Despite a marked improvement in economic governance and the holding of legislative elections in good security conditions on 11 December in Côte d’Ivoire, the divisions within the security forces carry a risk of violent confrontation while the victor’s justice targeting only former President Gbagbo’s followers hampers reconciliation.
Côte d’Ivoire: Continuing the Recovery, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, warns that the country remains deeply divided and still faces serious threats. The weakness and imbalance of the security apparatus and the two-tiered justice system are reinforcing the convictions of extremists and are the two main challenges the government will have to overcome in the forthcoming months.
“Significant progress has been recorded in many areas since Alassane Ouattara’s inauguration in May 2011”, says Rinaldo Depagne, Crisis Group’s West Africa Senior Analyst. “But the economic revival focuses on urban centres and highlights a lack of political will to prioritise the regions and communities that suffered most from the conflict”.
Genuine security sector reform (SSR) should be carried out by the government in order to reconcile the two opposing components of the new army: the members of the New Forces (Forces Nouvelles, FN), the former rebellion, and those of the Gbagbo-era Defence and Security Forces (Forces de défense et de sécurité, FDS). President Alassane Ouattara must prioritise this reform and not delegate to anyone else that responsibility.
Biased justice is still at work. To date, no member of the ex-FN incorporated into the new army, the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire, FRCI), has been prosecuted, despite strong suspicions of serious crimes against some of them. International justice is also perceived as biased by a significant part of the Ivorian public opinion, which considers the transfer of Laurent Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court as an impediment to reconciliation.
Ivorian authorities should create the conditions for democratic political life, by making concessions to their opponents, in order to facilitate their return to the political scene before the 2012 regional and local elections. Despite their victory at the legislative elections, the president and his party should seek national consensus on the key reforms which will be crucial to ensure lasting stability.
The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) must ensure it has the necessary human and material means to fulfill its mandate to support the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) and SSR. Côte d’Ivoire’s main foreign partners, notably France, the U.S. and the European Union, should bolster their financial and technical assistance to achieve these goals. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) should provide political support to an ambitious SSR strategy.
“The involvement of the ICC is an important step to fight impunity”, says Gilles Yabi, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “But it can only reconcile Ivorians on one condition: that the ICC prosecutor investigates those most responsible on both sides for serious war crimes and crimes against humanity during the post-election period and also since September 2002”.