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Ivory Coast - US Relations

As far as US interests are concerned, West Africa is important for reasons that are economic (oil, markets), political (a counterweight to mounting extremism in the Sahel), and humanitarian. The US administration played an active role in diffusing the post-electoral crisis (2010-2011) in Côte d’Ivoire and, after President Ouattara was sworn into office in May 2011, US interest in Côte d’Ivoire remained high. Again by regional standards, the Ouattara administration had shown a commitment to good governance and healthy social and economic policies, and the US considers it a strong ally and a positive factor in West Africa. But interest for Côte d’Ivoire waned in Washington. The country may be, in this respect, the victim of its own success. While Côte d’Ivoire has held peaceful elections and generally stayed out of international headlines, other regional crises have taken the forefront.

The United States established diplomatic relations with Cote d'Ivoire (then called Ivory Coast) in 1960 following its independence from France. The United States recognized the Republic of the Ivory Coast on August 7, 1960, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent a letter to that effect to Prime Minister Felix Houphouet-Boigny. The area that became the Ivory Coast on that same date previously had been under French sovereignty. The state’s name changed from Ivory Coast to Cote D’Ivoire in 1986.

Relations between Washington and Abidjan were cordial if less intimate than the ties with Paris. Through the mid-1980s, Cote d'lvoire was Africa's most loyal supporter of the United States in the United Nations General Assembly. It supported the larger United States agenda on Chad, the Western Sahara, southern Africa, and Israel. The government strongly approved of moves by the United States against Libyan head of state Qadhafi, especially in light of rumors that Libyans in Burkina Faso were recruiting and training agents to infiltrate Cote d'lvoire. United States secretary of state George Shultz visited Abidjan in 1986 following Houphouet-Boigny's visit to Washington in 1983.

A coup in 1999 ushered in several years of coup attempts, disputed elections, rebellions, and attempts at reunification. In 2011, a new president was formally inaugurated after a period of fighting brought on by the incumbent's refusal to cede power following 2010 elections.

U.S.-Ivoirian relations have traditionally been friendly and close. The United States participates in the international effort to assist Cote d'Ivoire in moving beyond its decade-long crisis, providing more than a quarter of the funding for the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire. The U.S. Government’s overriding interests in Cote d’Ivoire have long been to help restore peace, encourage disarmament and reunification of the country, and support a democratic government whose legitimacy can be accepted by all the citizens of Cote d’Ivoire.

The U.S. Engagement Strategy in Cote d’Ivoire encompasses both programs and initiatives under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and our Transition Assistance Priorities. PEPFAR supports the provision of comprehensive HIV/AIDS testing, prevention, treatment, care services, and related health system support throughout Cote d’Ivoire. The Transition Assistance Priorities are the framework that will guide all U.S. Government programmatic and policy work not related to PEPFAR over the next several years. The overarching goal of the Transition Assistance Priorities is to support the Government of Cote d’Ivoire through programs and diplomatic engagement during this post-crisis period as the country recovers and works to establish conditions that will once again make it a stable and prosperous nation.

When a country is deemed to have stepped outside of international norms or standards, the community of nations may impose sanctions against the sitting government, non-state actors or individuals deemed to be responsible for offending acts. The idea is to persuade the offending parties to change their policy by restricting trade, investment or other commercial activity, and in the case of individuals, travel to the United States. In the early years of this century, such was the case with Côte d’Ivoire. Seeking to facilitate peace negotiations to put an end to the country’s bloody civil war, the United Nations imposed targeted sanctions on certain individuals who significantly contributed to the conflict. Many in the international community followed that lead, including the United States, which imposed sanctions on specific individuals beginning in 2006.

The U.S. participates in the international effort to assist Cote d'Ivoire in moving beyond its decade-long crisis, providing more than a quarter of the funding for UNOCI. The U.S. has also provided modest economic support fund (ESF) assistance to promote democracy. Bilateral U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding, with the exception of self-help and democracy and human rights funds, has been phased out. The country remains a major beneficiary of U.S. assistance in combating HIV/AIDS, as it is one of 15 focus countries under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). With PEPFAR assistance totaling approximately $120 million in FY 2009, this is by far the largest U.S. assistance program in Cote d'Ivoire. Ivoirian eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was withdrawn in 2005 because of Government of Cote d'Ivoire actions in 2004 but reinstated in October 2011.

