Côte d'Ivoire

WARN Policy Brief: Côte d'Ivoire peace process

Originally published

In recognition of the role and achievements of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) in Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding in Africa, particularly in West Africa, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations at its substantive session of 2006 granted WANEP Special Consultative Status to the UN. WANEP is therefore mandated to designate official representatives to the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Vienna to further its advocacy and outreach strategies for peace and human security.


On December 19, 2006 President Laurent Gbagbo in his address to the Ivorian nation openly declared his intention to discuss directly with the leadership of the rebellion that controlled about 60 percent of the northern half of the country. This singular decision may have marked a turning point in the history of the close to five year crisis that has held the nation politically and socio-economically hostage. The new twist in the conflict was that yesterday's front line protagonists would sit and discuss peace on their own terms. Initial reaction was one of scepticism, pessimism and a sense of déjà vu. In January, during his New Year speech, Guillaume Soro, the Secretary General of the Forces Nouvelles (New Forces) inclined his message in the same vein when he called on the G7 opposition grouping to unite and prepare for a decisive move that would alter the face of peace in Cote d'Ivoire. Then came the announcement of direct peace talks between President Gbago's Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) party and Guillaume Soro's New Forces in Ouagadougou.

The reasons behind the new strategy, the timing of the talks, the venue and choice of facilitator and the subsequent outcome of the talks are all significant developments that make the Ouagadougou Peace Accord different from the previous peace arrangements. Is a new dawn for peace and stability in Cote d'Ivoire underway? This policy brief analyzes:

- The evolution of the peace process in the context of an evolved international environment (Kofi Annan's departure, Pierre Schori's exit, Jacques Chirac's retirement and election of President Nicolas Sarkozy) ;

- The 'magic' of 'Direct Peace Talks' and its unfolding outcome;

- Key challenges yet to be overcome and;

- Reasons why Cote d'Ivoire and the international community may have reason to hope.

Already concrete results are unfolding, initial scepticism is now giving way to cautious optimism and it is becoming clear that those who were yesterday considered as villains and spoilers (depending on which side one viewed the issue) have become the actors promoting the peace.


The West Africa Early Warning and Early Response Network (WARN) is an integral part of the West Africa Preventive Peacebuilding Program co-ordinated by the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP). Through its WARN Program, WANEP is setting the stage for a civil society-based early warning and response network in Africa with emphasis on human security.

WARN covers the entire Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region including Cameroon and Chad. Our focus was initially the Mano River Basin countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire. We have since expanded to cover the entire West Africa sub-region.

Since 2002, WANEP entered into an agreement with ECOWAS through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the framework of capacity building in Conflict Prevention. One of the goals of this agreement is to interface WARN with the ECOWAS Early Warning Systems to optimize early warning conflict prevention in West Africa. In view of this development, WANEP has been operating a liaison office located at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria since April 2003.


Why the option of 'Direct Dialogue'?

The signing of the Ouagadougou Peace Accord on March 4, 2007 marked a significant development in the evolution of the peace process in Cote d'Ivoire. In our previous briefings, we highlighted the need to refocus the process by exploring the role of other stakeholders, apart from the known primary stakeholders. We (rightly) suggested that Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso should reconcile at the highest political level to help in the building of comprehensive peace. It is important to underline the reasons why President Gbagbo opted for the direct talks. Many reasons may account for this including the following:

A counter to previous initiatives that placed Gbagbo at par with protagonists: Despite the pressure and realities of the conflict, President Gbagbo and his supporters have not been able to swallow the bitter pill of being treated on the same level with their protagonists of the armed rebellion and political opposition. The 'Direct Dialogue' was thus a move to initiate an indigenous or home-grown process and put a stop to the peace train that was piloted by an international community that was increasingly becoming suspicious in the eyes of the Gbagbo regime and its supporters.

Problematic sharing of Powers between President and Prime Minister: Resolution 1721 specifically stated that Prime Minister Banny be given powers to rule by decrees including powers to appoint and sack military officers. The resolution that had the strongest backing from France (a member of the Security Council and drafter of the resolution) even lost the clause of suspending the Ivorian constitution (Gbagbo's greatest anchor) only at the last minute. This was seen purely as a disguised coup d'etat that was aimed at forcing a frustrated Gbagbo to capitulate and resign. By successfully initiating the direct dialogue and bringing the former rebels and the international community to buy into it, President Gbagbo once more appropriated the command of leadership and hence credit for the peace process that Banny and the international would have ascribed to themselves.

