Ivory Coast Conflict
Violence perpetrated by both sides during the postelectoral period resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. The postelectoral violence caused thousands to flee their homes. At its peak more than one million persons were internally displaced and 200,000 took refuge in neighboring countries, primarily in Liberia, Ghana, and Togo. In the months following Gbagbo’s detention, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees started to return home, but many had not returned by year’s end due to lingering security concerns. As of December, 186,000 IDPs remained, primarily in the west and southwest regions of the country, and the number of refugees in neighboring countries had dropped to approximately 160,000, the vast majority in Liberia.
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 received 45.9 percent. Voter turnout was recorded at 81 percent. The UN Special Representative of the Secretary General independently certified the results of the election, determining Ouattara the winner by a margin similar to that announced by the CEI. Gbagbo, however, refused to accept the results, and the Constitutional Council, which was made up entirely of Gbagbo appointees, overturned the CEI ruling.
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.
In response Ouattara created the Republic Forces of Cote d’Ivoire [FRCI] on March 17, combining the FN forces with some anti-Gbagbo elements of the FDS that had fled north. On 17 March 2011, President Ouattara combined the former rebel Forces Nouvelles (FN) with cooperating elements of the Defense and Security Forces (FDS), the former government’s security forces, into the FRCI, the country’s new official military. 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. At year’s end the survey to determine eligible from ineligible FRCI forces continued.
Since a failed coup and subsequent insurgency in September 2002 split Côte d’Ivoire between a government-led south and rebel-controlled north, several peace agreements and election dates have come and gone. Gbagbo's minister of youth and employment has urged supporters to seize the Abidjan hotel where Ouattara set up his headquarters under U.N. protection. Charles Ble Goude said supporters will "liberate" the Golf Hotel on 01 January 2011.
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. For example, on March 17, FDS elements shelled private homes and the local market in Abobo, Abidjan, an area with many perceived or actual Ouattara supporters. The attack resulted in the deaths of at least 25 civilians and injured 40.
Security forces loyal to Gbagbo also killed demonstrators. On March 3, in Abobo, Abidjan, security forces loyal to Gbagbo opened fire on a demonstration of approximately 3,000 unarmed women; seven demonstrators were killed. According to the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry, no action was taken by the Gbagbo government to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Security forces loyal to Gbagbo also killed foreign citizens. For example, on April 4, in Abidjan, unidentified armed persons abducted the French general manager of the Novotel Hotel and three foreign guests. On June 2, the body of the general manager was found in a lagoon in Abidjan; the three foreign guests were presumed dead at year’s end. Under Ouattara the Ministry of Justice arrested and indicted 10 security force members loyal to Gbago in connection with the incident.
The Burkina Faso embassy confirmed and formally registered that 357 of its citizens were killed by pro-Gbagbo forces. There were allegations that security forces loyal to Gbagbo were complicit in the use of mass graves in N’dotre in 2010. In December 2010, after being denied access to the area, heavily guarded by pro-Gbagbo security forces, UNOCI’s human rights division gained access in mid-March. Although the allegations of mass graves could not be proven, it was noted that there were 250 bodies with suspicious injuries in a morgue in nearby Anyama.
The FRCI also committed extrajudicial killings in the months immediately following its March 17 creation. Many killings were reprisal attacks on perceived or actual Gbagbo supporters. For example, on April 1, in the Seweke III neighborhood of San Pedro, FRCI elements reportedly shot and killed Gerard Leonce Yagba after he denied knowledge of the whereabouts of his brother, whom neighbors described as a militia member.
FRCI elements reportedly executed people suspected of participating in armed resistance following Gbagbo’s April 11 detention. In the Yopougon neighborhood of Abidjan, armed militia groups and security forces, loyal to Gbagbo and implicated in dozens of targeted killings of unarmed pro-Ouattara civilian supporters, continued to fight the FRCI. In the course of gaining control of the neighborhood, FRCI elements reportedly executed people suspected of participating in the fighting. On May 15, FRCI elements in the Koweit neighborhood of Yopougon allegedly executed a man carrying two pistols who was presumed to be a militia member.
On August 18, the Minister of Justice demanded the arrest of two FRCI members after the UNOCI human rights division released information on their involvement in extrajudicial killings of civilians; however, there was no information that the two FRCI members had been arrested by year’s end.
Militias affiliated with both parties reportedly perpetrated arbitrary and unlawful killings.
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, 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 the Ouattara government issued an international arrest warrant for Ble Goude. On May 6, UNOCI’s human rights division confirmed the presence of mass graves in Yopougon. Through their inquiries the division determined that 68 bodies were buried across 10 sites and that pro-Gbagbo militias had reportedly killed all of the victims on April 12.
There were several reports of youth supporters of the pro-Ouattara RHDP coalition participating in armed uprisings to protect neighborhoods from security forces loyal to Gbagbo. For example, on February 24 and 25, armed RHDP youth attacked the FDS headquarters in Daoukro, set up roadblocks, and looted the homes of FDS members loyal to Gbagbo following a clash between FDS and RHDP youth that left six dead, including one elderly woman.
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 Anonkoua-Koute 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 April 26 in Abobo; the militia leader was killed while reportedly resisting arrest.
Several groups of perpetrators, including pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara militias and unaligned groups, were responsible for summary executions, rape, property destruction, and displacement of citizens in the western regions of Moyen Cavally and Dix-Huit Montagnes, particularly the towns of Duekoue, Guiglo, and Toulepleu.
Numerous killings occurred in clashes between indigenous ethnic groups and northern ethnic groups. In some instances other groups--including security forces loyal to Gbagbo, Liberian mercenaries, the FRCI, and Dozos--were complicit in killings. As Gbagbo’s efforts to retain power became increasingly violent and as civil authority abandoned the region, violence perpetrated by indigenous ethnic groups against northern ethnic groups increased. In the wake of the FRCI advance toward Abidjan, ethnic reprisals by Dozos and militias were widespread.
For example, between January 3 and 5, fighting between the Dioula and Guere communities in Duekoue left at least 37 people dead and 91 injured. On March 28 and 29, UNOCI reported the deaths of 213 victims from various ethnic groups. The UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry reported that at least 1,012 people were killed in the ern regions of Moyen Cavally and Dix-Huit Montanges from December 2010 to April 24.
Following their May 3 defeat by the FRCI, Liberian mercenaries in Abidjan retreated toward the Liberian border. There were numerous reports of extrajudicial killings committed during this time, particularly in Dabou, Irobo, and Grand-Lahou. The UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry reported that retreating mercenaries killed at least 59 persons--including 46 civilians and 13 FRCI members.
The security situation in the West remained precarious, particularly along the Liberian border. On September 15, armed militiamen from Liberia reportedly killed 23 people in two villages near the Tai Forest.