Côte d'Ivoire

Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination concludes review of reports of Côte d'Ivoire

News and Press Release
Originally published
62nd session
13 March 2003
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded this morning its consideration of the fifth to fourteenth periodic reports of Cote d'Ivoire, hearing a Government delegation contend, among other things, that the current armed crisis in the country was a political power struggle and not an ethnic conflict.

Responding to questions raised by the Committee's Experts, many put yesterday afternoon, the 15-member Ivoirian delegation also said that with a high number of foreigners living in the country, Cote d'Ivoire could and did not show xenophobic attitudes. The Government had never expelled foreigners, the delegation said; instead it offered them all the rights enjoyed by nationals.

The delegation also announced that a new Government had been created yesterday in which representatives of all parties to the conflict were participating.

Committee Expert Mohamed Aly Thiam, who served as rapporteur for the reports of Cote d'Ivoire, said he appreciated the delegation's efforts to provide extensive answers to the questions raised. He noted that the Government had ratified a number of the human rights conventions of the United Nations, and also had ratififed conventions of the International Labour Office (ILO). In addition, the Government had created a number of national institutions to promote and protect human rights, he said, which demonstrated its willingness to give effect to international human rights standards.

Mr. Thiam recommended that Cote d'Ivoire seek advisory services and technical cooperation from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to improve its performance in the protection and promotion of human rights.

Other Committee Experts taking part in the morning's debate were Agha Shahi, Nourredine Amir, Alexandre Sicilianos, Regis de Gouttes and Ion Diaconu.

The Committee will release its formal, written concludions and recommendations on the reports of Cote d'Ivoire towards the end of its three-week session, which concludes on 21 March.

As one of the 167 States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Cote d'Ivoire must submit periodic reports to the Committee on national anti-discrimination efforts. The Ivoirian delegation presented its reports Wednesday afternoon, and then fielded a series of questions from Committee Experts.

Also this morning, the Committee briefly discussed its method of work.

When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m., it will begin review of the fifth periodic report of Slovenia (CERD/C/398/Add.1).

Responses of Cote d'Ivoire

Responding to the numerous questions raised by the Committee's Experts Wednesday afternoon, members of the Government delegation said among other things that the current crisis in Cote d'Ivoire was a political one -- a power struggle. It was not an ethnic conflict. None of the reasons invoked by the rebels had been retained in the resulting Marcoussis accord as factors leading to war.

With a heavy presence of foreigners in the country, Cote d'Ivoire could not be and was not xenophobic, the delegation said. The Government had never expelled foreigners; instead they were afforded all the rights enjoyed by nationals.

Despite its hospitality in hosting more than 4 million foreigners, Cote d'Ivoire had been accused of xenophobic attitudes and of excluding part of its population, the delegation said. This accusation had been relayed by the powerful international media. But among those 4 million foreigners, only an estimated half a million, affected by the current crisis, had left the country. Cote d'Ivoire nevertheless would remain a land of fraternity and a mosaic of tribes, religions and cultures harmoniously cohabiting.

The cultural concept of "Ivoirianness" did not exist either in the Constitution or in citizenship law, the delegation said. All the participants in the Marcoussis discussions had admitted that the current crisis did not involve the concept of "Ivoirianness".

The law on residence of foreigners which entered into force in May 1990 defined the status of a foreigner, the delegation said. "Any foreigner aged over 16 years should, if he or she lived in the country, or three months after the expiration of the residence permit if the foreigner was living in the country, should hold a residence permit", according to article 6 of the said law.

The delegation said the law of August 1998 relating to the identification of persons and the residence of foreigners in the country would correct previous legislation by taking into account the entire population living on Ivoirian territory. The law also envisaged putting in place an operational structure and effectively establishing identity documents. Another objective of the law was to carry out a viable census to determine the specific needs of the population in terms of health, education and investment.

The disparity in education noted by the Committee could be explained by the fact that the southern part of the country had had early contacts with Europeans and had benefited from Western education, the delegation said. Some of the population in the north was reluctant to send children, particularly girls, to modern schools. A number of non-governmental organizations had been carrying out literacy campaigns.

It was wrong to assume that Cote d'Ivoire was divided into Muslim and Christian sections, the delegation said. The northern part was populated by two linguistic groups: the Malinke, mainly Muslims, and the Senoufo, the majority being animists or Christians. The other regions were inhabited by people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Referring to a massacre at Yopougon, the delegation said only ten of the victims had been identified. The inquiry carried out by the State had enabled the indictment of 8 gendarmes, who had been released. According to a commitment made by the Head of State during a forum on national reconciliation, a new inquiry would take place and the results of the investigation would be made public.

On the issue of citizenship, the delegation said Cote d'Ivoire had chosen the principle of jus sanguinis, in addition to a process of naturalization, adoption and marriage which would enable foreigners to acquire Ivoirian nationality. A foreigner who acquired Ivoirian nationality could participate in municipal and regional elections only after five years. Presidential and legislative elections were reserved for citizens of Ivoirian origin as stipulated by the Constitution of August 2000. In the course of the latest elections, 12 out of 19 presidential candidates had been eliminated. One candidate had been disqualified due to doubt about his nationality.

The delegation said the Ivoirian press was free in expressing its opinions, and the Government generally took no action against it. However, in application of articles 4 and 5 of the International Convention, the authors of articles propounding racial hatred would be prosecuted. The press had been instrumental in disseminating opinions not compatible with certain articles of the Convention.

The international community should bring to an end foreign interference in the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, the delegation said. Massive circulation in arms had been taking place in western Africa. Many countries had been victims of foreign interference, as was the case with Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola and the Congo.

MOHAMED ALY THIAM, the Committee Expert who served as country rapporteur for the reports of Cote d'Ivoire, said he appreciated the delegation's effort to provide the information the Committee had requested and in answering the questions raised during consideration of the country's reports. The presence of a big delegation of 15 members and the Government's renewal of dialogue with the Committee were positive developments. The role played by Cote d'Ivoire in the preparation of and its participation in the Durban World Conference against Racism also was laudable and worth mentioning.

Mr. Thiam noted that Cote d'Ivoire had ratified a number of human rights conventions of the United Nations, along with International Labour Office (ILO) Conventions. The Government also had created a number of national institutions with a view to promoting and protecting human rights, and that demonstrated its willingness to give effect to the provisions of international conventions on human rights. And the Government had been carrying out efforts at national reconciliation in order to bring peace to the country.

Mr. Thiam recommended that Cote d'Ivoire seek advisory services and technical cooperation from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to improve its performance in the protection and promotion of human rights.