Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Côte d’Ivoire: Coast is far from clear

Laurent Gbagbo may be on his way out in Côte d’Ivoire but Alassane Ouattara will inherit a divided country, an unsolved massacre and potential chaos in Abidjan.

Incumbent leader Gbagbo has not surrendered yet but has suggested he wants to do so and has requested United Nations protection after days of fighting, a UN official told Reuters on Tuesday. A UN document seen earlier by Reuters said he had already given himself up.

After Gbagbo, cocoa and bond investors hoping for a swift return to normal could well be in for a bumpy ride.

A disputed November presidential election led to outright warfare between the rival presidential claimants, reigniting a civil war that had left the world’s largest cocoa grower mostly partitioned de facto since 2001.

Sanctions imposed after Gbagbo refused to yield to the UN-certified winner barred him from deposits at the regional central bank, pushed his government into default on its debt and left cocoa decaying in warehouses. Commercial activity all but ceased and the economy is on the brink of collapse.

Despite questions over the killing of some 800 people in the western town of Duekoue as Ouattara forces advanced last week, the outside world is keen to help secure his rule.

United Nations helicopters and French forces targeted Gbagbo’s heavy weapons in the battle for Abidjan, but analysts say a greater threat comes from pro-Gbagbo urban militia who will retain their weapons if the incumbent president goes.

“In the short term, I think it will be very messy,” said Hannah Koep, Côte d’Ivoire analyst for consultancy Control Risks.

“Even if Gbagbo goes, his supporters are still very heavily armed and they will be very frustrated. The security situation in Abidjan is likely to be very unpredictable for some time to come. Beyond that, the challenges are monumental.”

Exports could resume relatively quickly, analysts say, but only after sanctions are lifted. A European Union spokesperson said that could happen as soon as power was transferred to Ouattara, a former prime minister and senior IMF official.

“If you look at the way cocoa prices have fallen and the bond has rallied, you can see there is a market expectation things could get back to normal relatively quickly,” said IHS Global Insight analyst Martin Roberts.

“Ouattara has always said his priority will be to put the country back together as quickly as possible … But Gbagbo has probably tried to leave things in as much of a mess as he can.”

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

DA’s egregious sexual harassment case finally begins

The party is accused of protecting a councillor, who’s also implicated in R1.2m graft

The ANC, DA and EFF ‘oblivious’ to climate crisis —...

The Climate Justice Charter Movement has critiqued the manifestos of the main parties contesting the local government elections and found them ‘shallow’

More top stories

It’s safe to open the beaches, says UPL after chemical...

Agrochemical producer UPL said it has paid R250-million in chemical spill clean-up

Former spy boss Fraser objects to Zondo’s nomination as chief...

The former director general of intelligence’s character assassination of the deputy chief justice is straight out of the Zuma playbook

Special Investigating Unit to oppose efforts to reject Mkhize report

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize seeks relief to declare the SIU’s conduct against him ‘unlawful and unconstitutional

Bird flu outbreak on Dyer Island causing mass deaths

The island hosts the vulnerable African penguins, endangered bank cormorant and roseate tern

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…