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Côte d'Ivoire: A Big Step Forward
Nov 4, 2010 (101104)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
An orderly, peaceful, and fair presidential election on Sunday,
with an agreed voters' roll and some 80 percent participation, is
clearly a big step forward for Côte d'Ivoire, and well deserving of
the accolades from former Ghanaian President John Kufuor and other
international observers. Results announced by the electoral
commission yesterday reported 38.3 percent for incumbent Laurent
Gbagbo, 32.1 percent for Alassane Outtara, and 25.2 percent for
Henri Bedié. But the real test of whether the country can return to
stability and its leading economic role in the region will come in
the run-off expected later this month.
According to freelance journalist Lauren Gelfand, a former AFP
correspondent, the mood of the country, fed up with years of
instability, as the election approached was well reflected by the
popular dance song by DJ Francky DiCaprio, "On Est Fatigué ("We
Are Tired"; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DfbNEPgPwY). But both
Ivoirians and observers are still wary of the prospects that the
run-off might lead to violence.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two background articles written
before the election, an analysis by David Zounmenou of the
Institute for Security Studies in South Africa and an interview by
AllAfrica.com's Cindy Shiner with Rinaldo Depagne of the
International Crisis Group. It also includes excerpts from the
executive summary of an preliminary statement from the Carter
Center observation mission, which was headed by former President of
Ghana John Kufuor and Dr. John Stremlau, Carter Center vice
president for peace programs.
For another particularly useful background article, not included
here because of copyright considerations, see:
Côte d'Ivoire Elections: Avoiding a 'Danse Macabre'
Laura Gelfand 3 Nov 2010
Additional sources of reports and analysis include:
Review of Abidjan press reports on election results
UN Operations in Côte d'Ivoire
European Observer Mission
Includes full preliminary report by Mission, in French only
Carter Center Observer Report
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Côte d'Ivoire, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note++++++++++++++++++++
Côte d'Ivoire: Finally a Light at the End of the Tunnel?
26 October 2010
Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane/Pretoria)
[David Zounmenou is a senior researcher at the African Conflict
Prevention Programme at the Institute for Security Studies.]
Already postponed six times in the past five years, the
presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire now scheduled for October 31
2010 is understandably a source of much anticipation and anxiety.
However, although numerous challenges remain to be addressed, there
are credible signs that the election will effectively take place on
the set day.
The election is seen as a defining moment in the political history
of the country and as providing an opportunity for re-mapping its
socio-political and economic future, including restoring its image
as a beacon of peace and stability on the continent. It was the
inability of major political actors to manage underlying cleavages
in the Ivorian polity in the aftermath of the demise of the
country's founding father, Felix Houphuet Boigny that plunged what
was arguably one of Africa's most stable and prosperous countries
into a protracted armed conflict.
Efforts to create a conducive environment for election have been
long and complicated, with several disruptions that raised concerns
about a possible return to violent armed conflict. While the
government of President Lauren Gbagbo insisted on disarmament,
demobilisation and demilitarisation and reintegration (DDDR) as the
first step to any lasting peace, the former rebels emphasised the
completion of the issuance of identification documents. Many
mediation efforts were frustrated and even current ECOWAS-mandated
mediator President Blaise Compaor‚ threatened throwing in the
Fortunately, the resilience and patience of various stakeholders
seem to be yielding some fruit and Côte d'Ivoire is on the path to
real stability. Although disagreement over the voter registration
process lasted longer than expected, various actors eventually
understood that compromise was necessary if the peace process was
to have any chance of success. Therefore, with the UN certification
of the final voter list of 5,725,720 and the effective commencement
of the distribution of identity documents, it could be argued that
Côte d'Ivoire is now set to embrace the next step in its peace
The stakes are high. On the one hand, it is about completing
successfully the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement (APO) initiated by and
agreed upon by the protagonists - a home-grown dynamic peace
initiative which was seen as the ultimate attempt at bringing about
peace in a divided Côte d'Ivoire. A key outcome here is the holding
of the election as the ultimate test of the political will that
inspired the Ouagadougou Agreement. This aims to close one of the
most complex and violent chapters in post-independent Côte
Whenever the political will dwindled along the way, the activities
of the Cadre Permanent de Concertation - a negotiating committee
consisting of the main protagonists in the political crisis - was
instrumental in reviving and keeping the dialogue among Ivoirian
actors alive. Here again, the role of the UN in certifying the
final results of the elections will be crucial but challenging,
knowing that the institution had been for years been pushed at the
periphery of the peace process by the ruling party.
