Resolution of the Ivorian Complex Conflict: ECOWAS or France

Pauline Collins
Desk Officer / West Africa
Africa Analysis International, AAI

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

January 24, 2003

Briefing No. 009

The West African state of Ivory Coast has been going through a very complex and unresolved crisis period of recent. Said conflict, with its prolonged and intricate nature has permeated the social and economic fabrics of the country's uneven societies with a real political face and troubling constitutional and legal undertone.

The growth and emerging dangers of the Ivorian complex crisis /conflict have been in phases which fundamentally commenced with the death of the country's founding president, undemocratic figure and dictator, Felix Houphouet Boigny, the succession of and subsequent elections under his immediate successor, ex- president Henri Konan Bedie, the inappropriate and ruthless emergence of military rule led by the late General Guei Robert, and the violent enthronement of the incumbent president, Laurent Gbargbo, consequential of the confusing elections that produced strict jacket results, and tailored the present realities .

The intervening impact and immediate effects of all this generated real devastation : Breakdown of law and order in most regions of the country ; cessation of viable economic ( particularly agricultural production ) activities ; halting of some aspects of relevant social services, facilitation of forced migration, refugee flow and internal displacement ; and most significantly, death and destruction. A lot, if not all of these, constitute basic human

rights violations and moral disorder in the country, and the entire West Africa sub region in addition to the existing situation of Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc.

External Intervention

The Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS ) is the a sub regional organization of West African countries, including the Ivory Coast, created decades ago to « promote and strengthen regional cooperation » , and all that associates with political, social and economic development and advancement. This is interpreted as meaning the fostering of trade, commerce and industrial exchange, monetary and banking harmonization as well peace, stability and security in the sub region amongst its members’ states.

On the other hand, France has been the colonial power and still remains the traditional friend of the Ivory Coast. Much of the infrastructural boast and « outstanding » developments the country enjoys amongst its many West African neighbors are as a result of the French’s interest and consistent participation in the Ivorian need and quest for national progress.

Notwithstanding, this defines and settles the argument as to the right, merits and demerits in engaging the Ivorian civil conflict, a complex, militarized and very costly impasse which involves the question of death, life and identity of a people.


In the middle of the Ivorian civil unrest, ECOWAS intervened with all of the rights, power and authority to do so. The acceptance and overall response to that intervention was one of respect, though with mistrust and suspicion, both nationally and internationally.

As routinely done, a number of conferences were held, negotiations pursued with countless and floating speeches, etc. And as usual, the emerging results were a potential prolongation of the conflict, creation of further complexities and escalation of fundamental human rights abuses, mainly against ordinary people, most of whom are women and children. Yet ECOWAS insists on an “AFRICAN SOLUTION” to put it directly in the words of Nigerian troubled president, Olusegun Obasanjo.

The “AFRICA SOLUTION”, particularly that under the initiatives of ECOWAS and West African heads of states could not work at all in bringing the Ivorian Peace Process to its current excellent status and understanding. The reasons are indeed obvious.

Firstly, there is a very apparent moral depreciation in ECOWAS, and this calamity is rooted in the general attitude, behavior and disposition of many ECOWAS' governments and leaders, a lot of whom are anti democratic, ruthless, corrupt, intolerant, dictatorial, tribally- bent with prejudice, divisiveness and hate.

Secondly, ECOWAS as a regional organization lacks organized, efficient and effective conflict resolution and peace building mechanism and strategies, both at the secretariat and inter-governmental levels. Again, the reasons are obvious. Many governments and leaders in the ECOWAS’ region have a similar concept and understanding of power which is shrouded in personal aggrandizement and self- interest. In addition to these tendencies expressed in the way and manner they govern, some of them, if not most, are subjugated by financial inducement. And this is one bit used by the Libyan leader, Muammar Ghaddafi in obtaining their unquestionable and blind loyalty, in his unending attempt to wield every available influence in the West African sub region against that of the West.

Thirdly, the choice or selection of political appointees to serve at the ECOWAS’ Secretariat appeared to be done in a manner of pre-calculation and manipulations with no consideration to the moral standing and principle-mindedness of any one who is to serve in those capacities. Realistically, this explains further why ECOWAS’ Secretariat engages and intervenes in conflict situations in the sub region the way it does - with chaos and deceit.

