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Côte d’Ivoire - 2010 President

Cote d’Ivoire is a democratic republic. On 21 May 2011, Alassane Ouattara, leader and candidate of the opposition party Rally for Republicans (RDR), was officially inaugurated president. The inauguration followed the April 11 capture of Laurent Gbagbo, the former president who refused to accept the results of the election.

The UN and international and domestic observer missions declared the October and November 2010 presidential election vote fair and democratic and recognized Ouattara as the country’s duly elected president; however, President Ouattara and former president Gbagbo took separate oaths of office in December 2010 and remained in a standoff over the presidency until Gbagbo’s capture. Post-electoral violence perpetrated by both sides, but attributable primarily to pro-Gbagbo forces, resulted in approximately 3,000 deaths, significant population displacement, torture, sexual violence, and widespread property destruction.

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.

During the postelectoral crisis many police and gendarmes abandoned their posts, and their stations were looted, resulting in a security vacuum in a large portion of the country. For example, on March 30, in Yamoussoukro, the police prefect’s office was reportedly looted by ex-prisoners who were earlier freed by unidentified armed people. The ex-prisoners looted the office and took all the archives, including their own case files. Also on March 30, young civilians reportedly looted the gendarmerie brigade of Yamoussoukro.

Until President Ouattara’s official inauguration in May 2011, security forces, who largely supported former president Gbagbo, did not report to civilian authorities. Following the inauguration, violence significantly decreased, but there still were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control--particularly FRCI members ineligible for the unified military, armed pro-Gbagbo groups supported under the former regime, and endemic militia groups in the West.

Several private newspapers criticized ruling and opposition parties during both the Gbagbo and Ouattara governments. Most newspapers, however, were politically aligned and sometimes resorted to fabricated stories to defame political opponents. During the postelectoral crisis the media played a major role in inflaming tensions, and newspapers backed by political parties published inflammatory editorials. Media freedoms were drastically curtailed, and journalists were harassed for reporting on the political standoff. Following Gbagbo’s arrest the state-owned daily newspaper Fraternite Matin switched allegiance to the Ouattara government.

The postelectoral conflict involved serious human rights abuses committed by both sides. Under Gbagbo, state-sponsored death squads, government security forces, and militia groups intimidated and silenced perceived or actual pro-Ouattara supporters. Gbagbo also reportedly hired Liberian mercenaries that were implicated in numerous human rights abuses. Abuses were also committed by the FRCI and other militant groups fighting against Gbagbo. There were numerous reports that the FRCI committed extrajudicial killings on the battlefield and also failed to protect pro-Gbagbo populations from reprisal killings in the wake of the FRCI’s advance. Dozos, or traditional hunters, and pro-Ouattara militia groups participated in reprisal killings, primarily in the western region of the country; although there was no confirmation of allegations that the Ouattara government provided financial, material, or logistical support to militia groups that were sympathetic to Ouattara and the FRCI, although investigations continued at year’s end.

Reports of racketeering decreased in Abidjan after the postelectoral crisis, as did reports of police stopping motor vehicles. In the areas of the country traditionally aligned with Gbagbo, especially in the West, racketeering increased in the immediate postelectoral period; however, by year’s end the Ouattara administration had significantly reduced illegal checkpoints.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2021 11:51:01 ZULU