Deadly Violence in Cote d’Ivoire
By Pr. Mamadou Koulibaly*,
And yet the culprits are known, the reasons too. An analysis of the security situation in Cote d’Ivoire and proposals for the peaceful resolution of the crisis. “In so doing, people work thus to their own confusion.” (Franz Kafka’s in The Castle,1926)
THE WEEK OF THE CELEBRATION of the 52nd Independence of Cote d’Ivoire was marred by deadly violent attacks this time not targeting civilian population or the UN forces based in Cote d’Ivoire but the armed forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FRCI). Military barracks, police stations and checkpoints were attacked by armed gangs who were able to kill and immediately vanish after their heinous crimes. Both the ruling and opposition parties mutually accused each other of being the instigators behind these deadly attacks. As usual, the partisans of President Ouattara firmly believe these criminal attacks are being perpetrated by partisans of the former president Laurent Gbagbo. On the other hand, the partisans of the latter are in return accusing the pro-Ouattara of being notorious killers. However, the underlying fact is that whenever such attacks take place, precious human lives are lost. Investigations are underway and while awaiting the findings, if only there will be findings one day, the fact remains that both sides are involved in atrocities with the civilian population seeing their rights to live in freedom and safety in the pursuit of their individual and collective livelihood violated. In any case, civilians are the victims of the two opposing sides that continue to hate each other and obstinately cling to the tactics of mutual intimidation, blackmailing, belligerence, repression, retaliation and revenge.
A commission of inquiry to establish responsibility for the crimes of the period after the 2010 presidential elections was set up a few months ago by the government. Its findings show that both the pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara committed atrocities. They were guilty of killing men, women and children based on political and religious affiliations, and ethnic and regional backgrounds. Of the 3,248 cases that were subject to investigations, it was established that the pro- Gbagbo, identified under the name “former Defense & Security Forces” (FDS), were accused of killing 1,452 people whereas the pro-Ouattara, identified under the names “Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire” (FRCI) and “Dozo”, arrive in second place with 927 crimes committed (727 for FRCI and 200 for the traditional hunters called Dozo). Let’s assume these crimes were committed in a time of war. Who committed the most crimes? Those who killed the most or those who simply killed? In sum, whoever committed the most crimes, in view of the inquiry, 3,248 lives were cut short due to mutual hatred.
Apart from this figure, a question remains unanswered: why were there so many crimes committed with known victims but unknown culprits? Simply saying the crimes were committed by the pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara does not provide any answer to the question but hints as to what happened. Who actually did the killings? It is evident that not all pro-Gbagbo or pro-Ouattara are criminals. We must be more objective getting to the truth, truth that will liberate and console grief-stricken hearts. Assessment of the armed and security forces First, it should be stated from the onset that the people, despite the huge number of uniformed armed men you see in the street, are not secured. From the traditional meaning of the word, no force is guaranteeing the security of civilians. Today, the Ivorian infantry, marine and air forces account, inter alia, for about 14,000 unreformed and unequipped men. They constitute the remnants of the former FANCI (National Armed Forces of Cote d’Ivoire). These men are demoralized, disarmed, paid to do nothing, frustrated by a programmed and unexpected defeat, and despised by the country’s current political authorities simply because they belonged to the army under the old regime. They were called loyalist forces of Laurent Gbagbo’s regime, situation which is prejudicial to them today.
The current regime does not trust them. In addition to that group, we have about 17,000 gendarmes. This elite force which has built a reputation in Cote d’Ivoire for being republican is not being used in anyway for the maintenance of public order in the new gendarmerie. Many of its members are not included in the traditional role of the gendarmerie. They are paid to do nothing, live in fear and suspicion lest they can destabilize the regime at any time. They are bored, frustrated and demoralized. They were also part of the loyalist forces of the former regime and so it is prejudicial to them today for the regime does not trust them. We must also take into account the 18,000 unreformed police, meaning they are not reorganized and reused in the habitual and normal functions of the new police. They are always suspected of being close to the old regime and it is prejudicial to them today for the regime does not trust them. They work under the watchful eyes, control and suspicion of the forces set up by the current regime. They are bored, frustrated and demoralized.
These three groups of men and women of about 49,000, trained to protect lives and properties and maintain public peace, are living a situation of non-employed or disguised unemployed. They are always seen with suspicion and somehow frustrated for not being able to practice their profession under the normal rule of law. These men and women, harassed from time to time, constitute a dangerous cocktail for the stability of the regime. The regime is aware of it and so it tries to contain them by deploying enormous efforts to monitor, control, arrest and harass them. All these things are not reassuring but instead stressing and creating intense psychological tensions.
Evidently, keeping a watchful eye on the military, police and gendarmes of the former FDS does not leave room to ensure the safety of the people and guarantee public order in both the cities and rural areas. Insecurity usually starts when a regime develops the idea that someone has evil intention towards it. And in wanting to be too watchful on that person, it may not see where the other dangers will come from. What can be done in such a case? Reintegrate these servicemen in the regular forces that provide security, civil protection and public order in Cote d’Ivoire. This would mean providing the means again to the police and gendarmes to carry out their mission.
