Ivory Coast. The whole year was a nervous march ahead of the promised presidential election in October. According to COUNTRYAAH, Ivory Coast has a population of 25.07 million (2018). President Laurent Gbagbo had already been in overtime for five years, and planned elections had been postponed six times during that time, so there was doubt that democracy would be respected now.
Concerns were reinforced by the fact that Gbagbo dismissed the entire government in February and dissolved the Independent Electoral Commission. Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, leader of the rebel movement. In the new commission that was given responsibility for organizing the elections, the opposition retained a majority of the seats.
The UN Local Representative approved the electoral votes established, but it was a public secret that another important prerequisite for the election had not been fulfilled: neither side had fulfilled the promised disarmament of irregular forces.
The first round of elections was conducted in relatively calm conditions and the result was that Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had to redo the presidential title. Former Prime Minister Ouattara has been at the center of the crisis that has shaken the Ivory Coast immigrant country for a decade, since his citizenship has been called into question.
The weeks leading up to the decisive election round were marked by violence and threatening statements. While the announcement of the result was delayed, the country’s borders were closed, foreign news broadcasts were blocked and nightly curfews were imposed. Finally, the Electoral Commission proclaimed Ouattara victors with a good margin. Shortly thereafter, the so-called Constitutional Council – controlled by close associates of Gbagbo – annulled the results in several regions in the north and declared Gbagbo as the victor. Gbagbo quickly took office for a new term, while Ouattara also proclaimed president. Two parallel governments were formed.
The outside world reacted with outrage at Gbagbo’s actions. The United Nations, the United States, the EU, France, the African Union (AU) and the regional cooperation organization ECOWAS all recognized Ouattara as legal president. The EU issued an entry ban to Gbagbo Union and 60 people from its inner circle, while the West African central bank announced that its accounts would only be made available to Ouattara and the government he appointed. The International Monetary Fund also said it would only cooperate with an internationally recognized government. Ivory Coast was suspended from its membership in the AU.
African mediation attempts did not produce immediate results and on New Year’s Eve ECOWAS threatened with military intervention to oust Gbagbo. Threatening rhetoric from employees at Gbagbo raised concerns about a new civil war. According to the UN, only 173 people were killed by Gbagbo’s security forces during the week immediately preceding the Christmas weekend. Ouattara and his government were trapped in a hotel protected by former Northern and UN soldiers, while loyal loyalists to Gbagbo besieged the area. The UN Security Council extended the mandate for the peace force after rejecting Gbagbo’s demand that it leave the country.