What's causing the conflict in Ivory Coast?
Members of pro-Ouattara forces pictured on March 29, 2011, in Duekoue, western Ivory Coast.
April 4th, 2011
02:58 PM ET

What's causing the conflict in Ivory Coast?

[Updated Tuesday, April 5, 2011]

From Christian Purefoy, CNN

The west African country of Ivory Coast - also known as Cote d'Ivoire - has been rocked by civil conflict as forces loyal to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara seek to oust incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo after a disputed presidential election last November. Most of the international community recognize Ouattara's victory and are urging Gbagbo to go.

What's the wider background to the unrest?

Ivory Coast, which won independence from France in 1960, is one of west Africa's leading powers and, historically, had been one of its success stories.

It's a young nation: 40% of its 21.5 million population are under the age of 14, while only 3% are older than 65.

During the late 1990s, Ivory Coast enjoyed an economic boom thanks to market liberalization and reform. Large numbers of economic immigrants flocked to the region to work in cash crop industries including coffee, palm oil, rubber and especially cocoa (Ivory Coast generates 40% of the world's cocoa crop.)

But when the bubble burst, civil war followed, with economic migrants among the victims.

The country was unofficially divided in two. The government-held south is centered around Abidjan, the biggest city and commercial hub. It's a strongly Christian region and home to many Gbagbo supporters, who have traditionally held positions of wealth and power in Ivory Coast. In contrast, Ouattara hails from the rebel-held north, which is dominated by Muslim immigrants who have become key businessmen and traders.

At the start of 2011 the United Nations peacekeeping force had an estimated 9,000 uniformed personnel stationed in Ivory Coast.

Is religion a key part of the conflict?

No. Muslims often live in the south of Ivory Coast while Christians also reside in the north.

The issue for many citizens is what constitutes an Ivorian - and this comes down to where someone lives rather than their religious beliefs. Gbagbo, for example, has made frequent play of Ouattara as being an outsider and unpatriotic.

Why was the election in November 2010 so important?

Gbagbo, who came to power in 2000 following a disputed vote, has repeatedly postponed democratic elections for the past decade.

A presidential election held on November 28 2010 declared Ouattara the winner - but Gbagbo alleged the vote had been rigged in the north. The United Nations said that while the election had suffered from vote rigging, the irregularities had not been enough to affect the result.

Since then the international community, including the United States, the European Union, the African Union and the regional body ECOWAS (the Economic Community Of West African States), have all recognized Ouattara's victory and urged Gbagbo to go.

A United Nations resolution last week imposed sanctions on the incumbent president, his wife and three associates, demanding he leave immediately. It also gave more power to peacekeepers to protect civilians.

So why won't President Gbagbo relinquish power?

Gbagbo and Ouattara have a long-standing rivalry. The incumbent president is also still bitter at the unofficial division of Ivory Coast nearly a decade ago.

To make a comparison: the government in nearby Sierra Leone suffered an upsurge in rebel attacks in 2000. A UK humanitarian mission to rescue foreign nationals soon resulted in the defeat of the rebels and allowed the government to stay in power. This did not happen in Ivory Coast - and instead the opposition has been able to flourish.

Why is the conflict coming to a climax now?

Economic sanctions imposed by the international community on Gbagbo have started to hit, making it hard for the incumbent president to pay salaries and buy resources to remain in power.

The defection of army chief Phillippe Mangou last week - he asked for asylum at the residence of the South African ambassador, the South African government said - has left Gbagbo severely weakened. Ouattara meanwhile continues to enjoy the support of the international community and appeals to government forces to join with the opposition.

What effect is the dispute having on the people of Ivory Coast and the region?

Last week the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire said that almost 500 people had been killed in fighting since mid-December - a number which has risen dramatically during the past few days.

Hamadoun Touré, the spokesman of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), said on March 31 in a statement that there had been the "settling of scores, summary executions, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests as well as pillaging on a grand scale, mainly in Daloa." Daola is a regional capital and cocoa trading hub on the road from Liberia.

In addition, the unrest has created large numbers of refugees: in March the U.N. said that there were between 200,000 and 300,000 people displaced in Abidjan alone. Nearly 85,000 refugees have arrived in Liberia, itself battered by conflict, since November, according to the Liberian government, the UNHCR and its partners.

