Tag Archives: Ouattara

 Ex-president’s backers in power struggle before Ivory Coast pollsABIDJAN | BY JOE BAVIER    


Pascal Affi N’Guessan, leader of Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), party of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, speaks after submitting documents to Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) president Youssouf Bakayoko to register his candidacy for the presidential election in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, August 20, 2015. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Two years ago, Pascal Affi N’Guessan was in jail after backing the losing side in Ivory Coast’s civil war. Now he is running for president, provoking a power struggle within the opposition whose outcome will help decide the country’s future stability.
While N’Guessan appears likely to lose in October, the fact that the former prime minister is even contesting the election for the main opposition Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) ought to mark a step towards national reconciliation.
But the party’s founder, former president Laurent Gbagbo, is awaiting trial in The Hague over his role in the 2011 war, and FPI hardliners have called for an election boycott, which would be the party’s third in the past four years.
Under the incumbent President Alassane Ouattara, Ivory Coast is emerging as one of Africa’s star economies, but it also needs a credible election and political calm to maintain the revival.
Support for the FPI remains relatively strong. Thousands of supporters, some waving signs reading “Affi President” and wearing pink and blue shirts emblazoned with his face, turned out last month to anoint N’Guessan as the FPI’s candidate.
“We cannot remain eternally absent from political competition or we risk disappearing,” the 62-year-old N’Guessan told Reuters. “If a party doesn’t participate in elections, it has no reason to exist,” he told Reuters.
Gbagbo’s refusal to stand aside after losing the last presidential election in 2010 led to the civil war, in which more than 3,000 people were killed. This ended after the victor, Ouattara, was installed in power with French support the following year.
The largest economy in French-speaking West Africa has grown by 9 percent annually for the past three years, helping to make Ouattara the runaway favourite for re-election.
Hotels are mushrooming to accommodate an influx of business travellers to the commercial capital, Abidjan, along with supermarkets, including France’s Carrefour, catering to the region’s largest middle class.
But political reconciliation has moved at a crawl. The FPI says hundreds of Gbagbo supporters remain political prisoners, while tens of thousands of people displaced by the war live as refugees in neighbouring countries.
N’Guessan’s Abidjan house still bears the scars of the conflict. Graffiti scrawled by pro-Ouattara soldiers remains in a dark back stairwell, and he returned home to find a 6-metre (20-foot) pit in the atrium which they had dug, looking for guns and money.
Nonetheless, N’Guessan has largely abandoned the rhetoric of the crisis for a more moderate tone, hoping to reposition his party. “I proposed and continue to follow the path towards reconciliation, because the country has already suffered too much,” he said.
A sizeable FPI faction led by former foreign minister Aboudramane Sangare is not so ready to leave the past behind.
“Just because there’s no more bombing and no more shooting every day, doesn’t mean the crisis is over,” said Boubacar Kone, a spokesman for Sangare’s faction, who still describes Ouattara’s election as a “coup d’etat”.
Due to the FPI boycotts, Ivory Coast’s parliament is dominated by Ouattara allies. Now the president needs peaceful and credible presidential elections contested by viable opponents to turn the page on the war, buttress his legitimacy and ease the minds of investors.
Hoping to foster reconciliation, the government released dozens of FPI prisoners – including N’Guessan in 2013 – as well as unfreezing their bank accounts and restoring their property.
Sangare’s faction says Ouattara favoured FPI moderates and accuse him of creating a toothless opposition that might lend the polls credibility but won’t mount a serious challenge.
Hardliners see N’Guessan as Ouattara’s straw man, pointing to the trial of 83 Gbagbo allies accused of crimes committed during the war. Sangare was handed a five-year prison sentence in March, though he remains free pending a detention order. N’Guessan got only 18 months and was credited with time served earlier, meaning he will not return to prison.
N’Guessan also won court decisions blocking attempts by the hardliners to strip him of the party presidency. Today, the two factions have rival leadership structures.
“Of course, he’s with (Ouattara),” Kone said, accusing N’Guessan of “working against the party”.
While analysts give N’Guessan little chance of winning the presidency, his party could gain a strong voice in the National Assembly in parliamentary elections next year.
Even in defeat, Gbagbo won 46 percent of the vote in the 2010 run-off against Ouattara. N’Guessan will look to mobilise those supporters, but the split complicates his task.
“Given the label of traitor that the Sangare faction has pinned on him, I’m wondering if that will not be a millstone around his neck,” said Lori-Anne Theroux-Benoni, head of the Institute for Security Studies’ West Africa office.
A well-supported boycott would be another setback for national reconciliation by excluding Gbagbo’s supporters from the political process. It could also embolden the hardliners in their withdrawal from the mainstream, a risky prospect given the country’s history of violence.
After the war, exiled Gbagbo allies in neighbouring Ghana were behind months of attacks in Abidjan and along the border that began in late 2012, according to a U.N. panel of experts.
N’Guessan believes the worst can be avoided and said some Sangare backers have begun to return to the fold. “Their place is here in the heart of the party. I am optimistic that before October we will all be back together and continue the struggle to serve our country,” he said.

