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Post-election crisis

Côte d'Ivoire has been plunged into turmoil following incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat in the 28 November 2010 second round of elections to his opponent, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.

The international community has strongly backed the legitimacy of Mr. Ouattara's victory, with the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU) and others recognizing him as the duly elected leader of Côte d'Ivoire.

On 30 March 2011, the Security Council passed resolution 1975 (2011), repeating its calls for Mr. Gbagbo to step down and urging an immediate end to the violence against civilians. The Council reaffirmed the mandate of UNOCI to protect civilians, including to prevent the use of heavy weaponry against them.

On 11 April, following military operations conducted by forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara, UNOCI and French Licorne troops, Mr. Gbagbo was arrested and placed in the custody of President Ouattara’s Government.

On 6 May, Mr. Alassane Ouattara was sworn in as President of Cóte d’Ivoire. He took the oath of office at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Abidjan a day after the Cóte d'Ivoire's Constitutional Council ratified the results of a presidential election showing that Mr. Ouattara won, reversing its December 2010 decision to reject them.

On 21 May, Mr. Ouattara was officially installed as President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. 20 Heads of State and other high-level dignitaries, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, attended the inauguration ceremony in Yamoussoukro, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire.

Recent developments

There has been intense fighting in Abidjan in early April between the forces loyal to President Ouattara and elements of the former Republican Guard and Special Forces who still remain loyal to Mr. Gbagbo. These forces have intensified and escalated their use of heavy weapons such as mortars, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and heavy machine guns against the civilian population. 

On 4 April 2011, UNOCI undertook a military operation to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population, as well as to stop the attacks against UN peacekeepers. It was done in accordance with its mandate to defend itself and to protect the civilian population, specifically to prevent the use of heavy weapons against civilian populations.

On 6 April. a day after pro-Gbagbo representatives claimed they were initiating negotiations to end the deadly fighting, their forces resumed attacks across Abidjan using heavy weapons against UN peacekeepers, the country's elected Government and civilians. Four peacekeepers were wounded in an attack by a rocket-propelled grenade, while seven others were wounded in a separate incident. More than 200 civilians came to UNOCI headquarters to seek refuge, and the mission treated 50 wounded people. On 9 April, Mr. Gbagbo’s forces launched an attack on the Golf Hotel from several directions.

In response, UNOCI, supported by French Licorne forces, launched a military operation in Abidjan on 10 April against forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon instructed UNOCI to “use all necessary means” to prevent the pro-Gbagbo forces from using heavy weapons in the country's biggest city.  He was particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation across the country and about human rights abuses.  “Civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence — the fighting must stop,” said Ban in the statement.

On 11 April, UNOCI confirmed that the country’s former president Laurent Gbagbo had surrendered to forces loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara and was in their custody.  While President Ouattara’s Government, remains responsible for Mr. Gbagbo’s physical safety, UNOCI, in line with its mandate,  will provide security and protection while he is in custody.

Speaking by telephone with President Ouattara on 11 April, the Secretary-General underlined "the expectation that with Mr. Gbagbo now in the hands of the President's forces any further bloodshed will be avoided.” He stressed in particular the need to ensure that there is no retaliation against Mr. Gbagbo's supporters.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy, speaking to reporters after briefing the Security Council on 11 April, described Mr. Gbagbo's apprehension as a “very important step in the process,” but added that “the crisis is not over yet”. “Our main task is to contribute to the restoration of the law and order in the whole country. UNOCI has a big role in that, but also President Ouattara's forces have a big role to play,” said Mr. Le Roy.

The United Nations has remained extremely concerned over the human rights situation, reported cases of mass killings and other widespread and systematic abuses in in Cote d’Ivoire. At least 900 deaths have been confirmed in Abidjan and western Côte d’Ivoire from the conflict and revenge attacks. Assistant Secretary-General of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic, spoke of the human rights situation in the country at a press conference on 11 April.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed three high-level experts as members of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the allegations of serious abuses and violations of human rights committed in Côte d’Ivoire. The experts are Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, Suliman Baldo of Sudan, and Reine Alapini Gansou of Benin.

