The First Ivory Coast Civil War
French Soldiers on duty in Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast (Cote d Ivorie) Civil War (Sept. 19, 2002-2007)Rebel soldiers (who later called themselves the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast (MPCI) launched a coordinated, nation-wide attack on forces loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo. Loyalist forces held onto the capital city of Abidjan, but lost control of the northern cities ofBouake and Korhogo. Initial reports had former military dictator General Robert Guei as the leader of the coup.It was also reported that he perished in the fighting. Ivory Coast has seen ethnic and religious violence since 2000 between northern Muslims (such as Guei) and southern Christians (such as President Gbagbo). The government also claims that rebel reinforcement entered the country from a bordering nation, most likely Burkina Faso to the north.Tensions have increased between the two West African nations partly as a result of the status of millions of migrant Burkina Faso citizens living in Ivory Coast seeking jobs.A cease-fire began on Oct. 17, which held until the last week of November, as government forces launched a new offensive with recently acquired helicopters and what appeared to be a unit of English-speaking mercenaries.Also, a new rebel group appeared, seizing several towns along the western border with Liberia. This group, calling itself the Ivorian Popular Movement for the Greater West, clashed with French peacekeeping forces that were attempting to evacuate Europeans from the area. This Yacouba-based tribal group, which appears to include some Liberians, may be connected to one of the factions involved in the Liberian Civil War. A second western rebel group, called the Movement for Justice and Peace, appears loyal to the late General Guei.
From January 15 through January 26, 2003, the warring parties met at Linas-Marcoussis in France to to negotiate a an end to the war. The parties signed a compromise deal on January 26. President Gbagbo was to retain power and opponents were invited into a government of reconciliation and obtained control over the Ministries for Defense and of the Interior. Soldiers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and 4,000 French soldiers took up positions separating the warring sides. The parties agreed to work together on modifying national identity, eligibility for citizenship, and land tenure laws which many observers see as among the root causes of the conflict. The civil war was declared over as of July 4, 2003 when the government and New Forces militaries signed an “End of the War” declaration, recognized President Gbagbo’s authority, and vowed to work for the implementation of the LMA and a program of Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR).
Despite the written agreement, true reconciliation did not take place, and in November, 2004, President Gbagbo ordered airstrikes against the rebel-held north and hit the city of Bouaké.. These airstrikes also hit (supposedly by accident, though that is questionalble) French forces who were in the country to enforce the peace on November 6. In this attack, an Ivorian Sukhoi Su-25 bombed a French base in Bouaké, killing nine French soldiers and an American aid worker while injuring 31 others. French forces then responoded with an overland attack on Yamassoukro Airport, destroying two Su-25s and three attack helicopters on the ground, while two government military helicopters were shot down over Abidjan. One hour after the attack on the camp, the French Army established control of Abidjan Airport. France flew in reinforcements and sent three jets to Gabon on standby.
Pro-government demonstators , rallied by the pro-government media, rioted and plundered properties owned by French nationals. Several hundred Westerners, mainly French citizens, took refuge on the roofs of their buildings to escape the mob, and were then evacuated by French Army helicopters. France sent in f 600 troops as reinforcements from their base in Gabon and from France itself while foreign civilians were evacuated from Abidjan airport on French and Spanish military airplanes. An unknown number of rioters were killed after French troops opened fire on the mobs.
Ivory Coast Map
After the French-Ivorian clashes in 2004, the two opposing Ivorian sides settled into a stalemate, whicn proved conducive to negotiations, and on March 4, 2007, a peace agreement was signed between the government and the rebel New Forces in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. New Forces leader Guillaume Soro was then appointed Prime Minister and assumed that office in early April, 2007. On April 16, in the presence of Gbagbo and Soro, the U.N. buffer zone between the two sides began to be dismantled, and government and New Forces soldiers paraded together for the first time. Gbagbo declared that the war was over.Scattered violence broke out on occassion, including an assassination attempt on Soro, but the agreement held until a resumption of the civil war in 2011 after a disputed election.
Ivory Coast Civil War Sources and Links:
First Ivorian Civil War–Wikipedia Article
Background Note: Cote d’Ivoire–U.S. State Department
A ‘Civil War’ that is French and Neo-Colonial–International Viewpoint
French troops in Ivory Coast battle–BBC News, Dec. 21, 2002