Suspect in Ivory Coast massacre at Duekoue arrested


Ivory Coast: Duekoue massacre suspect Oueremi held

The authorities in Ivory Coast have arrested a militia leader suspected of a role in one of the worst massacres during 2011 post-election violence.

Human rights groups say Amade Oueremi’s fighters executed hundreds of supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo in the western town of Duekoue.

Mr Oueremi was detained in a village close to a national park, where he had been based for more than 20 years.

Some reports suggest the militia leader turned himself in.

It was not immediately clear if he had been been charged with a crime.

Human rights groups had criticised the new government’s failure to arrest Mr Oueremi, saying that it showed it was not pursuing justice against both sides in the conflict, BBC Africa editor Richard Hamilton reports.

In its September 2011 report on the post-election violence, Human Rights Watch said Mr Oueremi and his men “were identified by multiple witnesses as among the main perpetrators of the March 29 Duekoue massacre”.

Months afterwards UN peacekeepers collected arms from “nearly 90 members” of his group, it added.

Around 3,000 people were killed in Ivory Coast after Laurent Gbagbo refused to acknowledge that his rival, Alassane Ouattara, had won a presidential run-off.


Amade Oueremi’s militia backed Mr Ouattara in the conflict.

Mr Gbagbo is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court, accused of crimes against humanity.

‘Mystic powers’

A military commander, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the operation, told Reuters news agency Mr Oueremi had turned himself amid signs the military was preparing for an operation to remove him from the national park.

Denis Badouon, deputy mayor of Duekoue, said the militia leader had been taken into custody on Saturday morning in the village of Bagohouo, near Mount Peko.

According to a UN report from May 2011 Mr Oueremi began supporting anti-Gbagbo rebels as early as 2000 and his men had been hoarding weapons and ammunition since then.

The UN report noted that Mr Oueremi was widely believed to possess “mystical powers”.

In photos taken during the crisis, his shirts are pulled tightly over a collection of charms and pendants seen bulging underneath, believed to give him protection from enemy fire, Reuters notes. bbc