On the other hand, and closely related to the previous argument is
the restoration of legitimate leadership, the absence of which had
been one of the trigger factors of the conflict. The failed
transition from Houphouet Boigny's regime to that of former
president Henri Konan Bedié, coupled with rigged elections under
former military ruler Robert Guei, paved the way for Côte
d'Ivoire's woes. It is worth noting that former rebels and militia
leaders are mobilising supporters for a free, fair and peaceful
vote. Whether that momentum will be sustained depends largely on a
continued engagement with key actors by ECOWAS, the African Union
(AU) and other partners throughout the process.
It now seems that issues revolving around the nationality of former
Prime Minister Allassane Dramane Ouattara have faded away
momentarily and the battle of ideas has replaced the hate speeches,
political exclusion and malicious political manipulation. These all
contributed to the North-South divide which tarnished
Houphouet-Boigny's political heritage.
Interestingly, political leaders who had been brandishing the
infamous concept of "Ivoirité" to win votes are now focusing all
their energy on socio-economic projects. Through the concept of
Ivoirité they had not only created resentment towards Ouattara, a
candidate for the presidency, but had created divisions between
northerners and southerners.
The already positive start of the electoral campaign is expected to
culminate in meeting the election deadline of 31 October.
The three major candidates, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, Ouattara and
Bedié are vying to win the hearts and minds of Ivoirians.
Strategies are being crafted to secure votes. In particular, Gbagbo
understands that in order to win, he must break the regional and
ethnic cluster rethoric, which is no longer favourable to the
ruling party, the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI). His attempt to
position himself as a patriot, a nationalist and a pan-africanist,
fighting for the liberation of Côte d'Ivoire, might be seen as an
old-fashioned political ideology but could help in maintaining his
urban youth support base with a radical stance on foreign
intrusion, mainly from France. Though relations with Paris have
improved recently, the ill-feeling of the youth towards the latter
will take some time to die down.
Bedié relies on his experience as a former Head of State and the
powerful electoral machinery of the former ruling party, the Parti
Démocratique de la Côte d'Ivoire-Rassemblement Démocratique
Africain (PDCI-RDA) to return to power. Ouattara of the
Rassemblement des R‚publicains (RDR) seems to be counting on
securing the votes of Ivorians from the North of the country, whose
citizenship was questioned and at a time denied. Both Ouattara and
Bedié also have commendable support in rural areas that represent
at least half of the voting population. Moreover, they have forged
an alliance and have drafted a common political programme with the
hope to support each other in the likely event of a run-off. Of
major concern is that they are running the risk of falling into a
political trap by not presenting a single candidate right from the
Assuming there is no hiccup on the road to the elections,
tentatively, there are three possible scenarios. Firstly, an
outright victory of the ruling party. Many think the ruling party
has set the scene to win an outright victory stymieing any dream of
a run-off for the opposition coalition.
However it is highly unlikely that any of the candidates gets an
outright majority in the first round. Though the ruling party has
the incumbency advantage, having been in power for virtually ten
years, shifting loyalties might have caused Gbagbo's initial
support, which he enjoyed when he first came to power, to wane.
Moreover, such a claim cannot be conclusive, as Côte d'Ivoire has
not held any major election for the past decade. Reliance on
opinions polls should also be limited as these polls, conducted by
foreign companies who are government-affiliated, are limited in
scope and objectivity. It remains to be seen whether the
panafricanist, anticolonialist rhetoric will bring good fortunes to
The most likely scenario is the distribution of votes along ethnic
and regional lines among the three main candidates in such a way
that the two best candidates will stand for the run-off.
Inevitably, the opposition's alliance will be put to test. At
various stages of political contestation in the country, alliances
were built and broken between Gbagbo, Ouattara and Bedié. There is
no guarantee that this time around the coalition will survive,
given the likelihood of attractive political promises, except
perhaps if the desire to defeat Gbagbo as an act of personal
political revenge is stronger than the opposition leaders'
The third scenario is derived from the previous one. Though
unlikely, it cannot be excluded. One of the members of the
opposition coalition might join hands with the ruling party in the
run-off to secure access to power and privileges. If it happens to
be Ouattara this would be the end of Bedié's political career given
his old age. On the long term it would create an opportunity for
the FPI to "manage" Ouattara, within a coalition government.
It is a norm in Africa that the incumbent hardly loses an electoral
contest held under his rule. Whoever wins the election will be
subject to contestation and the question is will the others accept
the results? If they do not, what is likely to be the implications?
The UN representative Ambassador Choi Youn-jin has started putting
in place measures to counter any violence that may ensue.
The electoral commission still has the daunting task of
distributing 11 million ID cards in just a few days and to ensure
that all logistics are in place, in order to have a successful
election that will bring about a new legitimate leadership.