On the humanitarian front, the United Nations continued to be actively involved in meeting the humanitarian needs of the Ivorians, including those who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Up to one million people have either fled the country or are internally displaced because of the fighting.  Speaking to reporters on 13 April after briefing the Security Council, UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos painted a bleak picture of daily life in Côte d’Ivoire, with food scarce, entire neighbourhoods without electricity, and many hospitals and schools closed. "We need to act now," Amos said, appealing on nations to donate more money for humanitarian assistance to Côte d’Ivoire. "We must not let the people of Ivory Coast down," she added.

In addition to Ms. Amos, other top UN officials briefed the Security Council on 13 April, including Y. J. Choi, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The Security Council, in a press statement, encouraged President Ouattara to form an all-inclusive, broad-based Government and urged all Ivorians to abstain from any reprisals, revenge or provocation. Among other things, the Council welcomed Mr. Ouattara’s commitment to investigate alleged human rights abuses and commended the President’s call for justice and reconciliation, as well as his decision to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

On 14 April, United Nations agencies and their partners appealed for $160 million to scale up aid to affected populations inside the country. This appeal represented a five-fold increase over the $32 million initially sought by aid agencies in January at the onset of the humanitarian crisis stemming from the fighting.

In the meantime, as sporadic firing and looting continued to be reported in some areas of Abidjan, UNOCI forces have been engaged in the array of patrol and security tasks throughout the city to re-establish law and order. They continued security tasks, received pro-Gbagbo fighters, gathered arms/ammunition, and maintained control of key junctions, sites, and bridges.  UNOCI has also worked closely with national officials to provide humanitarian assistance, reconstitute the police force, re-establish justice institutions, and reopen detention facilities.

On 21 April, UNOCI deplored the continued fighting in the Yopougon and Abobo neighbourhoods of Abidjan between the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) and units belonging to the Invisible Commando, a group that had also been fighting against the forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo. The mission warned that the clashes could threaten efforts to restore peace and security following the recent post-electoral crisis.

On 28 April, the Security Council, by its resolution 1980, urged all illegal combatants in Cote d'Ivoire to lay down their weapons and encouraged UNOCI to assist the Ivorian Government in collecting and storing those arms. The Council renewed until 30 April 2012 its arms embargo and diamond trade ban on Côte d’Ivoire, as well as targeted sanctions restricting the travel and finances of individuals threatening peace and national reconciliation there. At the same time, it said that the sanctions could be reviewed before 12 months depending on "progress achieved in the stabilization throughout the country, the holding of the parliamentary elections and the implementation of the key steps of the peace process." [An arms embargo was first imposed in 2004 and a ban on trading in rough diamonds was added the following year, two years after a rebellion that divided the country.]

On 13 May, the Security Council, by resolution 1981, extended the mandate UNOCI until 31 July 2011. The Council also extended up to 30 June the temporary redeployment from UNMIL to UNOCI of three infantry companies, one aviation unit comprising two military utility helicopters and three armed helicopters with crews. The Council requested the Secretary-General to submit a report by 30 June 2011, including findings and recommendations on UNOCI’s mandate, following the assessment mission deployed to Côte d’Ivoire.

On 21 May, Mr. Alassane Ouattara was officially installed as President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. 20 Heads of State and other high-level dignitaries, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, attended the inauguration ceremony in Yamoussoukro, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire. In his speech after being officially installed, President Ouattara reiterated his commitment to promoting reconciliation, dialogue and peace following the post-election violence.

Following the inauguration, the Secretary-General met with Mr. Ouattara who expressed his gratitude to the world for showing solidarity with Ivorians and helping democracy triumph. He paid special tribute to the United Nations for remaining engaged in his country and helping restore democracy and contributing to the establishment of lasting peace.

