For several decades after independence in 1960, Côte d'Ivoire became the most common destination for West African migrants due to perceptions of its wealth and stability. Many of them settled in urban areas, particularly the economic capital Abidjan. Extensive immigration led to some resentment and insecurity among the pre-existing population, however. Long-standing post-independence president Félix Houphouët-Boigny's administrations practised an informal quota system to maintain stability by ensuring an ethnic and regional balance in state institutions. Following his death in 1993, dominant political actors – predominantly southern Christians – developed the political concept of 'ivorité', giving precedence to what they described as 'native' as opposed to 'foreign' citizens. This discourse was used to disenfranchise 'northerners', the majority of them Muslim, for instance by calling their nationality – and thus their fitness to stand for elections – into question.

These issues culminated during the 2010 elections, when Laurent Gbagbo, a southerner, mobilized xenophobic sentiment against his northern opponent Alassane Ouattara. Ouattara, an Ivorian national whose mother was from Burkina Faso, had previously been barred as a 'foreigner' from running for office until the Constitution was revised following the country's 2002 civil war. Following Ouattara's victory, Gbagbo refused to concede and the country descended into armed conflict. Though Ouattara was ultimately able to secure power in 2011 after defeating Gbagbo militarily, the conflict served to further reinforce the country's divisions.

In September 2014, almost three years after its formation, the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CDVR) began public testimony regarding nearly a decade of political violence, including the 2010-11 conflict. Eighty people, including both victims and perpetrators, contributed testimony during three weeks of public hearings; however, the lack of television broadcasting and limited media coverage diminished their impact. In addition, the commission reportedly heard testimony from up to 65,000 people; however, dissatisfaction with its progress, capability and impact in promoting reconciliation remained. One issue affecting its credibility was the naming of a former prime minister – a political opponent of Gbagbo and former adviser to Ouattara – Charles Konan Banny, as its chair.

Meanwhile, some of those accused of human rights abuses against Ouattara supporters during the conflict faced trial. Laurent Gbagbo's trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is set to begin in July 2015. In March, the former leader of his 'Young Patriots' militia, Charles Blé Goudé, was sent before the ICC and he now faces four charges of crimes against humanity. The trial of Simone Gbagbo and another 82 of her husband's supporters opened in Abidjan in December, with the former first lady receiving a 20-year prison sentence in March 2015. Four years on from the conflict, however, no Ouattara partisans have been brought before the courts, despite domestic and international findings that both sides committed abuses. This imbalance continued to undermine national reconciliation and public trust in the justice system.

The failure of authorities to disarm and disband armed groups on both sides, and to rehabilitate and reintegrate former combatants, has contributed to many marginalized youth joining armed gangs. This has led to serious security concerns in areas of Abidjan. Though some have been integrated into the security forces, problems persist. In November, for instance, former combatants demonstrated to demand back pay and benefits that had been promised to them. Evidence that the underlying problems of ethnic tensions were still unresolved came in March 2014 when Gbagbo's party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), accused Ouattara's government of manipulating the country's census to bolster his support. These ethnic and political tensions may flare again in the run-up to presidential elections set for October 2015.

More than half (53 per cent) of Côte d'Ivoire's population now live in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to continue to rise for decades to come. The rise in urbanization has helped to fuel ethnic conflict, exacerbating tension and resentment between groups over access to resources, political influence and other issues. The impacts of this rapid growth have also been felt outside urban areas, with Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan reporting in October 2014 that more than three-quarters of the country's forests had disappeared in the last 50 years due to increasing urbanization and the spread of agriculture. This has heightened competition for land, particularly in western Côte d'Ivoire, exacerbating communal tensions between 'native' land-owners and those perceived by them as migrants or immigrants. Some of those displaced from the west during the post-electoral conflict of 2010-11, primarily Gbagbo supporters of Guéré ethnicity, have since returned home to find their houses and land occupied by Ouattara supporters – a situation that could lay the foundation for further conflict in future.

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