Although the civil war of 2002 came to an end in 2004, Côte d’Ivoire has ever since been divided between north and south. The split is along religious and ethnic lines. The north is predominantly Muslim and populated by Senufo, Mandé (Malinké, Dan, Gouro, Dioula), and Lobi groups, while the south is majority Christian and populated by Akan (Baoulé, Agni, Abron), Laguné (Ébrié, Adioukrou, Abbé, Atié), and Krou (Krou, Bété, Guéré) groups.
After years of postponement, the presidential elections in October and November 2010 were the trigger leading to another eruption of violence. Incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo was defeated by the opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, who originates form the north. But Gbagbo refused to give up power and barricaded himself into the Presidential house. This resulted in bloody post-election violence in which at least 3,000 persons died. Atrocities were committed both by the Ivorian army loyal to Gbagbo and the Forces Nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire –later the Republican Forces– of Ouattara.
Laurent Gbagbo was captured in April 2010. The pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court authorized an investigation of the violence in Côte d’Ivoire on October 3, 2011. An arrest warrant for Laurent Gbagbo was issued a few weeks later. He is charged with crimes against humanity, in particular murder, rape and other sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts in the context of a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population within the meaning of article 7 of the Rome Statute (read arrest warrant). He has been extradited to the ICC in the Hague, where he awaits trial.
The prosecutor of the ICC is still investigating the role played by other members of the Gbagbo government as well as members of Ouattara’s government. Recently, the ICC has decided to extend investigations to include possible crimes against humanity committed back to 2002.
The crimes that took place in Côte d’Ivoire in the aftermath of the elections may be qualified as genocidal massacres, though they were not a full-scale genocide. The arrest warrant issued by the ICC explicitly mentions that the assaults were often directed at specific ethnic or religious communities – national groups were also targeted, namely migrants from West-African countries. Furthermore, the attacks were the result of an organizational policy of Laurent Gbagbo and his forces. The murders, rapes, persecutions and other inhuman acts were committed with the intent to partially destroy ethnical, religious and national groups.
The root causes of the eruption of violence in Cote d’Ivoire have not been resolved, in particular the deeply rooted polarization in Côte d’Ivoire. The establishment of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission represents a welcome but insufficient initiative.
Therefore, Côte d’Ivoire is rightly at stage 5, Polarization, of Genocide Watch’s stages of genocide as early warning signs point in the direction of potential genocidal massacres.
– Until today the government of Ouattara has not lived up its promise to investigate the massacres during the post-election violence. Genocide Watch demands that the government of Côte d’Ivoire investigate, prosecute and punish atrocities committed by both sides, including the Duékoué massacre (read more). The Republican Forces of Ouattara need to be vetted, and perpetrators punished.
– Former combatants should be disarmed.
– Genocide Watch calls upon the government of Côte d’Ivoire to emphasize and develop transcendent national institutions, in education, music, sports, security, and common celebrations of both Muslim and Christian holidays at the community level.
– Above all, the ideology of Ivoirité with its false distinction between “native” and immigrated Ivoirians should be abolished.
Genocide Watch is the Coordinator of Alliance Against Genocide. Founded in 1999, the Alliance is made up of over 50 organizations from around the world and was the first coalition of organizations focused completely on preventing genocide.