Cote d’Ivoire was slowly returning to peace and normality in the second half of 2011 following eight years of simmering civil war.
According to UNHCR, more than 300,000 people were still internally displaced at the end of July 2011 as a result of the fighting which erupted after disputed presidential elections in 2010.
A further 200,000 Ivorians had fled abroad as refugees – mainly to Liberia and Ghana.
In March 2011, rebel forces which controlled the northern half of Cote d’Ivoire, swept south and overthrew former president Laurent Gbagbo.
They attacked after Gbagbo refused to step aside and allow Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised victor of presidential elections in 2010, to succeed him as head of state.
Fighting ended with the surrender of Gbagbo on April 11. He was put under house arrest in the northern city of Korhogo.
Gbagbo’s defeat paved the way for national reunification.
Ouattara and his cabinet took over the reins of government and began the difficult task of welding the country back together.
But restoring law and order and public confidence has proved difficult.
The armed forces which brought Ouattara to power included thousands of poorly trained rebels and volunteer fighters. These soon gained a reputation for indiscipline, racketeering and corruption, especially in Abidjan.
Ouattara faced the difficult task of integrating these forces with the national army and the police forces that had helped to keep Gbagbo in power for a decade.
At the same time, the new president had to bring to heel powerful warlords in the north. During the civil war, many rebel commanders had become independentminded figures in their own command zones, behaving pretty much as they liked.
The security situation remained particularly tense in the western regions of Moyen Cavally and Dix-huit Montagnes near the Liberian border.
This area had been troubled for the past decade by ethnic and political violence, the activities of mercenaries from other West African countries and general lawlessness.
Cote d’Ivoire was once the most affluent and developed country in West Africa, with