Additionally, the institution is to recruit and train 66 000 voting
agents ahead of the elections. One can only hope that, no matter
who wins the elections, Côte d'Ivoire's leaders would remain
conscious of their responsibility to heed the AU's call to make
2010 the Year of Peace on the continent. For elections alone are
not enough to bring back national cohesion in Cote d'Ivoire. Key
issues at the origin of the conflict will require s tremendous
amount of political will. Among them, the real completion of the
DDDR process is vital and necessitates the continued engagement of
local as well as external stakeholders.
Côte d'Ivoire: Security Fears as Nation Heads to Polls
29 October 2010
After being delayed six times, Cote d'Ivoire's landmark
presidential elections will go ahead on Sunday. The nation has been
in turmoil since a military coup in 1999, six years after the death
of the country's first post-colonial president, Felix
The unrest included a disputed election in 2000 and a brief civil
war. The conflict ended in 2007 but deep political tension remains.
In addition, the nation is awash in arms - disarmament has not been
completed and there are concerns of further violence should
Sunday's polls turn out badly. Rinaldo Depagne, senior West Africa
analyst of the International Crisis Group, spoke with allAfrica
this week about the potential risks and hopes associated with
Q: Your latest report on Cote d'Ivoire, published in May, says that
unless senior Ivorian politicians refrain from xenophobic language
and more is done to ensure the security of the whole electoral
process, they may be preparing the ground for violent chaos, either
before, during or in the immediate aftermath of elections. Does
that analysis still stand?
A: Overall, the situation is better and the campaign is running quite
smoothly and we are happy about this. But they didn't really
improve the security and the securitization of the vote. This is
the problem in the [coming] days, especially in the west of Cote
d'Ivoire where you still have former pro-government militias,
armed. Our colleagues from Human Rights Watch published a report
speaking about the very high level of criminality still going on in
this region. It is not a good environment in which to organize an
election. We fear trouble because of this lack of securitization.
Q: It seems like the trickiest part of this whole process might be the
post-election period. It certainly has been difficult in
neighboring Guinea - getting to the run-off vote. Do you expect a
run-off in Cote d'Ivoire and do you think Ivorians, and political
leaders, will accept the winner of the election?
A: There are two concerns. The first one is what if one of the three
main candidates wins in the first [round], how will the two losers
react? Even if there is a second [round] how will the loser of the
first round react?
It's very difficult to say and we really don't know. But what we do
know is that if there is trouble, the securitization won't be
enough to cope. What we have here is a very, very unprepared and
very sloppy securitization plan. A few months ago the
securitization plan was based on the "mixed forces" - a force
composed of 4,000 soldiers of the regular army and 4,000 soldiers
of the former rebellion (Forces Nouvelles). This force today is not
operational and so you don't have the core of the securitization
To replace it you've got ... a unit from the Defense and Security
Forces. These guys, they are 800, are not really a force that can
securitize a poll or an election. It has been invented to cope with
armed robbers in Abidjan. So they apparently don't have anything to
do with politics or elections but they will be there and it will be
And then you've got the UN (Unoci - United Nations Operation in
Cote d'Ivoire), who hasn't got a mandate to intervene. Their
mandate is to assist the Ivorian forces. But as the Ivorian forces
are not well prepared we don't know how they will behave if there
is serious trouble after the first [election] results.
Q: Do you think there was sufficient international pressure - either
from the West or the West African region - to secure disarmament or
was the focus overwhelmingly on making sure the elections finally
A: Yes - massive pressure. You've got all those people from the UN
involved, you've got Ecowas (Economic Community of West African
States) diplomatically involved. Nobody today in the international
community has an interest to see Cote d'Ivoire in shambles. It will
affect the [entire] region. Foreign diplomats are not stupid so
they know they need to put some pressure on Ivorians to stabilize
the country. Cote d'Ivoire hasn't been abandoned. You've got many
people still coming to Abidjan trying to make Ivorian politicians
understand that their interest is to have peace in their country.
Now it depends on the will of those senior politicians and will
they be able to restrain their appetite for power and their passion
for power? The key to the answer belongs to senior Ivorian
politicians. And those three guys (candidates Henri Konan Bedié,
Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara) they have a very special
story with Cote d'Ivoire and they've got a special story between
them. They are quite old and so for them it is the last chance to
reach power and to count in history - that's why you've got all
this passion around this election. I think the answer belongs to
Q: The issue of national identity has been one of the main obstacles
to holding elections. During the civil war the country was divided
between the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south.
