Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
Main languages: French (official), Dioula, Baoulé, others – a total of 60 native dialects are spoken
Main religions: Muslim (42.9 per cent), Catholic (17.2 per cent), Evangelical (11.8 per cent), Methodist (1.7 per cent), other Christian (3.2 per cent), animist (3.6 per cent), other religion (0.5 per cent), none (19.1 per cent)
[note: the majority of foreign migrant workers are Muslim (72.7 per cent) and Christian (17.7 per cent) – 2014 est.]
Main minorities and indigenous peoples: Voltaique/Gur 16.1 per cent, Northern Mandé 14.5 per cent, Kru 8.5 per cent, Southern Mandé 6.9 per cent, non-Ivoirian between 25 to over 40 per cent (2014 est.). Also Dan (Yacouba), Guro, Gagu. A small proportion of the population is non-African, which includes French, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Spanish, US and Canadian residents.
The country has over sixty ethnic groups, whose linguistic and cultural identities and interrelationships are diverse and complex. The five main cultural clusters are: the dominant Akan-speakers, who make up 28.8 per cent of the population, mainly in the centre, east and south-east; Northern Manding (Mandé), mainly in the north-west; Voltaic peoples, including Senoufou in the north and Lobi in the central region; Krou in the south-west; and Southern Manding (Mandé) in the west.
The Baoulé, an Akan subgroup, are the largest single ethnic group, constituting about 15 – 20 per cent of the population.
Another Akan subgroup is the Ebrié (Kyama), an extremely complex grouping of people along the south-east coast, particularly around the Ebrié Lagoon and Abidjan. Numbering about 76,000, they have largely shifted from traditional occupations to cash crop farming. Lagoon people have attracted many migrant labourers to their farms, especially Mossi from Burkina Faso. Baoulé and Dioula have also moved in and assumed political and economic prominence to the concern of the original inhabitants. Ebrié originally came further inland around 1750. Ebrié never organized into central states; their most inclusive political unit has been the village. Age grades are an important part of social cohesion. Ebrié occupy the area around Abidjan, Bingerville and Dabou and were the indigenous people of the site of the city of Abidjan. Although numerically overwhelmed by immigrants, they have managed to preserve their identity and some aspects of traditional culture which was oriented towards the waters of the sea and the lagoons. They are however becoming increasingly being converted to Christianity and integrated into the wider economy and society.
A large number of Agni live in the far south-east of Côte d’Ivoire. They are part of the Akan group and related to another Akan sub-group, the Nzima who also live in Ghana. The Agni developed a small semi-autonomous society called Sanwi that was grouped under a paramount chief. The Sanwi polity evolved into the Sanwi kingdom which evoked strong loyalties and ethnic pride. The continuing importance of the kingdom was demonstrated in 1959 and 1969, when Sanwi attempted to secede from Côte d’Ivoire in the hope of demonstrating Agni autonomy from Baoulé domination.
Dan (Yacouba) are an ethnic group classified as peripheral Mandé, sharing the cultural patterns but not the language of the Krou. Dan live in the extreme west of Côte d’Ivoire and into Liberia. Self-awareness as a distinct culture emerged only as recently as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Dan were pushed into their present mountainous and forest location by Manding expansion. At a high altitude they cultivate rice and trade kola nuts for dried fish from the Niger River through Dioula traders. Dan resisted Islam even though living on its southern frontier. Armed resistance against colonial rule was put down in 1905-1908. Young men traditionally migrate to the coast to work on ships and in ports.
Gagu people of south-central Côte d’Ivoire are thought to be the oldest residents of the country. Gagu practise hunting and gathering as a supplement to agriculture and use bark as a material for clothing and bedding. They assimilated into Kweni (Guro) culture, and the first language of most Gagu is Guro. Together the groups number around half a million.
Kweni – often known by the Baoulé term Guro – are of Manding origin and are located between Bété to the west and Baoulé to the east in west-central Côte d’Ivoire. They entered the forest under pressure from Malinké migration; however, their movement east was halted by Baoulé. The last Kweni resistance to French colonial rule was in 1907. Over 50 territorial groupings formerly had an economic and military function, but intermarriage has brought cultural assimilation with Bété, Gagu and others. Kweni have no hereditary chiefs. They had no sense of communal identity before the French colonial era. Traditionally they grew plantain, manioc, yam and taro and more recently have moved into coffee, cocoa and cotton production. The migration of Kweni to work on southern palm oil plantations has disrupted marriage and family stability.
