The international interventions that ensued fall into a number of categories: the mediation of peace accords; UN Security Council resolutions; arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze sanctions; investigations of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity; and the threat of further investigations, including by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Each has been used or threatened at different points in the conflict to bring the conflict protagonists into line with international humanitarian norms or to seek a political resolution to the conflict. As far as the design interventions were strategic or complementary, they formed part of an improvised strategy, but one built on the close attention paid to developments by, in particular, France, the Security Council and ECOWAS.
Negotiation and coercion
There have been four major sets of peace accords that aimed at disarming the rebels and redeploying the apparatus of the state in the north, while settling the political grievances said to be behind the conflict, such as the feeling of political exclusion of 'northern' Muslims at both the popular and elite levels. Starting with the French-mediated Linas-Marcoussis Accords of January 2003 (signed just four months after the outbreak of the war), these issues and several others were ostensibly settled by all parties, and their implementation was to be overseen by a government of national unity incorporating representatives of the rebels as well as those political parties that had been excluded from the 2000 elections.
Linas-Marcoussis was received with an immediate and violent reaction in Abidjan, where pro-Gbagbo Jeunes Patriotes (Young Patriots) destroyed such symbols of French presence as the French Cultural Centre. A virulent nationalist discourse that denounced France and Burkina Faso as supporting the rebels against the legitimate government fostered this violence and operated symbiotically with violent demonstrations, attacks on foreigners (both Africans and Europeans), and the development of a polarised public sphere, in which newspapers, human rights organisations, youth groups, and women's groups sprang up on both sides of the north-south divide, often contributing to rather than diminishing the spread of violence.
Subsequent accords mediated under the auspices of the AU and ECOWAS in Accra, Pretoria, and Ouagadougou have each been hailed as the possible solution to the country's underlying problems, though the solutions proposed in each case have been roughly the same: disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of rebel forces; reunification of the national territory; and identification of those without papers or whose identity had otherwise been called into question. As the existence of armed pro-Gbagbo militias became widely reported, then acknowledged by the government, their dismantling became a further condition of the accords, and after president Gbagbo's constitutional mandate ended in October 2005, transparent elections became the proposed endpoint of this process. While the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement of March 2007 between Gbagbo and FN leader Guillaume Soro is still in the process of being applied, all prior accords have fallen by the wayside.
There are several explanations for the failure of these accords, underpinned by the fact that major political actors agreed to them in bad faith in order to give themselves political room for manoeuvre and time to regroup and re-arm themselves. At the insistence of France and in consultation with ECOWAS and the AU, the Security Council has addressed this perception of bad faith in a number of ways. Resolutions 1633 and 1721 attempted to settle questions surrounding Gbagbo's constitutional mandate, whose term ended on 30 October 2005, which the opposition claimed rendered him illegitimate. Gbagbo's supporters claimed that he was entitled to serve indefinitely because of the exceptional circumstances of war and de facto partition of the country. The Security Council attempted to grant a one-time-only extension of one year, simultaneously diminishing the president's powers and transferring them to a new, more powerful Prime Minister. When elections still had not taken place by October 2006, the Security Council granted another (ostensibly one-off) extension. This expired in October 2007 with no elections, whereupon it became clear that the UN lacked either the will or the ability to back such threats with anything more than further threats. This was partly due to a lack of consensus among the mediators and Security Council members, with France, Britain and West African nations backing more coercive measures, and China and South Africa in particular opposing sanctions or other breaches of state sovereignty.
With the UN effectively losing credibility, influence and political leverage, Gbagbo did not wait for October 2007 to make this fact clear, but unceremoniously downgraded the UN mission's role from that of orchestrating the peace process to that of 'certifying' the steps in the process, and fired Charles Konan Banny, the international actors' chosen Prime Minister, replacing him with Soro, the erstwhile rebel leader. In this way, all prior Security Council resolutions were effectively rendered null and void. There was no reaction from the main external actors: France was keen to disengage from a politically and financially costly intervention; the Security Council was fatigued and prodded by the US, which wanted to know what the mission had to show for the billions of dollars already spent; while the new UN Secretary-General did not appear to have any particular engagement with the Ivorian dossier at that early point in his tenure.
A second and probably more effective form of international intervention specifically targeted the perception that war crimes and other human rights abuses had taken place on a large scale in Côte d'Ivoire. There were three UN Commissions of Inquiry which conducted research and put together reports on major atrocities first in December 2002-January 2003, next in April 2004, and finally in the period June-October 2004. None of these three reports was ever officially released, but all three were leaked. None of the leaked versions mentioned the names of those the commissions considered responsible for war crimes or human rights abuses, but in the case of the third report, diplomats close to the dossier have described a lengthy secret list that had been compiled for the sake of future action.
One of these commissions specifically investigated the massacres that took place in March 2004, when security forces allegedly killed large numbers of anti-Gbagbo protesters preparing to demonstrate by firing into crowds. Later, mixed groups of security forces and what the government described as 'parallel forces' hunted down 'northerners' presumed to be among the anti-Gbagbo demonstrators. The Commission's report stated that this had been a 'carefully planned and executed operation by the security forces...as well as special units and the so-called parallel forces, under the direction and responsibility of the highest authorities of the state.'
The three commissions effectively built the foundation for exerting political leverage over individuals through the implicit threat of prosecution for crimes they had committed. The possibility that prosecution might take place outside Côte d'Ivoire gave the threat more credibility still. An extension of this UN-sponsored process was the 2006 targeted sanction process represented by the UN Security Council's naming three Ivorian citizens to a travel ban and assets freeze list. The three individuals named were Charles Blé Goudé and Eujéne Djué of the 'Patriotic Galaxy,' and Col. Fofié of the FN. This action was belatedly taken in reaction to the anti-UN attacks that took place in January 2006, in reaction to the strong line taken by the International Working Group and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Pierre Schori, when they recommended that the National Assembly, whose mandate had run out without elections, should be dissolved. Blé Goudé and Djué had been identified for their inflammatory rhetoric, including on national television, and the role it had played in inciting violence from January 2003 onward. Col. Fofié had been accused of overseeing an internal FN purge in June 2004. Prior Security Council resolutions had threatened targeted sanctions against those guilty of human rights abuses as well as against those who were obstacles to the peace process, and the naming of these three combined the two rationales.
A third site of judicial intervention was that of the ICC's opening a preliminary dossier on Ivorian war crimes and crimes against humanity. Côte d'Ivoire had signed but not ratified the Treaty of Rome, so the only way the ICC could assert jurisdiction over crimes committed in the country was by a Security Council referral. As President Gbagbo requested such a referral in an act of spectacular brinkmanship, the way was at least potentially open. Even the possibility of an ICC investigation called up visions of a Milosevic-like end for actors like Soro or Gbagbo himself, and the later extradition of Charles Taylor only made such a threat more credible.
A further legal institution that acted indirectly on the way various actors saw themselves in relation to the law was the tribunal system set up to try those who allegedly bore greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the wars and/or genocides that took place in former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and in Sierra Leone. Most relevant to the Ivorian case was the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a hybrid national-international tribunal, established in January 2002 under the auspices of both the Security Council and the Sierra Leonean government. The SCSL operated alongside a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which aimed (without prosecutorial powers) to unearth testimony regarding the abuses committed during the war.