The Ivorian Civil War

For the final paper, I will ask you to choose an on-going or a recently resolved international conflict anywhere in the world to discuss as a case study. Provide a chronology/ background of the conflict and then try to explain it using the ideas you learned in class. What are the possible causes? If it ended, how did it end, if it is ongoing, what can help end it? You can combine theories/ refer to several ones to explain the conflict. You can also choose to analyze a terrorist organization whose actions spilled over to different states (i.e. an international terrorist organization).

Problems are not ethnic but transitional

The Ivorian Civil War

On Sept 19, 2002, civil war broke out in the Ivory Coast, a conflict whose violence still continues to this day. Even though most of the fighting ended by late 2004, the conflict is most certainly still ongoing. The Ivory Coast itself remains split into two regions, North and South; with the government in control in the southern region and the Ivorian rebels controlling the north. To help to quell the situation, French President Jacques Chirac sent troops into the Cote d'Ivoire(Ivory Coast); however the problem hostility only increased. Even in 2006, the war was still continuing and showing little signs of slowing down or becoming more peaceful. Consequently, the United Nations began the Operation in Cote D'Ivoire to slow down the war, but peace keepers are having trouble with the situation, partly due to the fact that they are easily outnumbered by rebels. However, in March of 2007, a peace agreement was signed- the consequences of which could be the holding of elections and countrywide reunification.

The reasoning for the cause of the civil war is multifaceted, however some of the causes are more salient that others. Firstly, as former President Felix Houphouet-Boigny stepped down, the country was forced to deal with the idea of democratic and competitive open elections for the first time since he had taken power 33 years earlier. Due to the fact that these open elections were new to the Ivorians, the 1995 election made clear a number of voting issues that would effect the electoral outcome. It is important to note that many of the Ivorians who wanted to vote in the elections were either foreigners of of recent foreign descent; 26% of the Ivory Coast's population is of foreign descent, many of whom were from the country's northern neighbor Burkina Faso. Many of these foreigners, though, have been Ivorian Citizens for multiple generations, and some are Mandinka's, or natives to the northern region of the Ivory Coast.

While under the leadership of President Houphouet-Boigny, the ethnic tensions that had been present between groups seemed to be nonexistent, at least at the time. However, Ivoirity, which used to be a an all-inclusive term for all citizens of the Ivory coast who share a common cultural identity, came to represent an extremely xenophobic attitude that would represent the southeastern region of the country. In addition to internal discrimination of natives, an increase in similar discrimination of Burkinabe(people with a heritage of Burkina-Faso) almost lead to a massive migration of Burkinabe refugees to neighboring countries.

Due to a slowing global economy, trade between the third world and more developed countries decreased, hurting the less developed countries in a major way. Not only was the Ivory Coast in economic turmoil, these issues only exacerbated the underlying political and cultural issues that were coming about. As the citizens located in the city moved towards more rural areas to find work, they found that the industry they were hoping to find work in had already been taken advantage of by the immigrant population. Once again, this cycle of lost jobs and ethnic struggle seems to be self perpetuating; as it has been seen time and time again throughout history that when citizen's cannot find work that they will find a scapegoat for which to blame their unemployment.

In this situations, the scapegoat in which the citizens tried to find refuge was against the many African immigrants that had made up roughly 26% of the Ivory Coast's population. What former President Houphouet-Boigny had done to try and avoid an ethnic conflict was to grant nationality to these immigrants; a decision many had criticized as being a move to foster political support by these groups. However, in 1995, the violence finally erupted during racial riots on plantations. This violence was not completely new, though; for years it seemed that the farmers on the eastern side of the country were resentful that immigrant farmers on the Western side of the country were more prosperous. In turn, the immigrants were not allowed the voting rights that many other groups were given.

As the elections of 2000 were just about to come about, the government changed the requirements for presidential candidates. The new rules states that both of the candidates parents must be born within the Ivory Coast. This new provision had excluded the northern presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara from the race; whom had represented the Muslim north. Finally, on Sept 19, 2002, many troops(especially those with northern heritage) mutinies and launched attacks on many Ivorian cities, but mainly Abidjan. By the late afternoon they had been able to gain control of the north of the country. The claim that the militia had made was in reference to citizenry, representational and voting rights, as well as their views on the newly reformed laws on presidential candidacy.