Because of the Sahelian drought in the 1970s large numbers of nomads and cattle herders began to move south with their herds into Côte d’Ivoire. Although welcomed by the government because of their contribution to beef production, they soon came into conflict with Senoufou farmers of the northern region whose fields were damaged by their herds.
Lebanese in Côte d’Ivoire are one of the largest Lebanese communities outside Lebanon, though their exact numbers are unknown, with estimates ranging from tens of thousands to as high as 300,000. Concentrated in distribution and retail sales, Lebanese occupy a marginal social position. They supported the PDCI at independence and maintain close ties to whichever regime is in power. With the liberalization of economic policies in the late 1980s Lebanese firms have become dominant over European concerns in the import and distribution of consumer goods.
Between 25 and over 40 per cent of the population consists of migrants from elsewhere in Africa; the largest number of these come from Burkina Faso, while others are from Mali, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Benin, Liberia, Senegal and Mauritania. The population is roughly divided equally among practitioners of Christianity, Islam and traditional beliefs. Many adherents of Christianity and Islam combine these beliefs with traditional beliefs. Most Muslims live in the north and most Christians in the south.
Updated January 2018.
Côte d’Ivoire has over 60 ethnic groups, with diverse histories and identities. Past decades have also seen a significant inflow of immigrants from neighbouring countries, many of them Muslims, drawn by the country’s relative affluence. Today an estimated 35 per cent of the population are Muslim, based largely in the north of the country, while another 35 to 40 per cent are Christian and mostly reside in the south. The remainder of the population hold traditional beliefs. Ethnicity and religion have become increasingly intertwined in the country’s political discourse due to the emergence, beginning in the mid-1990s, of the xenophobic concept of ‘Ivoirité’ – an ideology that gives precedence to ‘native’ over perceived ‘foreign’ citizens. In practice, to its adherents ‘foreigners’ have come to include not only immigrants but anyone from the predominantly Muslim ethnic Northern Mandé or Senoufo minority groups.
This discourse has contributed greatly in recent years to a damaging polarization of the country along geographic, religious and ethnic lines. October 2015 saw the first polls since 2010, when the refusal of then-incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo – a southern proponent of ‘Ivoirité’ – to recognize northern Muslim Alassane Ouattara’s victory led to five months of political violence, at times waged along ethnic and religious lines. The conflict led to an estimated 3,000 deaths and widespread sexual assault before Gbagbo was eventually forced out. January 2016 saw the opening of his trial, with that of his associate Charles Blé Goudé, before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity. In a shock verdict, the ICC acquitted both men in January 2019. In a media interview in June 2019, Blé Goudé declared his political ambitions and desire to one day be President himself. Official investigations into crimes committed during 2010-11 are ongoing, but there are concerns that victims will never receive justice, particularly following Ouattara’s announcement in August 2018 of an amnesty for crimes carried out during this time.
The run-up to the October 2015 elections saw some clashes between government and opposition supporters, many of whom reportedly felt marginalized by the naming of northerners to many key posts and the failure of judicial prosecutions for crimes committed during the 2010–11 conflict to extend to supporters of the government as well as its opponents. The elections, largely peaceful and declared free and fair by observers, were nevertheless won in the first round by incumbent Ouattara. Reminders of the fragility of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire came in 2017 with several short mutinies by troops. The mutinies were largely about pay and conditions. While the grievances were not directly related to the issue of marginalisation that had driven the recent conflict, the majority of the mutineers were rebels who had been integrated into the armed forces – highlighting the challenge for any country that has experienced fighting to move forward.
In western Côte d’Ivoire, inter-communal tensions over land between ‘native’ landowners and those they perceive to be migrants or immigrants continued during the year. Some 300,000 people remain internally displaced, following the violence of 2010–11; some of them, mainly Gbagbo supporters of Guéré ethnicity, have found themselves dispossessed upon their return, as their land has been occupied by Ouattara supporters. Political manipulation of the divisions mentioned above between those who are ‘native’ to the region and those who are not have linked competition for resources with questions of identity. Conflict over land, like politics, is being drawn along cultural and religious lines. The UN has worked with local leaders to support traditional dispute resolution mechanisms. In addition to customary law, there is a statutory law applicable to rural land disputes, but observers have expressed concerns that it is complex and difficult to implement. In July 2015, the government issued a draft land policy meant to simplify application of the law and announced plans for public consultation on this important topic. Tensions around land have led some residents to occupy protected government forests, contributing to deforestation.