Fourthly, some of the governments and leaders in the ECOWAS’ region are in fact the very agents of the collective insecurity that is spreading throughout the sub region. Examples are: Burkina Faso, Liberia, and even the Ivory Coast then.

There are also those that have serious governance, human rights, and economic problems. Considering the West African state of Togo for instance, and its several decades lasting ruler, Gnassingbe Eyadema in whose country and guidance the ECOWAS Ivorian Peace Process was been held, as a case in point.

How then could ECOWAS make any relevant achievement in resolving conflicts and enhancing peace, security and development in its members’ states ? From AAI’s appreciation, the possibilities are too distant unless there emerges a fundamental change in the style of leadership, attitude, vision and principles of ECOWAS’ countries, governments, and leaders. This change must be done in and with the spirit of democracy, good governance and internationalism. Without this, the so-called “ Africa Solution” , particularly in the West African context will always be illusive, and a doom. Let ECOWAS acknowledges its weakness and confronts its challenges with honesty so as to engender trust and confidence from its population and the vast international community.

The French Action

The French action relative to the engagement of the Ivorian crisis is timely, encouraging and generally productive, to the extent that it has, and or will prevent death and destruction ; restore law and order ; peace and security ; and viable social services, and economic- agricultural activities.

The action of France in the Ivorian civil unrest, in practical terms, manifests realistic globalization, international cooperation, traditional friendship, realization of being a super power and member of the United Nations’ Security Council with concern for and interest in global security no matter where and whose interest is at stake. In this connection, AAI implore the government and people of France for these fine initiatives, and calls on other developed nations, particularly those in the West and members of the United Nations’ Security Council to engage African problems in like manners and even beyond, to include industrial assistance and social empowerment. Certainly, this could be a more better definition of and interpretation for the New Partnership for Africa's Development ( NEPAD) for ordinary Africans, and in this case Ivorians and West Africans.


In the wake of the established progress achieved in the Paris Ivorian Peace Process, AAI wishes to advance the following recommendations in continuation of the excellent development :

1. That President Laurent Gbargbo, all stake holders in the country's crisis, and the Ivorian population in general kindly accept the deal reached at the Paris Talks so as to avoid degeneration of the conflict, and simultaneously death, mass destruction and loot ;

2. That the French, in collaboration with the incoming Ivorian government of national unity and inclusion, jointly enhance the country's national security efforts until the next elections are held as agreed upon, and that the military and security apparatus in the country be restructured, trained and empowered at an appreciable level ; and

3. That the French and the international community support civic educational efforts, democratic activities, community animation and development, women and youth initiatives empowerment throughout the country in order to build tolerance, facilitate re-socialization, promote respect for human rights, and strengthen constitutional awareness at all levels of the country's society.


Several parts of the West African sub region are in total political, social and economic disarray, and moral disorder. This is all due to the issue of continued war, anarchy and bad governance. ECOWAS as the inter- governmental organization established to promote economic cooperation, enhance peace and security in the sub region is, unfortunately and regrettably , unable to secure regional security and all that associates with same due to factors herein indicated.

Yet, most of the sub region's governments and leaders, in spite of their weaknesses and serious and uncontrollable internal problems, are crying wolf against concrete external help that is producing results in resolving the conflict in the Ivorian Coast, another ECOWAS state where many lives are at serious risks.

It is the institutional position of AAI, that ECOWAS, in view of its multiple failures in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and the Ivory Coast reference to conflict resolution and peace building; should emulate, endorse and learn from the French action or methodology, instead of bad-mouthing the progress made at the Paris Talks under the disguised of the so called “African Solution “.

In full support of ECOWAS chair and Senegalese president, Abdoulaye Wade, ECOWAS and its leaders including the secretariat, should acknowledge their weaknesses, improve their countries and the sub region by tackling the emerging problems of the AIDS and related health epidemics, acute and trans-generational poverty, the mass human rights abuses and social injustices affecting its populations, and the dangers and hindrances posed to democracy in the sub region.

Africa Analysis International, AAI