Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ivory Coast, Disarmament, and the Dozos

This first appeared on John Campbell's Africa in Transition.
As Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara embarks on a long and difficult process of national reconciliation after the divisive elections of November 2011 that led to four months of violence, the role of Dozos, a multinational fraternity of game hunters that participates in some traditional West African cult practices, complicates the process, especially in the western border regions.

Villages in Ivory Coast began employing Dozos to provide security in response to rising crime rates in the early 1990s. In general, they were viewed as a stabilizing force, providing protection when and where the police could not. In return, they were paid cash, allowed to hunt on private property, and even provided land to cultivate crops.

However, as Amnesty recently reported (see my blog post earlier this week), the Dozos have been implicated in atrocities alongside forces loyal to President Ouattara  in southwestern Ivory Coast, which generally supported defeated president Laurent Gbagbo in the November 2011 elections.

IRIN news service reports that Ouattara’s government has publicly asked for assistance from Dozos in providing security. But Dozos are irregulars, not subject to, nor accepting of, military discipline.  Further, they are not indigenous to the areas where they have now established themselves and where refugees and internally displaced persons are likely to return.  It is unclear how the Ouattara government will deal with them or what their future will be. But, they will certainly complicate the Ivorian process of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of irregular fighters left over from a decade of political instability and civil war.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Report on Displacements and Conflict in Ivory Coast

This post originally appeared on John Campbell's Africa in Transition

Amnesty International’s latest report, released late last week, on Ivory Coast, “We Want To Go Home, But We Can’t: Cote d’Ivoire’s Continuing Crisis of Displacement and Insecurity,” is a grim reminder of an ongoing crisis that has largely disappeared from the pages of the western media. The report focuses heavily on continued insecurity, widespread displacement, and killings based on ethnicity.

The authors write that forces associated with the government of President Alassane Ouattara and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro have continued reprisal attacks against ethnic groups and villages perceived as supporting ousted president Laurent Gbagbo and are responsible for much of the country’s insecurity since mid-May of this year. Further, the Ouattara government has had little success in reaching out to Gbagbo’s core supporters.

The report notes that until May when Ouattara defeated Gbagbo, militias from both sides were responsible for the violence that left hundreds if not thousands dead and, according a recent UNHCR estimate, five hundred thousand people internally displaced (pdf). Another one hundred and forty four thousand were forced to flee to neighboring Liberia, itself facing potentially divisive elections this year. Given the continued insecurity, displaced people are afraid to return home, contributing to a dire humanitarian situation that sooner or later is likely to have repercussions in the West African region and require the engagement of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

Read the entire report here.