More than half of Côte d’Ivoire’s population now live in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to continue to rise for decades to come. The rise in urbanization has helped to fuel ethnic conflict, exacerbating tension and resentment between groups over access to resources, political influence and other issues. The impacts of this rapid growth have also been felt outside urban areas, with some estimates suggesting that more than three-quarters of the country’s forests had disappeared in the last 50 years due to increasing urbanization and the spread of agriculture. This has heightened competition for land, particularly in western Côte d’Ivoire, exacerbating communal tensions between ‘native’ land-owners and those perceived by them as migrants or immigrants. Some of those displaced from the west during the post-electoral conflict of 2010–11, primarily Gbagbo supporters of Guéré ethnicity, have since returned home to find their houses and land occupied by Ouattara supporters – a situation that could lay the foundation for further conflict in future.
Given how polarising and stigmatising the issue of identity has long been, significant steps have been taken by the Côte d’Ivoire government to reduce the number of stateless non-Ivoirians of African origin. Between 2011 and 2013, some 140,000 residents received documentation confirming their citizenship. And in a highly publicised event, over 8,000 people received their citizenship papers in one go in March 2013. In August 2013, the parliament passed legislation easing the way to acquire Ivoirian nationality. One law paves the way for non-nationals to acquire citizenship through marriage, and the other allows for persons resident since before independence to become citizens – as well as their descendants. Foreign nationals born in the country before 1973 also became eligible.
A further important symbolic step was taken in 2015 when Côte d’Ivoire hosted a ministerial conference of ECOWAS which issued the Abidjan Declaration on reducing statelessness in the region. By the first anniversary of the Declaration, a further 6,400 people had received their citizenship papers and another 6,000 people had got received birth certificates – a significant step towards confirming their nationality.
In November 2016, President Alassane Ouattara signed into law a new Constitution after having won overwhelming support for it in a national referendum. The previous Constitution had required that both parents of presidential candidates had to be Ivoirian – a provision that had been at the heart of turmoil and conflict for two decades or more. The new Constitution now only requires that one parent be Ivoirian. Critics questioned the process leading up to the referendum, which opposition parties boycotted. Problems persist for certain groups, such as nomadic Fula, many of whom are not recognized as citizens of Cote D’Ivoire even if they were born in the country.
Updated June 2019
Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is located in West Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea, which forms its southern frontier. It is bordered by Ghana to the east, Burkina Faso to the north-east, Mali to the north-west, and Guinea and Liberia to the west. The south is densely forested, giving way to savanna plains in the north. The only notable hills are in the north-west. The country is renowned for its agricultural production, especially of cacao and coffee.
Although the early history of Côte d’Ivoire is largely unrecorded, it is thought that the Gagu people were among its earliest inhabitants. Other groups, fleeing pressure from such kingdoms to the west as Mali and Asante, arrived only much later and absorbed many indigenous populations into their cultures. Mandé peoples, who claim lineage from the founders of the 12th century Mali Empire, moved into southern Côte d’Ivoire in the 16th to 18th centuries. The Baoulé and Agni – both sub-groups of the Akan – arrived only in the 1700s, and settled in the central region of today’s Côte d’Ivoire. Their arrival pushed Krou peoples to the south and west.
Portuguese explorers arrived in the 15th century, but the inhospitable coastline and dense forest discouraged extensive contacts, and would also deter extensive slave-trading. French missionaries arrived in 1637, but it was not until 1843-1844 that France established its first formal protectorate in the area. The area of French control expanded, and Côte d’Ivoire was declared a French colony in 1893. Local peoples continued to resist French rule. The Malinké in the north under the leadership of Samory Touré fought the French until his capture in 1898. Other groups including the Baoulé, Dan, Bété and Dida also resisted French control, and armed resistance continued until 1915. France eventually forced local groups to relent by destroying crops and homes in a brutal campaign of ‘pacification’.