Ivory Coast still awash with weapons


Conflict and instability have littered Côte d’Ivoire with weapons

ABIDJAN, 16 April 2013 (IRIN) – Côte d’Ivoire’s recent turbulence – including the ouster of president Henri Konan Bédié in 1999, a long-running insurgency and deadly poll unrest in 2011 – has left the country awash in arms, which have contributed to human rights abuses, widespread crime and persistent insecurity.
Two years after coming to power in 2000, Laurent Gbagbo’s administration faced an army mutiny, which morphed into a full-scale rebellion. In response, the government underwent a “frenzied arms-acquisition programme”, Amnesty International said in a recent report.
Angola, China, Belarus, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Israel sold weapons to the Ivoirian government between 2002 and 2003, according to the report. A 2004 UN arms embargo did little to halt the flow of weapons into the country, according to Salvatore Sagues, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.
“Arms continued to be delivered to pro-Gbagbo forces during the 2011 post-election crisis,” Sagues told IRIN. “This shows that even a UN arms embargo is not enough to stop the illegal trade of weapons.”
Arms acquisition by the New Forces rebels, who controlled Côte d’Ivoire’s north between 2002 and 2009, is harder to trace, as most of their weapons are unregistered. Still, they are known to have used a range of Chinese, Polish and Russian assault rifles, Amnesty said.
It is unclear how many arms are in circulation in Côte d’Ivoire, said Désiré Adjoussou, the head of the National Commission to fight against the Proliferation and Illegal Circulation of Small Arms (ComNat).
“These weapons are held illegally. They are easy to disassemble, hide and transport around,” said Adjoussou.
Arms in the 2011 crisis
During the post-election conflict, in which some 3,000 people were killed, weapons were looted from police stations and army barracks, contributing to the wide circulation of arms in the country.
Since the crisis, the country has been rocked by several armed attacks, which President Alassane Ouattara’s administration blames on supporters of his election opponent, Gbagbo.
Military bases, police stations and other targets came under attack in late 2012, both in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and in other regions. Those attacks, purportedly by supporters of Gbagbo, led to a government crackdown and alleged human rights abuses.
Côte d’Ivoire’s western region also remains a tinderbox of ethnic-driven political rivalry and intractable land disputes. In March, at least 14 people were killed in raids near the Liberian border over the long-standing land and ethnic conflict.
“Many people are armed in the west of the country, especially the dangerous dozos,” said Sagues, referring to a group of traditional hunters who fought alongside Ouattara’s forces during the post-election crisis.
“They have traditional arms and AK-47 supplied by the authorities, and they use them to make arbitrary arrest or extort money,” said Sagues. In a February report, Amnesty International described the dozos as “a militia supported by the state.”
“There is a huge trafficking of arms and munitions in towns, villages … which goes on at times with the complicity of some security forces members,” said a recent ComNat report, referring to western Côte d’Ivoire.
The ComNat report said that “during the post-election crisis, everybody sought to protect him or herself and so everyone was armed. Weapons are now easily available, and acquiring one is simple.”
In Abidjan a firearm can be bought for between 30,000 and 50,000 CFA francs (US$60-100). In the country’s restive western region, an automatic pistol costs 10,000 francs ($20) and an AK-47 goes for 20,000 francs ($40), according to ComNat.
“There is a climate of fear that is pushing some people to withhold their weapons in case they would need to defend themselves,” Rinaldo Depagne, West Africa researcher for the International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN.
A former pro-Gbagbo fighter, who gave his name only as Noël, told IRIN that many ex-combatants are not yet ready to give up their arms because they are wary of the government, which has made several demands for general weapons surrender.
“They doubt [the government]. Their weapons are what reassure them, and they prefer to keep them close,” said Noël, explaining that he has buried his four firearms somewhere near his house in Abidjan.
“Many [of Gbagbo’s former fighters] say that if they show up to hand over their weapons, something may happen to them,” he added.
Disarmament efforts since the poll violence have so far borne few results. Some 2,800 people have surrendered weapons, around 1,900 different types of firearms and 1,850 grenades have been collected, said ComNat’s Adjoussou.
In a renewed push in 2012, the government formed the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Authority (ADDR), replacing six different disarmament bodies.
Some 64,500 ex-fighters are set to be disarmed, according to Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, but the head of opposition group Lider, Mamadou Koulibaly, puts the figure at around 100,000.
Duncan also recently announced that 30,000 ex-combatants will be demobilized this year, with the majority set to be integrated in the private sector and others hired in the customs department or as prison guards.
Adjoussou said that some people have turned to theft with their weapons to survive.
“Disarmament cannot work until unemployment is tackled,” he said. He also urged the lifting of the arms embargo to enable the government deal with the insecurity. “How can we ensure security of the people and property with bare hands?”
In a January report, Doudou Diene, a UN independent expert and human rights specialist, also argued that Côte d’Ivoire’s insecurity warranted the lifting of the arms embargo.
“The fact that the security situation is weakened by the rise of a culture of violence and by repeated attempts to destabilize state security is justification for lifting the embargo and providing technical reinforcement to state security agencies on an urgent basis,” he said in the report.
But ICG’s Depagne warned, “Côte d’Ivoire still has a weak arms control mechanism to regulate new imports of weapons.” irin

Ivory Coast: Mass grave exhumed in Abidjan


A man walks through a ransacked market in Abidjan April 14, 2011
The post-election violence caused widespread destruction

Ivory Coast’s government has started to exhume the mass graves of people killed in the violence that hit the country after the disputed 2010 election.