Adopting Resolution 1975

During the 39th Ordinary Summit of ECOWAS on 24 March, the West African regional body issued a resolution on Cote d’Ivoire calling upon the UN Security Council to strengthen UNOCI’s mandate to enable the mission “to use all necessary means to protect life and property, and to facilitate the immediate transfer of power to Mr. Alassane Ouattara”, as well as to strengthen targeted sanctions against the Gbagbo regime.

Briefing the Security Council on 25 March, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare conveyed this request. The UN Security Council adopted resolution 1975 of 30 March, repeating its previous numerous calls on former President Gbagbo to immediately step down, urging an immediate end to the violence against civilians and imposing targeted sanctions against Mr. Gbagbo, his wife and three close associates. The Council reaffirmed the mandate of the UN mission there to protect civilians, including to prevent the use of heavy weaponry against them.

Women walking by UNOCI Peacekeepers, one woman carrying an empty barrel on her head.

Peacekeepers of the Moroccan contingent patrolling in the town of Duekoue. 4 April 2011. UN Photo/Basile Zoma.
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As forces loyal to President Quattara undertook a massive offensive on all fronts and were capturing or closing on a number of towns around Abidjan, the pace of developments accelerated and the level of violence further increased. On 29 March, UNOCI reported that one of its helicopters was shot at by forces loyal to the country’s President and denounced the killing of a dozen civilians in Abidjan by a pro-Gbagbo armed elements.  

In the meantime, At its weekly press conference on 31 March PDF Document, UNOCI gave an update of the situation and reported that the total number of persons killed during the post-electoral crisis had reached 494. On the same day, the UN Secretary-General issued a statement, expressing concern over the heightened violence and urged all parties to abide by their responsibility to avoid harm to the civilian population, to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from exacting revenge. He was also concerned about the critical humanitarian situation in both Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

Escalation of violence and a humanitarian crisis

Amid rapidly increasing violence in Abidjan and elsewhere in the country, the flow of refuges fleeing the country rose dramatically.  UNHCR reported on 1 March that the number of Ivorian refugees in Liberia had reached almost 70,000, with another 40,000 internally displaced within Côte d’Ivoire.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay warned of an unfolding humanitarian crisis and that civilians were at grave risk from a flare-up of violence in Abidjan and the west of Ivory Coast, as UNHCR reported that some 200,000 people had fled their homes in Abobo, leaving it almost completely deserted after heavy fighting. 

In New York, the Security Council voiced deep concern at the escalating attacks on civilians in Côte d’Ivoire, the increasing numbers of refugees and displaced persons and the risk of a resurgence of the civil war. After meeting in Mauritania on 4 March, the AU High-Level Panel called for order in Côte d’Ivoire and a lifting of the Golf Hotel blockade.  The AU Peace and Security Council, meeting on 10 March 2011 in Addis Ababa at the level of Heads of State and Government, reaffirmed all its previous decisions on the post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire PDF Document, recognizing Mr. Ouattara as the country’s President of Côte d’Ivoire. The UN Security Council welcomed this AU’s decision and its intention to appoint a High Representative for the implementation of an overall political solution in Côte d’Ivoire.

Meanwhile, the overall situation in the country continued to deteriorate, with a sharp increase in inter-communal and inter-ethnic confrontations. “Human rights abuses, including rapes, abductions and killings, are being committed by people supporting both sides,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay. With the humanitarian situation also reaching alarming proportions, the United Nations scaled up efforts to provide food aid to the increasing number of people fleeing from escalating post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire, amid concerns that the international community has not given adequate attention to the humanitarian crisis sparked by the fighting.

Escalating insecurity in the country saw a sharp rise in displacement. UNHCR estimated on 25 March, up to a million people may have fled the economic capital Abidjan alone after weeks of bloody street clashes with some 100,000 Ivorians seeking refuge in neighbouring Liberia.  According to UNOCI, the total number of deaths PDF Document since mid-December 2010 stood at 462 as of 24 March with 52 killed in the past week alone.