The fear is that the conflict will only unsettle neighboring nations such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, which themselves have been torn by civil conflict and are only now starting to recover.

Why should the rest of the world care about Ivory Coast?

Aside from the humanitarian cost, Ivory Coast is one of the leading powers in western Africa. It represents a key test case for democracy in a region facing several elections this year. Voters in Nigeria head for the polls this month while in Liberia a general election is scheduled for the fall.

Africa's recent history has been plagued by post-election violence, most notably in Kenya – one of the continent's most stable democracies – where violence in 2007 left more than 1,000 dead.

Moni Basu and the CNN Wire contributed to this report.

Post by:
Topics: Africa • Ivory Coast

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. John Eneze

    While it is very important and in fact urgent to worry about the safety and wellbeing of the exposed ordinary citizens of Ivory coast, One cannot help but wonder at what exactly is wrong with African nations and leadership. I am African, but not very proud of this fact, why do our citizens need to be saved from being destroyed by the greed of our, yes, "leaders"? Why do need aid from other continents? Why is same stolen? How will Africa be led out of darkness...why are we the way we are?

    April 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Do you have a vocation? Think about it! Maybe you could help and shape the future of this continent, that has all reasons to have a bright future.

      April 5, 2011 at 5:21 am | Reply
    • asdf

      People who annoy you.


      No I'm sorry the answer was naggers.

      April 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Reply
      • pflatman

        asdf: Shouldn't you crawl back into that racist cave dwelling, cretin?

        April 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
      • Robert H

        Go f urself not cute you racist piece of crap

        April 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
      • Belky

        lol, what is that from? I know I saw a movie or a TV show with those lines in it! lol again!!!

        April 6, 2011 at 4:26 am |
      • Belky

        By the way, I don't think of myself as a racist person but I guess I must be just racist enough to find that funny, sorry but its funny....I remember it was a Wheel of Fortune joke anyway ! Nice!

        April 6, 2011 at 4:31 am |
    • J.P.

      You have a very naive way of looking these African turmoils, may be you should go back and read a little more before you come here before making such stupid statements. These same people that are going to Africa to help the so called population, they are the same one that are killing them with their bombs! Our love for oil and our foreign policies is what causing these problems. The way the Obama administration handled these up-rises proves it. First, these Libyan demonstrators were called protesters, now rebels, and we're now arming them to go overthrow a government that had been in place for 42 years. Com'on now who are you fooling... Yeah. you might argue that people didn't have civil rights and people are being killed. There are ways in which people go about asking for their rights. Taking guns to kill each other will not solve the problem, it will even make it worse. Gadhaffi was ready to talk and to make reforms in his country. But the way these rebels went about it was wrong and we are encouraging it. What happened to diplomacy that Obama advocated when he was running for president in 2008? We are not questioning our military might, we have best military in the world., but what we're doing to those people is just adding misery and suffering to other part of the world.

      I believe if there was an up-rise today in America and people took guns to go to Washington, the National Guards would have took care of them a long time. Our government to encourage such acts is just taking us back to back to the Bush era... We took care of Kadhaffi Air-Force, and anti-aircraft missiles, that was what purpose was given UN resolution was voted and now it should have been mission accomplished. It bugs to think that this is not enough! No more civilians are being bombed by Gadhaffi Air Force, the now is battle are against those rebels.
      No wonder people despise us now all over the world. If we are so worried about saving civilians lives, we should be sending our military in the Congo, as of today an estimated 8,000,000 people have lost their lives and we're not hearing about in the news. We only hearing now about Lybia and Ivory Coast because they have oil. The Ivorian president asked for a recount of the votes. If he believe there were irregularities, this man has the right to request a recount. Currently in there is a recount in Haiti for their presidential election, why can't we do the same thing in Ivory Coast. I think President Obama and Sarkozy should mind their own business, we have enough mess here for him to worry about.
      Let the Africans and their coalition take care of their own problem.

      April 5, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  2. Vidje

    The US has been misled by the French into a campaign against a US friendly president called Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Gbagbo has been portrayed in the international media as clinging to power when all he is doing is resist to a campaign of regime change spearheaded by the French president, Mr. Sarkozy in order to put Mr. Ouattara in power.