Justice Minister Gnenema Coulibaly observed a moment of silence as a grave on the grounds of a mosque in the main city, Abidjan, was dug up.

More than 3,000 people died after Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to current President Alassane Ouattara.

The conflict ended after French-backed forces captured him in April 2011.

Mr Gbagbo was handed over to the International Criminal Court. Judges are still to decide whether to put him on trial over the post-poll violence.

He insists he is innocent, saying he always stood for democracy.

‘Dangerous legacy’

President Ouattara’s expressed support for impartial justice rings hollow without more concrete action” Param-Preet SinghHuman Rights Watch official

The bodies exhumed were believed to be those four men aged 17 to 35 who were killed while defending the mosque against militants allied with Mr Gbagbo, reports the BBC’s Tamasin Ford from Abidjan.

The government intends to exhume 57 mass graves across the country, saying the recovery of bodies was a step towards achieving justice and reconciliation, she says.

But New York-based pressure group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the government has so far failed to charge any of Mr Ouattara’s supporters over the violence, fuelling concerns about “victor’s justice”.

More than 150 supporters of Mr Gbagbo have so far been charged over the conflict, it said in a report on Thursday.

“President Ouattara’s expressed support for impartial justice rings hollow without more concrete action to bring justice for victims of crimes committed by pro-government forces,” said HRW’s Param-Preet Singh.

If Ivory Coast “is going to break from its dangerous legacy in which people close to the government are beyond the reach of the law, it needs credible prosecutions of those responsible for crimes on both sides of the post-election conflict”, he said.

Ivory Coast’s military prosecutor Ange Kessi Kouame told BBC Focus on Africa that he carried out investigations impartially.

“I prosecute if you make a crime, and I don’t consider whether you are pro this camp or another,” he said. bbc

Ivory Coast – Gbagbo tells ICC he was defending Ivorian democracy


Gbagbo tells ICC he ‘fights for democracy’

Laurent Gbagbo at his pre-trial hearing in The Hague. Photo: 19 February 2013
Laurent Gbagbo spoke confidently in court

Ivory Coast’s ex-President Laurent Gbagbo has told the International Criminal Court that he has always “fought for democracy”.

The tribunal in The Hague is to decide whether he should face charges over post-poll violence two years ago.

Some 3,000 people were killed in violence after Mr Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in the polls.

The 67-year-old, who is the first former head of state to have appeared at the ICC, insists he is innocent.

‘Adoring supporters’

These were his first remarks in court since December 2011, reports said.

The BBC’s Anna Holligan reports from The Hague that Mr Gbagbo spoke for about 15 minutes, more as a confident politician than someone who faced serious charges.

His supporters were in the public gallery, and looked at him adoringly as he addressed the judges, she says.

Mr Gbagbo told the court that he was not the richest or most talented person, and had entered politics to give his life to democracy, our reporter adds.

“All my life, I fought for democracy,” he said, according to AFP.

He was Ivory Coast’s president from 2000 until his arrest in April 2011, after he refused to accept that he lost elections to President Alassane Ouattara.

Mr Gbagbo – whom Mr Ouattara’s government extradited to The Hague – accuses former colonial power France of plotting to topple him from power in the world’s biggest cocoa producer.

The ICC began operating in 2002 to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in countries that accept its jurisdiction, or when the UN Security Council refers a case to it.

Mr Gbagbo is the first former head of state to be detained by the ICC, although Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Liberia’s Charles Taylor were tried by special courts in The Hague.  bbc

Former Ivory Coast minister charged with war crimes

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast’s state television says former youth leader Charles Ble Goude has been charged with war crimes over his alleged role in violence linked to the West African country’s disputed presidential election two years ago.

RTI television said Monday that Ble Goude also faces charges of murder and theft of public funds. He was arrested in neighboring Ghana last week and extradited to Ivory Coast.

Ble Goude was a youth minister under President Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo’s refusal to cede office despite losing the 2010 presidential election vote to current President Alassane Ouattara sparked five months of violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives.

Human Rights Watch says the ultranationalist group that Ble Goude headed killed hundreds of Ivorians and West African immigrants during the conflict.  AP/yahoo

Ivory Coast – government returns to the north


(IRIN) – After almost a decade of rebel rule, northern Côte d’Ivoire is coming to terms with a new authority as the government of President Alassane Ouattara, who assumed power some 18 months ago, establishes its presence in a region which effectively split from the rest of the country.