Confronted with new challenges and increased level of violence, UNOCI continued to do everything possible within its mandate and resources PDF Document to protect civilians and contain proliferating violence Valerie Amos, the head of UN humanitarian and emergency relief operations, stressed the plight of civilians caught up in the fighting. "The escalation of violence and use of heavy weaponry, particularly in urban areas, is taking an increasing toll on civilians," she said in a statement issued in New York. In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council set up an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of serious abuses and human rights violations in Côte d’Ivoire. The Council approved a resolution proposed by Nigeria on behalf of the African Group recognizing the election of Mr. Ouattara as Ivorian president, condemning "atrocities" and expressing concern about "the seriousness and extent" of the abuses.

The election and the results

The presidential election was meant to advance the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire, which had been split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and an opposition-held north. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo stood against former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara in the run-off poll on 28 November 2010, which followed the first round (see Presidential Elections Fact Sheet PDF Document) of 31 October.

The President of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) proclaimed the provisional result of the second round on 2 December 2010: With a high turnout of more than 81%, candidate Alassane Ouattara garnered 54.10% of the votes, while candidate Laurent Gbagbo obtained 45.90%. Immediately following the release of the results, however, the head of Côte d'Ivoire's Constitutional Council proceeded to proclaim Mr. Gbagbo as the winner after having cancelled the results from some northern regions. According to this proclamation, candidate Gbagbo garnered 51.45% of the vote and candidate 48.55%, with an overall participation rate of 71.28%.

On 4 December, both Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara took oaths of office in Abidjan – Mr. Gbagbo before the Constitutional Council, and Mr. Ouattara through a letter addressed to the Constitutional Council, and each appointed cabinet members in their governments.

On 3 December, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of UNOCI, Choi Young-Jin certified PDF Document the outcome of the second round of the presidential election as announced by the IEC, confirming candidate Ouattara as the winner. He further explained PDF Document in detail the methods used in the certification process.

International  support

The outcome of the election as certified by the SRSG was fully supported by the UN Secretary-General and received the broad recognition by the international community, notably from major international and regional organizations, including the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the European Union (EU). The UN Security Council also endorsed Mr. Ouattara’s victory through a press statement .The AU and ECOWAS suspended Cote d'Ivoire's membership until such a time the democratically‐elected President effectively assumes State power. The EU agreed to adopt targeted sanctions against Mr. Gbagbo and “those impeding the reconciliation and electoral process” in Côte d’Ivoire.

Despite mounting international pressure and from within the country, Mr. Gbagbo has refused to accept the outcome of the election as certified by the United Nations and to step down.

Role of UNOCI

The national institution in charge of organizing and conducting the elections was the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Côte d’Ivoire. UNOCI was requested to provide technical, logistical and security support to the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and to the IEC. This support included transportation and distribution of national identity and voters’ cards, transportation of equipment and other electoral materials, and security support.

In addition, as mandated by Security Council resolution 1765 (2007) PDF Document the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of UNOCI was to certify the outcome of the election.

To bolster security for the elections, on 29 September 2010, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of 500 additional peacekeeping personnel to increase UNOCI’s military and police presence from 8,650 to 9,150. This temporary increase for a period of up to six months reinforced the capacity of UNOCI to contribute to security arrangements for the elections, the responsibility for which rests in the first instance with the Ivorian security forces. [Subsequently, this temporary deployment of 500 additional personnel was extended by Council’s resolution 1962 PDF Document of 20 December until 31 March 2011.]

In addition, on 24 November the Security Council authorized PDF Document the temporary deployment of a maximum of three infantry companies and an aviation unit comprised of two military utility helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI for no longer than four weeks.  [The deployment of these units was first extended by Council’s resolution 1962 PDF Document of 20 December 2010 for four weeks, and later, by resolution 1968 PDF Document of 16 February 2011, for additional three months.]

In preparation to the second round of elections, UNOCI conducted the national distribution of electoral materials, including non-sensitive electoral materials (ballot boxes, polling booths, electoral kits) by air and road to 70 departments throughout the country, as well as sensitive materials such as the ballot papers, which UNOCI transported by air and by road from Abidjan to the sous-préfectures and 415 local electoral commissions.