Only the police and gendarmes can ensure public order and reassure the population. If things are to become normal, it should be the regular forces and not the exceptional forces that must deal with public service mission to provide security and protection of rights and freedom. The normal functioning condition of a state requires normal institutions. The army, gendarmerie and the police are institutions that must resume their normal course of service if we seek normalcy imposed by the rule of law, and of course if we want to end this state of emergency. But today, what can we do with an army of 11,000 loyalists FRCI in addition to the 14,000 loyalists of the former regime? It means there 25,000 servicemen being paid. With the present budget of the Ministry of Defense estimated at CFAF 188 billion, if it properly dispensed, CFAF 131 billion should be spent on salaries alone. It means this army will have nothing left to purchase hardware and ensure training. And if it should possess the financial means to procure hardware, it means salaries would not be paid.
If the Government gets military hardware and at the same time ensures the payment of these men, military spending alone would be explosive whereas it is presently struggling to cope, among others, with obligations of debts owed to pension funds (CGRAE, CNPS) and government functionaries. It could also entail the closure of hospitals or schools due to lack of funds. Thus, we are living in constant and total insecurity with an oversized army which is poorly equipped, poorly contained, poorly paid, and highly frustrated. These are good reasons to make it default on its mission of securing the civilian population throughout the country and in the barracks, gendarmeries and police stations.
Meanwhile, the security of government officials, institutions and the defense of Abidjan in case of any eventuality are assumed by 3,000 men carefully selected from among the FRCI. These men, who have the full confidence of the government, were selected from among former rebel factions namely MPCI, MPIGO, MJP and FN. Commanded by former warlords, these trusted strongmen of the regime also ensure the President’s security. Note that while some of the leaders of this privileged group were being promoted to higher ranks, some soldiers were being killed by unknown gunmen from nowhere at the beginning of August 2012. But should we believe the idea of men coming from nowhere to perpetrate these attacks? Not really because if you take a closer look at the situation, there are very risky people in our country who may have good reasons to foment this type of guerrilla warfare. Who could be these guerrillas?
Instead of blaming each other, the political class could do some introspection and analyze the situation coldly. The very risky people capable of fomenting guerrilla activities can be distinctly categorized. The first group consists of frustrated and disappointed FRCI who were promised secure military careers. Within the framework of the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement (APO), the military aspect negotiated at that time covered 32,000 FN who ever since have been dreaming to obtaining official status. But upon the completion of the recruitment of FRCI, only 9,000 of these fighters were retained. It means there are still 23,000 men in possession of their arms and ammunition that were turned away, striped off their ranks or thrown out of the FRCI. These abandoned former FN combatants expelled from the FRCI live in resentment and frustration and are waiting for any good opportunities that could allow them to express their anger to those who have lied, used and rejected them at the time of dividing the spoils.
These 23,000 people are potential dangers to consider in case of any attacks like those perpetrated against the FRCI in early August 2012. The second group could comprise the auxiliary 36,000 young combatants recruited when the FN was preparing the battle of Abidjan during the post-election crisis. Many combatants were encouraged to enroll for the “cause.” Of the 38,000 enrolled, only 2,000 were selected for possible inclusion in the regular FRCI. What about the remaining 36,000? They were simply forgotten. They too are fulminating anger and desire for revenge against those who manipulated them. For obvious reasons, they are major risk and capable of attacking their former comrades who betrayed and abandoned in case fighting breaks out in Abidjan. Do not forget them whenever the question of who is attacking the FRCI and why is raised? The third group could comprise the 38,000 men from other vigilante groups and militias of the former regime.
In the framework of the civic service proposed by the APO, it was agreed that these auxiliaries to the FDS at the time be absorbed by structures of reintegration and employment in the public service. But nothing has been done and many of them believed to still be in arms are frustrated that their prime age is over and if things return to normal, they too will end up with nothing, empty-handed. They find it difficult to accept this perspective. This group is just as dangerous as the first two and do not forget them when the question of who is attacking the FRCI is raised. For this group for which the advent of the FRCI has terminated the privileges they enjoyed, it is unfeasible to let go of things so easily and give their enemies of yesterday easy triumph. In total, there are at least 97,000 potential guerrillas, not forgetting the usual opportunists and bandits, the frustrated people living with hatred for minor reasons who may want to settle scores with old friends who are now members of the new nomenklatura, the new combattants, and those of the 25th hour who only got out when the battlefields were empty. If we take into account all this beautiful world of “super villains” or “superhero”, it can be estimated that we have about 100,000 potentially risky people, disappointed by broken promises, tossed between conflicting decisions, indoctrinated by two political wings with mutual hatred for each other, confined to the barracks for some with their arms in unacceptable conditions, such as the 1,500 detained in the infamous camp Gesco in Yopougon.