France began production of such cash crops as millet, cocoa and coffee, making broad use of forced labour, from Côte d’Ivoire and Upper Volta (today’s Burkina Faso) to the north. During World War II, Nazi-allied Vichy France expanded the use of forced labour. In 1943 the French resistance movement under Charles de Gaulle captured control over all of French West Africa and was grateful for African support against the Vichy regime. In 1946, all French West Africans were granted French citizenship. Then in 1956 Côte d’Ivoire was granted substantial self-rule, expanding to full autonomy within the French Community in 1958. On 7 August 1960, Côte d’Ivoire gained total independence.
Veteran Baoulé politician Felix Houphouët-Boigny easily won election as Côte d’Ivoire’s first President in 1960. He virtually suspended public politics in Côte d’Ivoire and subjected what remained to his stern and unrelenting control. His autocratic rule would continue until his death in 1993. Until 1990, the only legal political party was Houphouët-Boigny’s Parti Democratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), dominated by the Akan ethnic group, in particular by Baoulé from the south. Akan comprise two-fifths of the population yet made up over half of the country’s political leaders, with northern groups in particular facing exclusion. Beyond political repression, Houphouët-Boigny was able to hold on to power through relative economic prosperity fuelled by agricultural exports and the support of France and other western countries. The agricultural economy attracted many workers from Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Guinea and other African countries; many of them settled. Economic downturn in the 1980s forced Houphouët-Boigny to introduce austerity measures and increased competition for employment.
Upon Houphouët-Boigny’s death in 1993, the President of the National Assembly, Henri Konan Bédié – another Baoulé – outmanouevered Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara to become President of Côte d’Ivoire. Ouattara resigned as Prime Minister in December 1993 and went on to form a rival party, the Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR). In 1994 Bédié became the President of the PDCI. Bédié resisted pressure for democratic reforms and his regime gained a reputation for widespread corruption, but he retained the political backing of France. He won a fraudulent election in 1995, after pushing legislation through the National Assembly that led the disqualification of any candidate whose parents were not born in the country, and who had not lived in Côte d’Ivoire for the preceding five years. This conveniently removed chief rival Alassane Ouattara from the race.
During the 1995 campaign, Bédié coined the term ‘Ivoirité‘ to denote genuine belonging to Côte d’Ivoire and consciously cast doubt on the citizenship of many northerners who descended from parents of neighbouring countries, or – increasingly – whose names simply sounded ‘foreign’ even if their families had been in Côte d’Ivoire for generations. In practice, this often came to mean anyone from the predominantly Muslim ethnic Mandé or Senoufo groups. In short, the xenophobic concept of ‘Ivoirité‘ dangerously polarized the country along north-south, Muslim-Christian, and inter-ethnic lines.
In 1999 General Robert Guéï (of the Yacouba minority, a sub-group of the Mandé) seized power in a bloodless military coup – Côte d’Ivoire’s first. He promoted his predecessor’s xenophobic notion of ‘Ivoirité‘, enshrining it in a new Constitution. Ahead of October 2000 elections, he not only disqualified RDR leader Alassan Ouattara again, but also the candidate of the PDCI. His lone opponent was Laurent Gbagbo, (of the Bété minority, a sub-group of the Krou – concentrated in the south-west), the leader of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI). When election returns showed that Gbagbo was ahead in the count, Guéï disbanded the election commission and claimed victory. Gbagbo’s supporters took to the streets and Guéï fled the country. Alassane Ouattara called for new elections, but Laurent Gbagbo refused and embraced the concept of ‘Ivoirité‘. Gbagbo’s supporters, backed by the southern-dominated military, turned on northerners, killing scores of them. Within days, Ouattara called for peace and recognized Gbagbo as president but the north-south divide had deepened.
Tensions continued and northern army units mutinied in September 2002. Robert Guéï, who had returned to the country, was killed at the outset in unclear circumstances and amid government claims of his involvement. The rebellious northern soldiers called themselves the Mouvement Patriotique de Côte d’Ivoire (MPCI), which fought loyalist, southern forces, resulting in thousands of deaths. The MPCI established its headquarters in the northern town of Bouaké and established control over the northern half of the country. French forces already in Côte d’Ivoire monitored a cease-fire agreed in October 2002. The following month, two rebel forces emerged in the west, south of the cease-fire line: the Yacouba-based Mouvement Populaire Ivoirien du Grand Ouest (MPIGO) and the much smaller Mouvement pour la Justice et la Paix (MJP). MPIGO was backed by Liberian President Charles Taylor in retaliation for Gbagbo’s support of anti-Taylor rebels in Liberia. Taylor lieutenants directly led operations that included Liberian and Sierra Leonean fighters in support of MPIGO attacks in western Côte d’Ivoire. Together with the MJP, MPIGO called for Gbagbo’s ouster and vowed to avenge the death of Robert Guéï.