The U.S. and Cote d'Ivoire maintain an active cultural exchange program, through which prominent Ivoirian Government officials, civic leaders, media representatives, educators, artists, and scholars visit the U.S. to become better acquainted with the American people and to exchange ideas and views with their American colleagues. This cooperative effort is furthered through visits to Cote d'Ivoire by representatives of U.S. business and educational institutions, experts in various fields, and Fulbright-Hays scholars. A new U.S. Embassy chancery compound opened in July 2005.

Following the inauguration of the legitimately elected president, Alassane Ouattara, the United States lifted sanctions that had restricted development cooperation since 1999 and convened all sectors of our government to design Transition Assistance Priorities for Cote d’Ivoire to provide post-crisis support. These priorities are the framework that guides U.S. Government policy and programmatic efforts over a multi-year period. The ultimate US goal was to assist our Ivoirian partners as the Government of Cote d’Ivoire works to become eligible for a compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation by building its capacity to project authority and good governance, providing security and essential services, and enhancing conditions for economic growth.

On September 14, 2016 President Obama found that the situation that gave rise to the declaration of a national emergency in Executive Order 13396 of February 7, 2006, with respect to the situation in or in relation to Côte d'Ivoire, including the massacre of large numbers of civilians, widespread human rights abuses, significant political violence and unrest, and attacks against international peacekeeping forces leading to fatalities, had been significantly altered by the progress achieved in the stabilization of Côte d'Ivoire, including the successful conduct of the October 2015 presidential election, progress on the management of arms and related materiel, and the combating of illicit trafficking of natural resources. Accordingly, and in view of the removal of multilateral sanctions by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 2283, he terminated the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13396.

The Côte d’Ivoire sanctions program implemented by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) began on February 7, 2006, with the issuance of Executive Order 13396, “Blocking of Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire” (“E.O. 13396”). The President issued E.O. 13396 to address the situation in or in relation to Côte d’Ivoire that resulted in the massacre of a large numbers of civilians, widespread human rights abuses, significant political violence and unrest, and attacks against international peacekeeping forces leading to fatalities. Civil monetary penalties of up to the greater of $250,000 or twice the amount of the underlying transaction may be imposed administratively against any person who violates, attempts to violate, conspires to violate, or causes a violation of E.O. 13396 or the Regulations. Upon conviction, criminal penalties of up to $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to 20 years, or both, may be imposed on any person who willfully commits or attempts to commit, or willfully conspires to commit, or aids or abets in the commission of a violation of E.O. 13396 or the Regulations.

Because leading U.S. agro-business firms (Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill) are heavily invested in Cote d’Ivoire, continued instability, structural bottlenecks and weakened institutions in that country could affect their bottom line. The same is true of the lucrative chocolate industry in the United States. Opportunities for diversification were slim in the short to medium term. The windfall harvests (such as experienced in neighboring Ghana in 2010) and anticipated increases in export volumes in Indonesia (following an expected downward revision of export taxes later this year) were unlikely to cover the shortfall if Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry does not recover expeditiously. Uncertainty in Cote d’Ivoire’s petroleum sector could further heighten concerns about the reliability of supply from West Africa, which accounts for about a fifth of U.S. oil imports. Some analysts believe that pending exploration could more than double output in that country over the medium term. Existing facilities also need to be upgraded to enhance efficiency. Prospective investors will be concerned about Cote d’Ivoire’s creditworthiness given recent defaults on bond payments. And continued weak economic performance would undermine efforts to build stable, reliable democratic governance in Cote d’Ivoire, which is a strategic objective of the United States.

Under the guise of security cooperation, Washington is working hard to persuade Abidjan to play host to Africom. US private military companies [PMCs] are lining up to compete for State Department AFRICAP contracts to train and equip African armies.

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Page last modified: 06-10-2016 19:50:23 ZULU