Populations at Risk
Previously Studied Situations
Populations in western Côte d'Ivoire are at serious risk of mass atrocity crimes due to renewed ethnic violence and impunity for crimes perpetrated by armed groups.
BACKGROUND: During November 2010–April 2011, following the country's presidential election, security forces and militias loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo attacked civilians perceived to be supporters of current President Alassane Ouattara on the basis of their ethnic affiliation. An estimated 3,000 people were killed in the post-electoral violence while Gbagbo refused to relinquish the Presidency.
While most atrocities were committed by pro-Gbagbo government forces, Ouattara supporters also committed massacres of perceived ethnic and political enemies. Côte d'Ivoire's Commission of Inquiry documented mass atrocity crimes committed by more than 545 Ouattara supporters and 1,009 Gbagbo supporters during the crisis.
While Gbagbo was handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 30 November 2011, most individuals who perpetrated mass atrocity crimes have not yet been held accountable. The UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) estimates that more than 60,000 former combatants still need to be disarmed.
Tensions over land and resources continue to provoke outbreaks of violence between rival ethnic and political groups. During mid-2012 ethnic groups and militias who are traditional supporters of Gbagbo and Ouattara engaged in a new wave of violence in western Côte d'Ivoire. Violence included attacks targeting villages along the border between Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Nahibly and security forces in Abidjan.
ANALYSIS: Côte d'Ivoire has a history of civil war during which atrocities were committed by all sides. The underlying ethnic and political tensions that exacerbated the outbreak of electoral violence in 2010-2011 remain, posing a risk to populations throughout Côte d'Ivoire. Although President Ouattara has taken steps to start a reconciliation process, the Commission on Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation lacks resources to complete its mandate and impunity for past crimes threatens the long-term stability of the country.
The recent cross-border and refugee camp attacks highlight the gravity of ethnic tensions in the western regions of Côte d'Ivoire where crimes have been perpetrated for more than a decade. Disputes over land rights and political affiliation are intrinsically linked to ethnic affiliation and renewed violence could potentially ignite a wider conflict in which mass atrocity crimes might recur.
The government of Côte d'Ivoire still requires international assistance to rebuild, end impunity and uphold its Responsibility to Protect.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: The UN Security Council (UNSC) has passed nine resolutions on Côte d'Ivoire since the crisis began in late 2010, with the key resolution being 1975 at the peak of the crisis in March 2011 when the Responsibility to Protect was invoked. UNOCI was originally authorized under Resolution 1528 (2004) with a protection of civilians mandate. Resolution 2045, which was passed on 26 April 2012 to extend the mandate of the Group of Experts on Côte d'Ivoire, expressed the UNSC's concern that UNOCI and the mission in Liberia (UNMIL) assist both governments in halting cross-border raids.
Gbagbo was indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity committed between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011. On 22 November the ICC also unsealed an arrest warrant for Simone Gbagbo, the former president's wife.
The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights visited the IDP camp in Nahibly during the end of November, urging the government to continue security sector reform and to quickly bring perpetrators of crimes to justice.
NECESSARY ACTION: In order to prevent the future commission of mass atrocity crimes it is essential for the government to break the culture of impunity and bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice, regardless of their previous position or current allegiances. The ICC should continue to investigate crimes perpetrated in Côte d'Ivoire and call upon all concerned parties to assist with this process.
With the assistance of UNOCI, the government of Côte d'Ivoire needs to create a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission with a special focus on the western and border regions of the country. The government of Côte d'Ivoire needs continued support for the implementation of its reconciliation process.
Last Updated: 15 December 2012