Unmasking the masquerades?: By dealing directly with rebellion and making political concessions, rewards and guarantees, Gbagbo might have moved to strike a deal and dislodged what he referred to as "saloon opposition" leaders who were using the rebellion as surrogate and weapon for political manoeuvring. It was also suspected (in Gbagbo's camp) that some powers bent on regime change were using armed rebellion as their greatest bait.

Gbagbo's thinning margin of manoeuvre: President Gbagbo's margin of manoeuvre was already outstretched. Also seen in many circles as the key stumbling block to the process, it was clear that the UN was not going to prolong his mandate so Gbagbo needed a new reason to convince the international community to give him yet another chance. The deadline of October 2007 as last date for elections was made inconsequential as the Ouagadougou Accord made provision for a ten month transition(1).

Given the fact that previous peace accords (Marcoussis, Accra I-III, Pretoria I&II) with a plethora of UN resolutions and threats of sanctions did not break the deadlock and given the apparent fatigue and a favourable international context, the Ouagadougou Accord seems to show signs of breaking the jinx. However, given the past experience where hope raised was seriously dashed as a result of actions or inactions of political actors, there is reason to be cautious in appreciating the ongoing processes. Politicians still have their cards to play. A presidential decree has been signed redeploying administrators to the former rebel held territories. The leader of the 'Young Patriots' a pro Gbago militant group addressed a peace rally in Bouaké during which he rallied Ivoirians to make peace and enhance development. He stated that "If you know how to make war, you must know how to make peace"(2).

Contextual realities that facilitated 'direct dialogue'

Local factors: The local factors that militated in favour of an evolution from a no-war-no-peace situation include the increasing hardship and war fatigue and uncertainty as no side was able to defeat the other through military or political manoeuvrings. In addition was the increasing positive role of civil society organizations, religious bodies and the yearning for return to normalcy due to a crushing socio-economic impact of the crisis. Hard-line positions had taken the country no where and Guillaume Soro as well as the leadership of 'Young Patriots' and FPI party 'extremists' admitted this reality.

International Context: As WANEP analyzed in its previous policy brief, the exit of Kofi Annan as Secretary General might have been a new opportunity as well for a re-think of strategies that always go with change of leadership. Ban Ki Moon's accommodation of President Gbagbo's initiative and support from ECOWAS and the African Union were instrumental for the process. Elections in France also played a decisive role in the evolution of events in Cote d'Ivoire. Candidates were cautious not to play politics with the Ivorian crisis and cautiously distanced themselves from Jacques Chirac's seemingly anti-Gbagbo stance.

Role of President Blaise Compaoré: As the current Chairman of the ECOWAS Commission, President Compaoré's role as facilitator (not mediator) is very significant. First, it gives ECOWAS added leverage after years of unsuccessful attempts. Secondly, it created a framework of security for the more than 3 million Burkina citizens who had been victims of the worsening relationship between Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso since the former accused the latter of harbouring bases for the rebellion that attacked the former in September 2002. The economic benefits of the new posture are enormous for the sub-region given the stress and strain the Burkina economy largely dependent on Cote d'Ivoire had gone through. Some opposition leaders in Burkina Faso had alleged that Burkina Faso was harbouring rebel training grounds, a development capable of destabilizing the West Africa sub-region. That yesterday's 'destabilizer' is now the facilitator constitute a significant development.

Thirdly, Ouagadougou's choice as ground for the direct dialogue also concretized the confidence building measures between the former rebels and Burkina Faso as media reports had hitherto alluded to strained relations between them. Moreover, analysts of the police-military fracas during the ECOWAS Ministerial meeting in Ouagadougou read meaning into the unfolding events as there were media allegations of a possible plot against President Compaoré. By serving as facilitator, the Burkina president might have fortified his own strategic interests and leveraged his image and name and that of his country and could rightly be referred to as 'from perceived trouble maker to peace maker'.

Major highlights of the Ouagadougou Peace Accord

The March 4, 2007 peace accord signed in Ouagadougou was not in any case an entirely new process. The difference lies more in the details and initiative as the protagonists agreed to retrace a road map to peace within time frames. On May 2, 2007, an implementation targeted workshop between the parties to the Ouagadougou Accord, the new cabinet and the international community held at the Fondation Félix Houphouet-Boigny pour la Recherche de la Paix Yamoussoukro to practically operationalize the Ouagadougou Peace Accord document. A major outcome of the accord remains the complete dismantling of the buffer zone which symbolizes the end of the war. The following are summarized highlights of the fundamental points of the agreement and strategies to pursue following the Yamoussoukro follow up workshop.