In January 2003, western rebels clashed with French forces and 1,500 peacekeepers from several countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) joined 2,500 French forces in patrolling the buffer zone between the government-controlled south and MPCI-controlled north. That same month, France brokered the Linas-Marcoussis Accord between the government and rebels.
The agreement foresaw a government of national unity, including members of the New Forces, and a process to clarify citizenship and the land rights of immigrants and their descendants. President Gbagbo appointed Seydou Diarra, a Muslim northerner who had served as prime minister under Guéï, as the consensus prime minister, and agreed to rebel appointments to the defence and interior ministries. However, on the same day, Gbagbo issued instructions to radical youth groups affiliated with his FPI party to launch violent anti-French protests. Violence and intimidation in the south, including the commercial capital Abidjan, led 8,000 French nationals to flee the country.
In February 2003, the MPCI, MPIGO and MJP rebel organizations merged to become the Forces Nouvelles (New Forces), under the leadership of Guillaume Soro – a Senoufou from the far north, and a Catholic. Reflecting the make-up of its largest component, the MPCI, the New Forces largely consisted of Muslims who were ethnic Dioulas (northern Mandé) and Senoufous (a Voltaic people).
Prime Minister Diarra’s unity government met for the first time in April 2003, after arrival of a vanguard from the new UN peacekeeping mission, UNOCI, whose mandate included protection of government ministers from the New Forces. In July 2003, Gbagbo and the New Forces declared the war over and agreed to establishment of a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme.
Yet periodic violence continued, worsening in 2004. In March 2004, as more UN peacekeepers deployed, Gbagbo’s government launched a violent crackdown on street protests in Abidjan, killing over 120 of the peaceful protestors, some through summary execution. A new peace agreement in July 2004 set deadlines for implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Accord, but this too soon broke down. In November 2004, the Ivoirian air force bombed rebel positions, also killing nine French soldiers. In retaliation, France destroyed all of Côte d’Ivoire’s small fleet of jet fighters. Anti-French riots, spurred by state media and President Gbagbo’s party, led to another exodus of French and other western nationals, and the UN imposed an arms embargo on Côte d’Ivoire.
Apart from this spike of violence in November 2004, an international buffer of 7,000 UN peacekeepers and 4,000 French troops has been successful in preventing the resumption of large-scale clashes. Following the failure of the January 2003 and July 2004 peace agreements, the two sides signed a new compact in April 2005, brokered in South Africa by the African Union. The agreement aimed to address northern concerns about identification, nationality and electoral laws, lead to the demobilization of militant groups linked to President Gbagbo, and provide for a transitional power-sharing government until October 2005 elections. Gbagbo agreed to let northerner Alassane Ouattara contest those elections, despite the constitutional provision banning candidates whose parents were not both Ivoirian.
With lagging implementation, and tension still palpable, in October 2005 the UN Security Council approved an extension of the provisional government until October 2006, albeit under an internationally appointed Prime Minister alongside President Gbagbo. Charles Konan Banny, a stalwart of the PDCI opposition party of former President Houphouët-Boigny, was selected by African Union mediators to replace Seydou Diarra as head of the fractious government. The news was met with renewed violent protests in Abidjan by Gbagbo’s supporters in January 2006.
More violence erupted during the 2010 elections. Calls by Gbagbo’s supporters for ‘foreigners’ – largely those with Muslim names – to be barred from the electoral roll were met by protests. The 10,000-strong UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), in the country since 2004, reported that 13 demonstrators and bystanders were killed by security forces in February following Gbagbo’s decision to dissolve the government and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The first round of the presidential elections, in October, went off peacefully, with an estimated turnout of over 80 per cent. The run-off between Gbagbo and Ouattara was held on 28 November. The UN Special Representative said that it had taken place in a democratic climate, and other international observers agreed.
