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submitted, the Ivory Coast is set to swear in Alassane Ouattara as the country's new president (CNN, 2011, 1), ending over six months of internal turmoil that threatened to lead the country into outright civil war, and challenged the international community's ability and willingness to respond. Ouattara had been unable to take the presidency despite winning last November because losing incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power (Ibid). On April 11th, 2011, pro-Ouattara forces arrested Gbagbo after an assault on his residence in the capital Abidjan with the assistance of French forces (Harding, 2011).
The standoff was challenging for the international community. The issue was domestic in nature, but stability both in the country and the region has been difficult to achieve. The prospect of a prolonged civil war was real, and this would not only have destroyed the Ivory Coast but would also have had a debilitating effect on West African region in general. The standoff between Gbagbo and Ouattara therefore took on greater strategic importance for the international community than a domestic political conflict would have under normal circumstances. As the standoff unfolded, French troops eventually did become involved in helping bring Ouattara to power, and the UN is currently holding Gbagbo.
This paper will outline the Ivory Coast crisis and the international response to it. A background section will highlight the political scene in Ivory Coast, including a discussion of the conflict between Gbagbo and Ouattara, a rivalry that predates this standoff. The election itself will receive significant coverage in the paper. The final main section will discuss the international community's response, with specific reference to the responses of the UN and of France. Lastly, some conclusions will be drawn about the international response to the crisis.
Ivory Coast is a nation in West Africa and in the pre-colonial era was home to a number of kingdoms. These states were effectively coalesced into Ivory Coast by France during the period known as the 'scramble for Africa', when European colonial powers competed for territorial claims on the continent. The country's formal name, Cote d'Ivoire derives from this time. France eventually laid claim to the bulk of West Africa, with Ivory Coast representing a stretch of coastline wedged in between the British colony that would become Ghana and the independent free state of Liberia. The coastline was the hub of activity for the French, and it did not fully extend its control into the interior until the 20th century. Politically, Ivory Coast was part of French West Africa, a colony that was a confederation of eight territories, each of which would eventually become an independent nation. Culturally, Ivory Coast consisted of a number of tribes, the largest today being the Akan at 42% of the population, with the other groups being the Gur (17%), Northern Mandes (16.5%), Krous (11%) and the Southern Mandes (10%) (CIA World Factbook, 2011). The French adopted a policy of assimilation that damaged the traditional structure of these tribes, in addition to dismantling the kingdoms that had existed prior to their arrival.
French colonial rule ended in 1960 when Ivory Coast was granted its independence. The country has never truly known democracy, but performed well relative to its peer group with respect to stability until a military coup in 1999. Since that point, Ivory Coast has struggled to maintain any political stability at all. The coup was followed by a rigged election, but the leader that emerged as result, Robert Guei, was overthrown in a popular revolt and replaced with Laurent Gbagbo. There was a failed coup in 2002 in response to Gbagbo's rule and in 2003 rebel forces took over the northern half of the country (CIA World Factbook, 2011).
Ivory Coast is split roughly along north-south lines with respect to ethnicity and religion. According to the CIA World Factbook (2011), the country is 38.6% Muslim and 32.8% Christian, with the remainder of the population either professing indigenous religions or none at all. The north of the country is predominantly Muslim, the south mainly Christian. Ethnically, the north has a high proportion of people who are either immigrants from or the descendants of immigrants from Burkina Faso, Mali and other nations to the north of the Ivory Coast. Ouattara is the political representative of these groups, while Gbagbo largely represents southern, Christian groups. Ouattara was barred from entering the 2000 election on account of his Burkina Faso heritage, and a large portion of the north's people were also barred from voting on similar grounds, all part of a broad set of ethnic policies known as ivoirite. These policies are responsible for a significant part of the schism between the north and south in general, and between Ouattara and Gbagbo specifically (Bassett, n.d.).
Bassett (n.d.) argues that the ivoirite policies are part of a strategy that reflects the politics of scale, in which political actors seek to build scale of electors to help win elections. By excluding a large number of northerners from voting, and Ouattara specifically from running, Gbagbo sought to solidify Christian southern power in the country. This led directly to the country's civil war of 2002-2003. The main factions from the north and south were soon joined by two other groups from the west of the country, complicating peace and reconciliation efforts (Aloisi, 2003). It was only in 2007, after many diversions from the path towards peace that a resolution appeared to be on the horizon. Elections were scheduled for 2008.
The ivoirite policies that have driven the conflict have played a significant role in the conflict today. There is a sense of distrust among the northern Ivorians that the French, who have always remained closely linked to the nation's political and economic life, have favored the south and Gbagbo. Wambu (2011) points out that the political overtones of ivoirite include a desire of the south to break free from France's domination of the country, countering the claims of those in the north. The French are effectively accused of playing both sides of the conflict. Ivoirite policies are seen by some partly as a means of shaping an Ivory Coast for Ivorians, but clearly there is a difference between the different visions of what constitutes an Ivorian.
One of the most profitable businesses in the country is cocoa farming, and this economic success attracted foreigners to work in the country since just after independence. Anecdotal evidence tells of people immigrating to Ivory Coast in search of jobs and finding them during the post-colonial era. Nearly forty years later, such people became viewed as un-Ivorian during the wave of xenophobic fervor that transpired beginning with the 1999 coup. Even those born in the country were not considered Ivorians if their parents came from elsewhere. Such non-Ivorians have been in the country their whole lives, or for decades, but have been subject to propaganda campaigns against them from the central government and persecution from Ivorian groups and law enforcement (Itano, 2002). It is worth noting that one of these 'foreigners' is Alassane Ouattara, who was born in what is now Ivory Coast but to a father from Burkina Faso (The Economist, 2011). Ouattara, who comes from a line of kings whose kingdom did encompass a part of Ivory Coast as well as most of Burkina Faso (Ibid.), thus is a powerful symbol to the large section of "foreign" Ivorians and their plight, making him a natural rival to Gbagbo and the southerners.
The 2010 Election
In 1995, the electoral code was revised to stipulate that election candidates were disallowed if either of their parents was non-Ivorian or if they had not lived in the country the previous five years. This policy was viewed at the time as being specifically written to disallow Ouattara (d'Aspremont, 2011). Only in 2007 was it finally determined that Ouattara would be allowed to contest the next election, which would eventually be set for November 28, 2010, after having been postponed several times from its original date in 2005.
The election primarily pit Ouattara against Gbagbo with former President Henri Bedie as a third candidate. As expected. Ouattara's power base was the Muslim north, and Ivorians that had been subject to persecution under the ivoirite laws. Ouattara also had on his side Guillaume Soro, a Catholic who was sitting as the Prime Minister. Soro was a former rebel leader from the north, but was put into the Prime Minister's role as part of a multilateral negotiation that included Gbagbo (AFP, 2010) and Ouattara in defining the country's political structure and its election ground rules.
The first round of the presidential election took place in early November, 2010. The results showed that Gbagbo had 38% of the vote, with Ouattara winning 32% and Henri Kotan Bedie taking 25% (Agendia, 2011). A runoff election was ordered for November 28, 2010. The independent electoral commission (CEI) announced election results that showed 54.1% of the vote went for Ouattara and 45.9% for Gbagbo. These results, however, were rejected by Gbagbo, who…[continue]
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