Politicians, especially, have whipped up anti-northern sentiment,
saying residents there were not genuine Ivorians because many are
immigrants from neighboring countries. This came into play with the
issuance of voter identification cards, with the fear being that
non-Ivorians could tip the scales toward a certain candidate. Has
the identity issue been sufficiently resolved?
A: This is an issue that is the main root of the conflict. It's not
over; it's not finished. A new president will have to find a
solution to solve the problem of identity. One of the solutions is
to impose new rules for land ownership - who has the right to own
the land of Cote d'Ivoire. It is a very important matter and I
think it will be one of the first big issues that the new president
will have on his desk.
Q: Have any of the politicians given any indication how they will
A: This question of identity has been used by politicians to reach
power. They've got to understand that, again, it's not in their
interest to play with this kind of question. The interest is to
solve it if Cote d'Ivoire wants to be a new country or an important
country in the region of West Africa.
In Crisis Group we are very concerned about the west of Cote
d'Ivoire ... [and] measures to stop the violence in this region and
bring back law and order. In Guiglo or [other cities] you don't
even have a police station and you don't have courts. So how can
you stabilize a region like this? Moyen Cavally region is the size
of [the U.S. state of] Connecticut and there is no tribunal for all
of this region, so when somebody is committing a crime he won't be
judged because there is no place to judge him. So one of the big
measures you've got to impose is to bring back law and order -
courts and a sufficient amount of policemen.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
A: Cote d'Ivoire is a very special country to West Africa. It is the
economic engine of West Africa--with Nigeria, but for
French-speaking Africa it is the economic engine. This country has
so many possibilities. This is a very strange country because it is
always swinging between hell and paradise, and what we can hope is
that the swing this time will be on the side of paradise, and not
the side of hell. Perhaps "hell" is a little bit too strong, but
it's always between peace and conflict. You can't call this war.
You can call the Liberian situation as it was in the 1990s a war,
but in Cote d'Ivoire you had perhaps four days of fierce battles
and the rest was a kind of a very strange slow-motion conflict.
We hope that this time Ivorian politicians will have in their
hearts and in their minds enough love for their country to avoid
the use of extremist militias or this xenophobic language as a
weapon to get in power.
Q: Do you think Houphouet-Boigny ever imagined that this would happen
to Cote d'Ivoire?
A: No. I remember I was in Cote d'Ivoire at the beginning of the war
in October, November 2002 and the people you met at this time they
were absolutely surprised about what happened to them. For them it
was impossible that their successful and big country was at war.
And I think Felix Houphouet-Boigny, if you told him in 1991, "There
will be war in your country," I think he maybe would tell you, "Are
Cote d'Ivoire Presidential Election Marks Historic Milestone in
Nov. 2, 2010
[Excerpts from Executive Summary only. For full press release and
preliminary report, visit
Abidjan - The Oct. 31 presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire was
conducted in a calm environment with a high-level of voter
participation. These elections marked a crucial step in Cote
d'Ivoire's peace process and gave voters the opportunity to elect
their next president in the country's first truly open contest.
The Ivoirian people have exercised their right to vote; they also
have the right to have their vote accurately recorded and
ultimately respected by all candidates.
The election process was initially marked by a number of planning
and operational challenges for the Independent Election Commission
(IEC), most notably as they related to the timely distribution of
voter cards, the delivery of essential election materials
throughout the country, poll worker training, and the effective
distribution of voter information regarding election day
The international community has strongly supported the Ivoirian
electoral process with a range of deep investments in the provision
of security, as well as diplomatic, financial, logistical, and
technical assistance. Presidential candidates and their
supporters, the IEC, and Ivoirian civil society organizations
cooperated at many levels in the face of a long-standing political
crisis in the effort to ensure a credible, transparent, and
peaceful election process.
The Carter Center has been present in Cote d'Ivoire since December
2007 and launched a formal election observation mission following
the an invitation from Prime Minister Guillaume Soro in October
2008. The Carter Center international election observation mission
was led by former President of Ghana John Kufuor and Dr. John
Stremlau, Carter Center vice president for peace programs. Ten
long-term observers were deployed throughout the country in
early-October to assess election preparations. For election day,
a total delegation of 50 observers from 23 countries to observe
voting and counting. Carter Center observers continue to assess
the conclusion of vote tabulation and will remain in Cote d'Ivoire
to observe the post-election environment. The mission is assessing
Cote d'Ivoire's electoral process against the Constitution and the
electoral law, commitments made in the Ouagadougou Peace Accords,
other agreements, and regional and international commitments.
The Center's observation mission is conducted in accordance with
the Declaration of Principles for International Election
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