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State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Côte d'Ivoire

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 6 July 2011
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Côte d'Ivoire, 6 July 2011, available at: [accessed 1 June 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.

Côte d'Ivoire has over 60 ethnic groups, whose linguistic and cultural identities and interrelationships are complex. The five main cultural clusters are: the dominant Akan-speakers, who make up 42 per cent of the population; Northern Manding (Mandé); Voltaic peoples; Krou; and Southern Manding (Mandé). The Baoulé, an Akan sub-group, are the largest single ethnic group, comprising about 15-20 per cent of the total population.

Long-delayed presidential elections were held in Côte d'Ivoire, the first in a decade. The previous contest, in 2000, was followed by widespread violence. In 2002 a group of army officers attempted a military coup. They failed to overthrow then President Laurent Gbagbo but did take control of the country's largely Muslim north, arguing that northerners had been treated as second-class citizens by a largely southern government. A ceasefire in 2003 followed by political accords in 2007 eased tensions between the regions, but they remained effectively partitioned.

Xenophobic election campaign language heightened tensions between north and south. Gbagbo and his 'Young Patriot' supporters questioned the nationality of his main opponent, northerner Alassane Ouattara, playing on the perception among some of the public of northerners as descendants of economic migrants drawn to Côte d'Ivoire by its relative affluence over past decades.

Calls by Gbagbo's supporters for 'foreigners' – largely those with Muslim names – to be barred from the electoral roll were met by protests. The 10,000-strong UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), in the country since 2004, reported that 13 demonstrators and bystanders were killed by security forces in February following Gbagbo's decision to dissolve the government and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The first round of the presidential elections, in October, went off peacefully, with an estimated turnout of over 80 per cent. The run-off between Gbagbo and Ouattara was held on 28 November. The UN Special Representative said that it had taken place in a democratic climate, and other international observers agreed. The IEC declared Ouattara the winner with over 54 per cent of the vote. However, Gbagbo appealed to the Constitutional Council, which overturned the IEC findings and declared him the victor. The UN, the AU, the ECOWAS, the European Union (EU) and individual governments recognized Ouattara's victory; but Gbagbo, with the backing of the army, refused to step down.

This refusal was followed by violence, including 'disappearances', extra-judicial killings, unlawful use of force and other violations. Most were attributed to security forces and militias loyal to Gbagbo. Francis Deng, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, and Edward Luck, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the responsibility to protect, expressed concern at indications that some leaders were 'inciting violence between different elements of the population so as to serve their political purposes'. By the end of December, the UN reported that 173 people had been killed in the violence, which was showing little signs of abating. UNHCR reported that over 15,000 people, including supporters of both camps, had fled to Liberia from western Côte d'Ivoire out of fear of political violence; others had arrived in Guinea.

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