These occurrences and the North's subsequent complaints show that this is not necessarily a war based in tribal issue, but rather a crisis that evolved as the country transitioned from a dictatorship to democracy. The issue has more to do with the fact that there is unequal political representation(voting rights) as well as a lack of open elections; both of these ideals should be present in a democratic regime; however, because this regime was still transitioning the chances of political unrest were high. As we have studied in classes, the countries with the highest chances of political unrest are in transitioning authoritarian regimes and weakened democracies.

As the concflict continued, the actors involved became more apparent; there were the official government forces, including the army(FANCI), who were known as loyalists; the nationalists groups who sided with President Laurent Gbago, winner of the 2000 elections; Gbago recruited mercenaries from Belarus and Liberia. On the militia side was the "New Forces, or the northern rebels, who had control over 60% of the Ivory Coast. Also involved in the conflict was the French Military Forces, and other United Nations sanctioned military forces. In addition, both sides involved in the conflict seemed to believe that France was supporting the opposing side; with both denouncing any accusations that the other had made to the contrary.

Due to the fact that many of the rebels were soldiers at the time of the coup, they were extremely well armed from the start. For this reason, French forces placed themselves in a position where they could block the rebel attacks on the south. As the French troops were trying to stop the northern attacks, the French military went into the Northern cities to bring out expatriates from many nations. France claimed that this was done in order to protect French nationals and other human lives.

In October of the same year, 2001, a ceasefire was signed and negotiations had started; but only a month later 2 more rebel movements took action: the Movement of the Ivory Coast of the Great West(MPIGO) and the Movement for Justice and Peace(MJP). Both of these groups took control of the towns of Man and Danane, both of which are located in the Western region. Despite high tensions the levels of violence remained relatively low for almost a year. Then in September of 2002, both sides launched attacks on many major cities; however the government forces had been able to maintain control of Abidjan and the South. The rebel forces were able to completely take the north in turn. In response to this, President Gbago and France had come to difference conclusions: Gbago believed that the destabilization was caused by military deserters and thusly called for military repression of the rebels; the goal of France, though, was reconciliation.

As a result, on January 26, both parties signed a compromising agreement, known as the Kleber Agreements. In this agreements, President Gbago was to retain his power; however, his opponents were allowed to join the reconciled government. Consequently, the parties agreed to make changes to many laws, including eligibility for citizenship, land tenure laws, and national identity. Then on July 4, 2003, the rebels and government signed a declaration ending the war and recognizing all the changes that were vowed to be made. Unfortunately, this Declaration was not carried out in a timely fashion; additionally, many of the issues that were discussed in the Declaration were never reexamined as promised. Once again, in 2004, violence started up again- the government was not following through with its promises and the New Forces(name of the rebel army) was refusing to disarm because FANCI didn't seem as if they were going to stop the violence either- as seen in their large arms purchases at the time.

Then, on November 4th, the Ivorian Military attempted an air attack on Bouake, the rebel base city. Fortunately for the New Forces, the attack accidentally bombed a French military base, promting a quick reponse by the French forces; resulting in a counterattack by the French on Ivorian bases and consequentially estavblished contol over the airport of Abidjan. Only a few days later, Ivorian government officials went on record in the International Court of Justice stating that it did not take responsbility for the accidental bombardment of French forces. They then went on to claim issue with the French destruction of the Ivory Coast's Air Force and the loss of Ivorian lives. Concordantly, the UN security council imposed an arms embargo on both the New Forces and Ivorian Government. Then again in 2005 an agreement wss reached: declaring the immediate end of hostilities and war in the Ivory Coast. Shorthly thereafter the New Forces apponted a new Prime Minister, Guillaume Soro, and the buffer zone that UN had enforced had begun dismantling. As this occurred, President Gbago made the declaration that the war was finally over.

As the 2008 elections were coming up Gbago and Soro signed another agreement to hold elections before the end of June. For this reason, Gbago took a visit to ehte country's north for the first time since the war had started. In addition, the disarmament process had began to take hold, with troops withdrawing from the front lines and weapons being burned in ceremony. Soro had gone on to state that it was this pont that "effectively, concretely marks the beginning of disarmament.

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