of the new military leadership prior to the FRCI’s formation. Therefore, attributing crimes or abuses committed during the postelectoral violence to official FRCI security forces was often difficult.

Under Gbagbo, poor training and supervision of security forces, corruption, and a failure to prosecute miscreants in the security ranks resulted in general lawlessness and public disrespect for authorities. Racketeering at roadblocks remained a serious problem. Security forces harassed, intimidated, abused, and confiscated the official documents of persons who refused to pay bribes. Gbagbo security forces also frequently resorted to excessive and sometimes lethal force while conducting security operations and dispersing demonstrations. Police reportedly solicited sexual favors from prostitutes in exchange for not arresting them. On numerous occasions security forces failed to prevent violence.

Security forces loyal to Gbagbo were complicit in extrajudicial killings and used lethal force to raid areas in which perceived or actual Ouattara supporters lived. Many killings reportedly took place with the assistance of pro-Gbagbo militia forces (see below). Attacks were systematic and used excessive force against civilians, many with northern names, due to their perceived support for Ouattara.

Pro-Gbagbo militias were responsible for numerous killings, often reportedly perpetrated in the presence of or with assistance from security forces loyal to Gbagbo. Members of the Young Patriots, who were responsible for summary executions in previous years, continued to operate with impunity during the postelectoral crisis. In late February and in March 2011, Ble Goude, leader of the Young Patriots, called on supporters to attack all foreigners and join the army. On February 26, Young Patriots members reportedly beat a presumed rebel, put a tire around his neck, poured petroleum on his body, and set the man on fire. In July 2011 the Ouattara government issued an international arrest warrant for Ble Goude.

Following several months of targeted killings and disappearances perpetrated by FDS troops loyal to Gbagbo in the Abidjan neighborhood of Abobo, an armed militia formed under the name of the Invisible Commando. The militia was ostensibly led by Ibrahim Coulibaly, also known as “IB,” a former FN member and coup plotter. In collaboration with local residents, the Invisible Commando militia violently resisted attempts by FDS members to enter the Abobo neighborhood. In the process of these confrontations, there were numerous reports of civilian deaths. The Invisible Commando also reportedly attacked pro-Gbagbo supporters. For example, on March 7, the group attacked the Ebrie ethnic group in the AnonkouaKoute District of Abobo, resulting in at least three civilian deaths. There were no explicit links between the Invisible Commando militia and the FRCI, which arrested “IB” on 26 April 2011 in Abobo; the militia leader was killed while reportedly "resisting arrest".

In September 2011 the National Armed Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (Fanci) became the Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (Frci), the name given to the new Ivorian army by president Alassane Ouattara. This made a real break with the war that Ivory Ccoast had been through since September 2002. The Forces of defence and security (SDS) ex loyalist army, and the Armed Forces of new Forces (FAFN), the former rebel army, failed again to unite in a single entity. Each consider themselves superior to others.

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