Bouake – government office reopening

A 2002 armed insurrection partitioned Côte d’Ivoire into two, with the north under insurgent occupation and the south ruled by Laurent Gbagbo, who was ousted as president in April 2011 after a bloody poll dispute with Ouattara. A 2007 deal between the rebels and Gbagbo provided for the eventual unification of the country.

The return of the government to the Central-North-West (CNO) region that makes up 60 percent of Côte d’Ivoire’s territory is slowly reviving the education and health sectors, but residents complain of rising commodity and rent prices due to government levies, and say insecurity remains high, especially in the central city of Bouaké, the former rebel stronghold where some ex-fighters are still armed and are accused of committing crimes.

“There’s now an effective return to normalcy,” said Daouda Ouattara, administrator of the northern Korhogo District, noting that around 1,000 government workers are back on duty in the various district offices in Korhogo, home to some one million people.

In Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire’s second largest city, most government offices have reopened. Lassina Diomandé, the local member of parliament, told IRIN that there was a 95 percent government presence in the city. However, armed forces are still occupying a building meant to house the social security offices.

Private firms are also re-establishing in the north. Major local banks have reopened alongside smaller branches of international banks. Foreign oil companies are also making a come-back to set up filling stations in Bouaké and Korhogo, where many fuel sellers still operate small roadside stations.

Government and tax

For many residents of the north, the return of government is mainly associated with taxation. Under rebel rule, tax collection was rather random. Commodities were smuggled in from neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali and residents therefore paid no customs levies.

“We are setting up a public sensitization campaign. For almost 10 years people were used to living free from paying taxes,” said Ouattara, adding that a customs office is now operational.

Out of an 800-million CFA (US$1.6-million) tax revenue target for Korhogo District, the authorities have so far collected more than two billion francs ($4 million). “There’s good progress. We are able to work. Our aim now is to have people pay the taxes they were never used to paying,” a customs officer appointed to the region five months ago told IRIN.

On the streets of Korhogo and Bouaké, many motorbikes do not have registration plates. The authorities there have set low registration fees (compared to the rates in the commercial capital Abidjan), and an end of December 2012 vehicle registration deadline.

“Some people have kept their motorbikes at home because they don’t have the money to pay the duty,” said Korhogo resident Yaya Soro. “We are all trying to adapt to the new order, but it’s difficult to resume a trend we lost 10 years ago.”

Bouaké legislator Diomandé argued that the government’s presence was beneficial to the people. “People used to pay little, but for low quality products, especially sugar, cooking oil and fuel.”

House rents are reported to have tripled as those who fled the area to Abidjan return, and demand has also pushed up by the return of government workers.

Health and education improving

Some 476 volunteer teachers who took over after government teachers fled from the north during the conflict have been trained and absorbed by the Education Ministry, said Louis Vigneault-Dubois, a communications officer with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In Korhogo, 300 primary and secondary school teachers have been employed, including volunteer teachers to fill a shortage, and a university is also to be built in the region, said Ouattara, the local administrator. The university in Bouaké has been renovated to accommodate 21,000 students who resumed studies in November.

However, in some northern Côte d’Ivoire areas, school attendance is around 40 percent and the region has registered some of the poorest examination results in the past two years, according to officials.

Korhogo region has had one paediatrician, one cardiologist and one gynaecologist for years, said Ouattara. But since the government’s return, doctors have been employed and the University of Korhogo is to have a training hospital.

With the return of the administration’s regional offices, “people no longer have to make long trips to Yamoussoukro or Abidjan for official documents such as birth certificates,” said Diomandé. “It’s comforting.”

Nonetheless, many still decry the underdevelopment in the northern region compared to Abidjan where infrastructural development is advancing. A few roads have been renovated in Korhogo, according to residents.

A Bouaké resident who spoke to IRIN on condition of anonymity described the return of government as a “semblance of administration.”

“The judiciary is not functional yet. If I have problem and I want to lodge a complaint, there is no one to help me.”

“I don’t object to paying more taxes to the government, but I would like to see the outcome in infrastructure development. Here, nothing has been done,” said local restaurant owner Albertine Kouassi.  irin