The IEC declared Ouattara the winner with over 54 per cent of the vote. However, Gbagbo appealed to the Constitutional Council, which overturned the IEC findings and declared him the victor. The UN, the AU, the ECOWAS, the European Union (EU) and individual governments recognized Ouattara’s victory; but Gbagbo, with the backing of the army, refused to step down. This refusal was followed by violence, including ‘disappearances’, extra-judicial killings, unlawful use of force and other violations. Most were attributed to security forces and militias loyal to Gbagbo. Francis Deng, then UN Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, and Edward Luck, then UN Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the responsibility to protect, expressed concern at indications that some leaders were ‘inciting violence between different elements of the population so as to serve their political purposes’. By the end of December, the UN reported that 173 people had been killed in the violence, which was showing little signs of abating. UNHCR reported that over 15,000 people, including supporters of both camps, had fled to Liberia from western Côte d’Ivoire out of fear of political violence; others had arrived in Guinea.
Despite 2011’s return to constitutional order, Côte d’Ivoire remained unstable in the face of a wave of attacks generally attributed to supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo. Following his refusal to concede defeat at the polls, his supporters were accused of widespread human rights violations against those of his opponent Alassane Ouattara. By the time of Gbagbo’s departure in 2011, serious violations based on perceived ethnicity or political affiliation had been attributed to both sides. In 2012 security was unstable, with internal as well as cross-border attacks from Liberia and Ghana. From August that year, police and security forces were increasingly targeted by Gbagbo supporters. In response they cracked down on Gbagbo supporters and those from his ethnic group, reportedly committing violations such as arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture. By the end of the year, Gbagbo and his wife Simone faced charges before the International Criminal Court (ICC), and scores of their supporters had been brought before domestic courts on charges of committing abuses against Ouattara loyalists during the conflict. No judicial proceedings had been instigated against Ouattara supporters, either then or subsequently.
Under Côte d’Ivoire’s Constitution, the President is elected by popular vote to five-year terms. The President appoints the Prime Minister and his commander of the armed forces. Members of the 225-seat unicameral National Assembly are likewise elected to five-year terms. A number of these constitutional provisions have not been observed in practice.
For several decades after independence in 1960, Côte d’Ivoire became the most common destination for West African migrants due to perceptions of its wealth and stability. Many of them settled in urban areas, particularly the economic capital Abidjan. Extensive immigration led to some resentment and insecurity among the pre-existing population, however. Long-standing post-independence President Félix Houphouët-Boigny’s administrations practised an informal quota system to maintain stability by ensuring an ethnic and regional balance in state institutions. Following his death in 1993, dominant political actors – predominantly southern Christians – developed the political concept of ‘Ivoirité’, giving precedence to what they described as ‘native’ as opposed to ‘foreign’ citizens. This discourse was used to disenfranchise ‘northerners’, the majority of them Muslim, for instance by calling their nationality – and thus their fitness to stand for elections – into question.
These issues culminated during the 2010 elections, when Laurent Gbagbo, a southerner, mobilized xenophobic sentiment against his northern opponent Alassane Ouattara. Ouattara, an Ivoirian national whose mother was from Burkina Faso, had previously been barred as a ‘foreigner’ from running for office until the Constitution was revised following the country’s 2002 civil war. Following Ouattara’s victory, Gbagbo refused to concede and the country descended into armed conflict. Though Ouattara was ultimately able to secure power in 2011 after defeating Gbagbo militarily, the conflict served to further reinforce the country’s divisions. In September 2014, almost three years after its formation, the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CDVR) began public testimony regarding nearly a decade of political violence, including the 2010–11 conflict. One issue affecting its credibility was the naming of a former Prime Minister – a political opponent of Gbagbo and former adviser to Ouattara – Charles Konan Banny, as its chair. While some of those accused of human rights abuses against Ouattara supporters during the conflict have faced trial, prosecutions have not extended to include any Ouattara supporters guilty of abuses against Gbagbo supporters.
Whereas Côte d’Ivoire’s lucrative cocoa, coffee and other agricultural exports once fuelled the most affluent society in West Africa, rampant corruption now diverts many of the proceeds to government, military and rebel leaders – providing all with an incentive to continue the wartime economy.
Updated January 2018.
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