State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Côte d'Ivoire
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||22 December 2005|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Côte d'Ivoire, 22 December 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48abdd693e.html [accessed 14 March 2014]|
The country has been divided between north and south – between rebels and the national-army since conflict broke out in September 2002 with rebel New Forces largely made up of Northern Mandé (Dioulas) and Senoufos, representatives of the two major ethnic groups in the north, accusing successive southern Baoulé-dominated governments of discriminating against northern Muslims and those of foreign origin. The rebels quickly took the Muslim north but French troops prevented them reaching the main city, Abidjan. A power-sharing 'government of unity', outlined in a January 2003 peace agreement brokered by France, never lived up to its name. In March 2004, in protest at the killing of 120 people during a banned opposition march in Abidjan, the New Forces and Alassane Ouattara's Rally of the Republicans, which draws its support from the mainly Muslim north of Côte d'Ivoire, withdrew from government. A UN report said the security forces had singled out suspected opposition supporters – Muslims and foreigners – to be killed.
In July 2004 a new peace agreement was reached and the boycotters rejoined the government. Under this deal, new laws making it easier for those of foreign origin to get Ivorian citizenship and run for the presidency were to be introduced by the end of September 2004 with disarmament to follow two weeks later. The laws were eventually passed, but the rebels said they had been watered down so much it made no difference, and so they refused to disarm. In November 2004 the army bombed the rebel stronghold of Bouake and also killed nine French peacekeepers. The French retaliated by destroying the Ivorian air force, sparking anti-French riots in Abidjan fomented by the state media, which backed the president.
There are 6,000 French troops and 4,000 UN troops in the country maintaining a 1,200 km long buffer zone between the two sides. A peace deal leading to elections was signed in Pretoria in April 2005, following which some rebel ministers took up their seats again in a power-sharing government. President Laurent Gbagbo agreed to overrule the Constitution, which requires presidential candidates to have two Ivorian parents, and let Mr Ouattara contest elections. This has long been a key rebel demand and a spokesman for Mr Ouattara's RDR party said it 'opens the way for peace'.
However, a lack of cooperation has delayed preparations for the election, which was to have been held in October 2005 and UN Secretary-General Ko. Annan confirmed on 8 September that presidential elections would not take place on 30 October as originally planned. Both the rebels and opposition parties have rejected the poll, saying it could not be free and fair at that time. New Forces rebels are unhappy with legal reforms on identification, nationality and electoral laws. Numerous militias who support President Gbagbo are still to be dismantled. The rebels and the opposition want a transition government to be formed without President Gbagbo before elections can be held.