    Mr. Sarkozy's effort to remove Mr. Gbagbo started in 2002 with a failed coup which led to the partition of the country into a rebel led zone and a government controlled area. The UN was called in by Mr. Gbagbo to help disarm the rebels for elections to take place. The UN failed to follow suit even though UN peace keepers had the means to do so. Mr. Gbagbo was pressured by the international community after 10 years of negotiations under coalition governments including rebel leaders, to organize presidential elections last year. Rejection of claims of massive fraud, voter intimidation, murder,rape, etc. has resulted in the current situation in Ivory Coast with the French army and rebels now at open war with Ivorian militaries. In a city called Duekoue in western Ivory Coast, rebels have killed more than 800 civilians close to Mr. Gbagbo. There's an ethnic cleansing going on in cities controlled by Mr. Ouattara's rebels. They are killing non Muslim populations and Christians in particular. The US can stop this massive killing that is going on behalf of Mr. Ouattara.

    I have added some links, so you can have the untold version of this issue.

    Congressman Inhofe's take on the situation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T57CSvZF6BM&feature=player_embedded

    Mr. Lanny Davis' take: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE1s6CgcW94

    An article by the Guardian denouncing a massacre:

    Thank you, for helping the Ivorian people.

    April 5, 2011 at 12:04 am | Reply
    • Me

      @ Vidje
      What a ludicrous propaganda, FYI Sarkozy wasn't even in power in 2002, lol. Gbagbo is a wannabe dictator who has continually used xenophobia -and that tired anti-colonial card- and hordes of criminals to attack civilians and UN mandated soldiers. Stop being a tool for the FPI propagandists, or maybe you are one of them? Pitiful.

      April 5, 2011 at 4:56 am | Reply
  3. ty

    Its all about the oil reserves on shore and off thats it. France needs oil cannot risk threats by russia anymore

    April 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  4. jimminy

    so there it is in black and white – the muslims are slaughtering everyone else. –again.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  5. Chess


    Sarkozy was minister of the interior in 2002, so i dont understand why you would act like he was a nobody in France. "Ill just believe anything the media tells me and never question anything then accuse other people of propaganda when they have an opinion different than my own" thats you. And youre pretty much whats wrong with the world.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  6. jimminy

    "what's causing the conflict" is that muslim immigrants are being thugs – islam stinks.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  7. asdf

    Easy what is causing the conflict in Africa. African tribal culture. Its why the whole continent is a 4th world basket case. Skin color doesn't matter. Get the people out of the self destructive cultures and into western society and next thing you know a second generation Nigerian can be the US president.

    April 5, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  8. Julie Labrouste, Tacoma WA

    Greedy power-hungry people.

    April 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  9. artistchd

    “He must leave now so the conflict may end.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed against Afrcan President Gbagbo vs Ouattara. Butt Brother Barack: He is clearly another pitiful propped up, sycophant, contradictory-equivocating sellout white house colored boy, real living Negra, and funny looking little tree squirrel monkey man. Faithfully doing as he is ordered by his Vatican-Pope & Elitist Rulers dictate to him. Making this Melaninated brown skinned African American, “I’m Half black & half white” “Mutts like me”, is a sure terrorist threat to the dignity of sovereign nations worldwide. Smile ‘n lovin’ faith always with a healthy good sense of healing humor, yawls.

    April 5, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Reply
    • chuckrita

      I still have that feces spreader for sale. I can't imagine anyone who could use it more. It spreads far and wide. Great coverage.

      April 5, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  10. artistchd

    YES, wicked white western hand picked propped up presidents of Africa's Africoid racial groups. Interfering and meddling with the internal affairs of sovereign nations of Asia & African countries. Putting into places of political powers those who suck up to Whites. And these stupid-idiotic poor trash minded white "pale face" Americans, are still suffering from their present day Institutionalized Racism. Constantly in psychotic denials about how they are causing these bloody conflicts and deadly wars worldwide. Surely as their own bio-scientist says, these Eurocentric pale pink pigmented people are notoriously known historically as being psychopaths and sociopaths, "savage beast barbarians" of bad seed genotype traits of mutant RNA & DNA CODES!!!!

    April 5, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Reply
    • kelle

      Hey man I need what you've been smoking. am serious man, pleeeeaase...

      April 5, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  11. Name*


    July 10, 2012 at 1:51 am | Reply

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