All these people are real dangers for the safety of civilians, for the FRCI themselves and equally for the impartial forces, and we can not say they are wrong to be angry. Suppose their case was dealt with more seriously? These 100,000 young men who see the future with uncertainty will surely end up taking it out on the Authorities who gave them the weapons. Many of them are unemployed; many are not even educated or know any trade. They dread unemployment and see their lives in total disillusionment characterized by betrayals and manipulations. Hatred towards their former and current mentors haunts them daily. They believe that they have lost everything except their weapons with which they can be heard, be respected and even make money or just get something to eat. Do not forget them when the question of who hold is organizing the guerrilla activities is raised.
Solutions to get out of the quagmire of insecurity
First, the government must cease practicing the policy of the ostrich and finally look the problem in the face. The communication of Mr. Bruno Koné, Minister and government spokesman, after the cabinet meeting on February 15, 2012 following the post-election violent atrocities and since the inception of the FRCI, demonstrates, if possible, the misdirection and analytical unraveling of the situation: “The FRCI is the regular army of Cote d’Ivoire. It is important that our army be respected. The army represents the sovereignty of the Ivorian people. There should be no reason for people deciding whether or not the army should be on a territory. We are all of age to have seen the FANCI and FDS. I think we need to return to the basic principle of civism, that is to say the respect for our institutions. In the respect of our institutions, the army has to be respected. The Ivorian army had to embark on public safety operations simply because the police and the gendarmerie were no longer operational. It took several months before the police stations were refurbished and it also took several months before the police was given arms and ammunition. During the lapse of this time, the military had to replace them. From the time things started to get normal gradually, they were asked to back out from these missions for the police and gendarmerie to take over.
But this is not done everywhere, on the one hand. On the other hand, even if the police and the gendarmerie are back, nothing prohibits the military to come and reinforce in this place or that place. It is a decision of the military command.
(…) When we talk about billeting, I have the impression that for the Ivorians, it means that the military should disappear from the landscape. (…)
The FRCI comprises several thousands of people. So it may happen that a serviceman of the FRCI get into conflict with a civilian, it can happen anywhere, there may be cases of indiscipline, there may be attacks of FRCI against civilians, a civilian against another civilian or FRCI. But please, do not transform this into an inter-ethnic or inter-community conflict. If there were errors committed by servicemen within the FRCI, let him or her be punished by their superiors.” Also, the political class, spearheaded by the government, must stop diverting attention from the main problem through nonsensical mutual accusations. It must accept its failure in the way of doing politics and recognize that it is through it declarations, ambitions, and inconsistency that have led many young people to a deadlock, thus the entire country.
Finally, it must immediately engage in discussions on political reconciliation and consider a program to end the crisis in accordance with Resolution 2062 of the United Nations Security Council and make it operational. It means it should: – Prioritize the issue of disarmament and the reform of the security sector on the agenda of the President – Defense Minister and supreme commander of the armed forces; – Get the FRCI off the streets and reinstate the gendarmerie and the national police in their official roles; – Organize a retirement plan of combatants and other militia not included in the standing Armed Forces;
– Find and set aside a budget to fund this additional pension by reducing government spending;
– Redeploy local governments and State authority across the country;
– Resume and strengthen dialogue between the opposition and the government within the framework defined by the conclave of Bassam; and
– Not precipitate to organize local elections in the given context of insecurity.
We have a population of about 20 million inhabitants living without protection whatsoever, with 100,000 ex-combatants armed and frustrated feeling betrayed by those who, on both sides, made them heroes through false promises of integration in the public service, an army rabble of 25,000 men with neither training nor hardware incapable of performing its duties due to lack of cohesion; 35,000 gendarmes and police that should be maintaining public order and protecting civilians but who are neither being organized nor used for this purpose due to distrust which pushed the government to disarm them, and 3,000 FRCI commanded by former Commanders of warlords chosen to ensure the safety of the President of the Republic and state institutions in Abidjan. The civilian population, left entirely to itself, has become the target of each of these dangerous opposing groups. Whenever acts of cruelties are carried out on either group, the civilian population becomes the scapegoat.
To date, Cote d’Ivoire does not have an army – neither former nor new. The country is being controlled by several armed gangs that target each other and take civilians captives. The illegal ordinance signed by the President of the Republic on March 17, 2011 bearing the creation of the Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FRCI) provides for the fusion of the National Armed Forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FANCI) and the Armed Forces of the New Forces (FAFN). According to Mr. Ouattara, the objective of “protecting civilians, pacifying the country and restoring law and order”, is far from being efficient. Rather, this ordinance is the basis for the disorganization of security and republican order. This issue should have been dealt with in accordance to law, which means a public debate should have been initiated to that effect. The signing of a mere ordinance is not sufficient to provide for the creation of an army (Article 71 of the Constitution of August 2000).
We are now living the consequences of his decision: upsurge in armed robberies in all districts of Abidjan, highway bandits across the country. These are direct manifestations of the mismanagement of military and security issues by the government, which has too often used illegal ordinances and unnecessary decrees to resolve a sensitive issue that requires common sense, wisdom and courage. Today we are paying the price. And yet, the culprits are known, the reasons too.
*Prof Koulibaly is a former Speaker of the Ivory Coast Parliament and was an influential member of Former President Laurent Gbagbo’s FPI.He now heads the opposition party LIDER