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Key UN Statements

22 May

13 May

13 April

  • Security Council press statement, encouraging President Ouattara to form an all-inclusive, broad-based Government; urging all Ivorians to abstain from any reprisals, revenge or provocation; and welcoming Mr. Ouattara’s commitment to investigate alleged human rights abuses

11 April

10 April

  • Secretary-General statement, instructing UNOCI to use all necessary means to prevent the use of heavy weapons and expressing concern about the humanitarian situation across the country and human rights abuses [en Français]

4 April

  • Secretary-General statement, expressing concern over violence in Côte d’Ivoire, informing that the United Nations has undertaken military operation to prevent heavy weapons use against civilians

31 March

30 March

18 March

11 March

  • Security Council press statement, welcoming AU’s reaffirmation of all its previous decisions recognizing the election of Alassane Ouattara as President of Côte d’Ivoire and noting AU’s intention to appoint a High Representative for the implementation of an overall political solution

10 March

3 March

  • Security Council press statement, calling on both sides to show the utmost restraint; condemning the violence against UN personnel and civilians; reiterating its call to Mr. Gbagbo to lift the siege of the Golf Hotel; and urging UNOCI “to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, in particular to protect civilians

25 February

17 February

29 January

14 January

13 January

12 January

10 January

  • Security Council press statement, expressing support for AU and ECOWAS efforts in seeking a peaceful resolution of the crisis and deep concern over continued violence and human rights violations, including against UNOCI; demanding an immediate halt to the use of media, especially via RTI, to propagate false information to incite hatred and violence; and welcoming the submission of the detailed recommendations and proposals regarding UNOCI’s reinforcement

30 December

24 December

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20 December

  • Security Council press statement, expressing deep concern about the continued violence in Côte d’Ivoire, including armed attacks against UNOCI and multiple civilian fatalities; and warning all those responsible that they will be brought to justice [en Français]
  • Security Council resolution 1962 (2010), extending UNOCI's mandate until 30 June 2011, condemning attempts to usurp will of people and urging respect for the election outcome [en Français]

18 December

17 December

  • Year-end press conference of the Secretary-General, which includes a statement on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire calling on Mr. Gbagbo to step down and allow his elected successor to assume office without further hindrance, and emphasizing that “there is no other option” [en Français]

16 December

  • UN Security Council press statement, condemning “in the strongest terms” acts of violence; warning all Ivorian stakeholders that they will be held accountable for attacks against civilians and will be brought to justice; and urging them to exercise maximum restraint, remain calm, resist provocative actions, refrain from violence, and work together to restore sustainable peace. [en Français]

16 December

  • UNOCI statement, clarifying mission’s position with regard to the marches by the Rassemblement des Houphouetistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix  (RHDP) PDF Document [en Français PDF Document]

15 December

  • Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, expressing his deep concerned about the continuing political stalemate; warning of unpredictable consequences, including reigniting civil war; reminding those who incite or perpetrate violence and those who use the media for this purpose, that they will be held accountable for their actions; and, once again, calling upon Mr. Gbagbo to step down to allow President-elect Ouattara to assume his mandate. [en Français]

9 December

8 December

7 December

6 December

4 December

3 December

2 December

1 December

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29 November

24 November

3 November

UNOCI Press Conferences and Press Releases

22 May

21 May

19 May

12 May

11 May

10 May

6 May

5 May

28 April

21 April

14 April

5 April

4 April

3 April

2 April

1 April

31 March

30 March

29 March

25 March

24 March

22 March

18 March

17 March

16 March

11 March

3 March

28 February

27 February

25 February

24 February

23 February

22 February

21 February

17 February

14 February

10 February

3 February

29 January

27 January

24 January

20 January

18 January

13 January

12 January

9 January

6 January

5 January

2 January

31 December

30 December

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29 December

28 December

27 December

23 December

20 December

18 December

17 December

16 December 

15 December

14 December

13 December

11 December

10 December

9 December

8 December

7 December

3 December

2 December

1 December

25 November

24 November

4 November

2 November

1 November

31 October

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