Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Côte d'Ivoire

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Côte d'Ivoire, 19 April 2012, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Quick facts
Number of IDPsAt least 247,000
Percentage of total populationAt least 1.2%
Start of current displacement situation2002
Peak number of IDPs (Year)1,100,000 (2003)
New displacementUp to 1,000,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index170

Violence following the disputed presidential election of late 2010 caused major new displacement in 2011 in Côte d'Ivoire. Violent clashes followed the second round of voting in November 2010 after both candidates, Alassane Ouattara and incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, claimed victory. The elections were supposed to conclude the long-drawn-out peace process following the armed conflict that broke out in 2002.

There were no consolidated estimates on the number of people internally displaced by either conflict at the end of 2011. Estimates of the number still displaced following the post-election violence ranged between 186,000 and 247,000. Meanwhile, it was not clear how many of the million or more people displaced by the earlier conflict or by localised communal conflicts over the last decade had found a durable solution.

Following the second round of the election, both candidates claimed victory after the provisional results showed a victory for Ouattara. Fighting between the two camps was reported in the west of the country and in the largest city Abidjan until April, when Gbagbo was captured and arrested and Ouattara took office. Most members of the newly formed Forces Républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI) fighting in support of Ouattara had been in the former New Forces (Forces Nouvelles) armed opposition. At the height of the crisis in March, UNHCR reported that up to a million people were thought to be displaced, including over 700,000 within or from Abidjan, and 150,000 in the west of the country. More than 200,000 people fled to neighbouring countries.

By the end of 2011, security had largely improved. In the west, however, criminal activities as well as the cross-border movement of armed groups and inter-communal clashes continued, while clashes were ongoing in Abidjan between FRCI factions and between them and pro-Gbagbo groups. In September, a truth and reconciliation commission following the model of South Africa's was sworn in in an effort to forge national unity.

Most of the IDPs found refuge with family and friends; at the end of the year, there had been no survey of their number but international humanitarian agencies estimated that some 170,000 remained in this situation. More information was available on IDPs who had gathered in public or privately owned sites including churches and schools. In October, some 16,000 IDPs were still living in such sites in the west and in Abidjan. Those on private property were under increasing pressure to leave as the owners tried to reclaim it, but they could not return to their homes as they feared reprisal attacks.

Both sides reportedly committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Pro-Gbagbo forces were reportedly responsible for killings and massacres of civilians in the west as well as indiscriminate shelling and ethnically-motivated killings and rapes in Abidjan. In July, the UN reported 26 extrajudicial executions and 85 cases of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention in just one month, most committed by supporters of Ouattara, while eight mass graves were uncovered. Sexual violence was perpetrated by both sides on the basis of victims' political or ethnic identity, sometimes publicly or in front of family members. There was also a sharp rise in the recruitment of children into militia groups. In the west, militias and self-defence groups threatened the lives of people including IDPs who had fled to supposedly safer locations, while armed robberies and racketeering were also common.

Following the arrest of Gbagbo, most people displaced since the election reportedly returned without assistance to their places of origin or habitual residence. However, intercommunity tensions and land disputes continued in areas of return and also caused further displacements. Land disputes, between Ivorians considered native to communities in western regions and migrants originating from other regions or from other West African countries were among the triggers of Côte d'Ivoire's conflicts, with "natives" contesting migrants' right to land. In 2011 as in previous years, many IDPs returned to find the plots they had planted either sold or leased by others.

The Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs and Solidarity was charged with ensuring the coordination of the humanitarian response. The national committee it set up in October was at the end of 2011 reviewing a strategic plan drafted by the international community to facilitate the return of those IDPs who were still in sites.

The cluster system for humanitarian coordination was reactivated in January 2011, after international agencies had shifted their focus towards development activities in 2010. Ten clusters were activated including a protection cluster which included child protection, gender-based violence and social cohesion sub-clusters. Initially, continued fighting stopped humanitarian agencies reaching the populations in need; as the security improved, access increased but lack of funding increasingly limited the response, especially in the west.

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