General Identification of the Population: Who is a citizen of la Cote D'Ivoire? This question frames the protracted nature of the Ivoirian crisis. Consensus was reached on how to proceed with this critical factor. Specific issues related to the process such as re-launching or commencement of local council activities in North-West Zone, the deployment of administration officials, and dismantling of militias; need for a Government communications guide for sensitization of masses on identification process and the distinction of roles to avoid conflicting interests.

Electoral Process: The organization of free, fair and transparent elections is expected to end this transition period by December 2007. According to the Yamoussoukro final communiqué, modalities for the establishment and publication of electoral lists was established; and the electoral conduct document must conform to the institutional principles as relates to actors and structures.

Defence and Security Forces: Ouagadougou Accord established a republican army that would see the merging of the two armies through negotiated modalities. The Yamoussoukro workshop again stressed the need to continue sensitization especially in the former buffer zone on core issues such as mixed patrol brigades and also the role of different stakeholders in the community rehabilitation process, particularly the technical ministries charged with the responsibility.

Restoration of State Authority nation wide and deployment of administration: The Ouagadougou Accord called for the restoration of state authority and deployment of administration structures to facilitate other processes related to the restoration of normalcy. Due to the national character of the process involving the entire public service, this would involve technical ministries as well as local redeployment committees.

Implementation Framework and Follow-up Mechanism: Previous peace agreements failed due in part to the difficulty of interpreting issues as relates to implementation and lack of stringent and consensual follow up mechanism. Signatories of the Ouagadougou Accord are charged with the follow up with President Blaise Compaoré as principal overseer to the process. A significant difference this time around is that by submitting themselves to direct dialogue without any outside pressure, the parties implicitly become the best monitors for implementing agreements so that progress and impact of the peace process is tangible.

Consolidating Peace, National Reconciliation, Security and Freedom of Movement: The Ouagadougou Accord recognized the need for all Ivoirians to reconcile and move freely in their country in security and peace. Measures taken in this domain included the institutionalization of commemorative days for national unity and reconciliation ; follow up Forum for National Reconciliation in the spirit of the Ouagadougou Accord; a code of good conduct to be elaborated to guide the ongoing process and regulate the behaviour of signatories of the accord.


Internal appropriation and international legitimization: Following the signing of the Ouagadougou Accord on March 4, 2007, President Gbagbo on March 9, 2007 invited the Ivoirian population to take ownership of the process. Guillaume Soro, the Secretary General of the Forces Nouvelles in the same spirit invited the Ivoirian population four days later (March 13) to adhere to the Ouagadougou Accord. Barely a day after Soro's appeal, the UN Security Council accepted the new peace framework as laid down in the Ouagadougou agreement. Intense diplomacy and consultations went on to legitimize the Ouagadougou Accord.

On March 16, 2007, the African Union (AU) was notified by ECOWAS to draw inspiration from the Ouagadougou agreement in drafting its resolutions for a way forward(3). On March 19, 2007, the AU in turn formally notified the UN Security Council on the Ouagadougou Accord and made its own recommendations. On the same day (March 19), Ban Ki-Moon received the Ivoirian ambassador to the UN, Alcide Djédjé who gave details on the process and how the government intends to pursue the process.

A Complimentary Agreement to the Ouagadougou Accord was signed on March 27(4), 2007 to further explain areas and points of the agreement that were not clearly defined. This was followed by a statement by the UN Security Council president endorsing the Ouagadougou Peace Accord and other issues. Appointment of Guillaume Soro: The March 29 appointment of the Secretary General of the Forces Nouvelles as Prime Minister marked a major turning point in the peace process. In fact this was one of the dreams of the former rebellion and this was lingering during the Marcoussis peace talks in Paris, although demands later shifted to positions of Defence and Interior portfolios. On April 4, 2007, Soro took over from Banny in a handing over ceremony and on April 7, a new cabinet was announced and it involved a good number of members of the political opposition. General Amnesty: On April 12, 2007, President Gbagbo in line with the Ouagadougou agreement signed a decree that accorded a general amnesty to all involved in the war. This legally exonerates the soldiers from the atrocities committed during the close to five years war. This has however been denounced as a ploy to perpetuate impunity and human rights organizations both nationally and internationally are not ready to endorse this move to placate murderers, and those who raped, maimed and looted.

Dismantling of Buffer Zone: On April 16, 2007 the Integrated Command Centre (Centre de Commandement integer-CCI), was inaugurated in Yamoussoukro, to begin the process towards a united army for the country. The head of the Joint Command, Colonel Nicolas Kouakou, assumed his functions April 23. By April 31, three of the six mixed Brigades had already been installed at Bangolo and Zéalé. The dismantling of the buffer zone at Tiébissou that divided the country into two signified the end of an era. The country was symbolically reunited, an event that sent a strong message to the international community that political will was garnering. It also meant the UN strategies and presence in the country as well as that of the French Licorne forces were to be drastically reviewed. The visit to President Gbagbo of the commanders of the two armed forces and the decision to assume a joint parade of welcome proved that yesterday's foes can now co-exist. This was also recognition of President Gbagbo as Commander in Chief of the Ivoirian armed forces. Directly linked to the dismantling of the buffer zone was the agreement of the two protagonist armies to form a joint patrol of the zone, and this too constituted a major bolster to the confidence building process.

Dismantling of the militias in Western Cote d'Ivoire: As agreed in the Ouagadougou talks, the dismantling of the militias began in western Cote d'Ivoire. The West is undoubtedly one of the strongest fiefs of President Gbagbo and also a region characterized by a plethora of so called self defense or militia groups that allied with government forces. On Saturday May 19, a symbolic handing over of arms by the militias to the President and Prime Minister in the presence of UN Secretary General's Representative, Abou Moussa and other international partners are moves in the right direction although there are signs of friction between the militias and their leadership especially on the issue of financial compensation. Other critics maintain that so far, the arms collected do not represent the true picture of weapons used during war and there are fears that sophisticated arms may have 'migrated' out of country.

Other events that have positively contributed to hopes for peace and reconciliation include the Yopougoun Jeunes Patriotes' rally in which the prominent speakers like the President of the National Assembly, Mamdou Koulibaly, Blé Goudé all sent messages of peace in a convincing tone unlike in the past where verbal missiles were launched from the very Yopougoun grounds. In addition, the invitation of the former spokesperson of the rebellion and now a cabinet Minister, Sidiki Konaté was a testimony for peace worth highlighting. In a celebration that followed, Minister Sidiki was seen dancing with the First Lady, a single event that was captured by the media. The meeting at Golf Hotel (where most of the Forces Nouvelles Ministers are lodged) between the FPI party barons and the Forces Nouvelles, the appointment of Sidiki as "Ambassador for Peace" are some of the issues that continue to nurture hope that peace is indeed is plausible.

Of significant importance is the reaction and attitude of secondary and tertiary stakeholders to the ongoing initiatives. Never before had the extreme voices in the crisis been favourable to the process than now. That the First Lady, Mamadou Koulibaly, Affi N'Guessan (former prime minister), patriotic youth leaders, the military leadership have all spoken, though cautiously, in favour of the ongoing initiatives is a positive development. For the first time, President Gbagbo even allowed Prime Minister to preside over strategic cabinet meetings in the absence of the President, a move that never happened neither during the premiership of Saydou Diarra nor Konan Banny.


A critical appraisal of the Ouagadougou Accord by a leading civil society organization(5) in Cote d'Ivoire highlighted the following weaknesses: the follow-up committee (le comité d'évaluation et d'accompagnement) is composed of the very actors who are supposed to implement the peace process, making them party and judge; there was no clear criteria of a type of government (technocrats or politicians); the Accord was silent on the role of the State Media in relation to the two sides of the divide; the Accord snubbed the international community and leaves the situation worrisome; the sharing of political power once more ignored the other components of society, notably the civil society; amnesty declared by President Gbagbo undermines the individual sanctions imposed by the UN on some actors and engrains impunity; and silence on the role or mandate of the Prime Minister.

Friction within the G7 Opposition parties: As President Gbagbo and his supporters seem comfortable with the present dispensation, the main opposition feel left out of the process, though their anguish is directed towards the former rebels whom they accuse of betraying a collective cause. The former rebels on the other hand have retorted that gone are the days they would only clear the way for others to reap the political dividends. This has created friction within the hitherto coordinated G7 although the structure (G7) can be regarded as an alliance for convenience whose main aim was to see Gbagbo out of the presidency.

Financial Cost and implications of the Ouagadougou Accord: Retracing the road map to peace and ensuring benchmarks, a strict time table may be an illusion if the financial support is unavailable. This is a major challenge.

Elections and electoral strategies/tactics and antics: With the negative posture that politics usually assumes, it is feared that the good intentions expressed in the document may soon be jeopardized by political motives.

More Signs of Hope

Despite the challenges, there are significant signs of hope. The Civil Society Convention of Cote d'Ivoire(6) in its declaration on the Ouagadougou Accord welcomes the fact that the Accord pulled together long time armed protagonists and the decision to amongst others put an end to hate media that threatens the spirit of national cohesion, including any abuse of the Accord by the either the civil society or the trade unions. The involvement of the civil society in sensitization and mobilization is also a positive move emanating from the Accord.

Football Diplomacy: WANEP in its last analysis of the situation had suggested the use of Ivoirian Soccer Stars and heroes to broker the peace. That suggestion seems to have found fertile ground. Didier Drogba, the legendary star and Africa reigning king of football who plays for Chelsea in the last three to four months has been involved in lots of quite but successful soccer diplomacy between the two sides. Drogba has admitted(7) that he personally intervened to convince President Gbagbo and (now Prime Minister) Soro to agree on the Ouagadougou Accord. It is in this same direction that the Cote d'Ivoire-Madagascar 2008 African Nations' qualifier was played at Bouaké as a peace accord dividend for the population of the north.

Prospects of Petroleum Oil Economic Revitalization: Growing Ivoirian petroleum oil potentials have increased hopes of a rapid revitalization of the economy. A recent statement from the Economy Ministry that Cote d'Ivoire's oil revenue now constitutes 5 percent of the national budget is a novelty. Estimates hold that Cote d'Ivoire may soon overcome Cameroon in oil production and there are prospects that more discoveries are underway. The growing political will of main actors and the new leadership at Elysée, France are indicators that change of attitude may take the peace process to positive heights. Nevertheless, the history of oil exploration in Africa is such a sad one that the black gold has in most instances become a curse than a blessing. Corporate interests have overshadowed national interest; the manner of governance becomes a nonevent so long as there is continuity and stability in exploiting the oil(8).


Good case Scenario

The present drive towards peace continues and despite the challenges, the critical issues of identification of the population, voter registration and establishment of a viable electoral list is successful and acceptable by both sides, thus creating a conducive environment for the organization of credible elections.

Bad case scenario

Despite the hopes and great strides made to break the deadlock, political machinations and personal interests of politicians take central stage and the peace process is derailed as a result of breakdown in communication as well as differences between the main protagonists.


WANEP proposes the following recommends or options for response:

Ouagadougou Peace Accord and Follow Up framework

- The framework of the Ouagadougou Accord should be expanded to accommodate demands from many quarters to make the process more inclusive, with involvement of independent personalities and institutions not directly involved in the crisis to guarantee adequate monitoring and evaluation.

- Civil society organizations are calling for the reconvening of a "Forum de Dialogue National" (National Dialogue Forum) that would involve all actors so ensure free and fair elections as well as other critical national issues that cannot be determined solely by those who have held the nation hostage for close to five years.

- The State media (television, radio and print media) should be made more apolitical and seek to maintain an objective posture especially as this crucial period needed to cement the ground for sensitization, national reconciliation and pre-election period.

- Mutual and consensual arrangements must be made as regards the role and position of international actors (ONUCI, French Licorne forces).

To Key Stakeholders & Protagonists of the Crisis

- Show commitment, beyond words, to peace and be ready to make necessary compromises. More efforts should made to include secondary and tertiary stakeholders (young patriots and other 'patriots' such as women activists groups militating for various camps, trade unions and professional associations).

- A more coherent and sustainable national reconciliation processes should be initiated nationwide. Victims of the crisis must also be factored in the compensation arrangements.

- A more structured role of traditional chiefs and religious leaders is needed to ensure a sustainable foundation for peace.

- The DDR process must be comprehensive and closely monitored.

UN and International Community

- Dialogue between Gbagbo and France is very vital to give a boost to the ongoing process. The visit of the Franco-Ivorian and football star, Basile Boli and close associate to the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy to President Gbagbo is a step in the right direction. There can be no sustainable peace without mending fences between France and Cote d'Ivoire.

- The UN and international community must ensure their presence in Cote d'Ivoire becomes relevant by supporting the current processes. The apparent confrontational posture and recent decisions by President Gbagbo insisting that some UN officials be replaced have sent negative signals and reduced the visibility and good image of the UN within Cote D'Ivoire. The UN has been in the criticized on their involvement in peace process in the country.


Despite the political machinations that always characterize the life of politicians especially in divided societies with each seeking to out-