The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

  1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. West Africa
  4. Côte d’Ivoire

Opposition leader returns, calls for peace, as UN mulls sanctions

[Cote d'lvoire] Former Prime minister Alassane Ouattara: Will he be able to run for presidential elections in 2004?
Opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, has been cleared to run in this year's presidential elections (Abidjan Post)

Opposition leader Alassane Ouattara has returned to Cote d’Ivoire after three years of self-imposed exile, calling for peace as the United Nations mulls sanctions against leaders seen as blocking peace efforts.

"I would like to issue a call for union, for appeasement, and say that it's with much love that I'm returning to my country to participate in the political process, in reconciliation," Outtara said on arrival on Wednesday evening before driving off under the watchful eye of UN peacekeepers..

The leader of the opposition Rally of the Republicans (RDR) party, and a former prime minister, fled the country with the help of French special forces after unidentified assailants torched his house at the outbreak of civil war in 2002.

Presidential elections in Cote d’Ivoire are scheduled this year under the terms of UN resolution 1633, which prolonged the five-year mandate of President Laurent Gbagbo by up to 12 months when the country failed to hold elections on time last October.

Ouattara, who notably has support from rebels in control of the north of the country, was banned from running in previous presidential polls on the grounds that one of his parents was not Ivorian. Under pressure from peace mediators, Gbagbo last year pledged that his rival would be allowed to participate in the race.

Also on Wednesday, the UN Security Council extended until 15 December 2006 the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force brought in to maintain the peace and help steer the war-divided country towards disarmament and elections.

But the council stopped short of meeting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s request for some 4,000 extra troops. Currently, the UN Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has a strength of up to 7,090 troops and 725 police. The blue helmets work with a 4,000-strong force of French peacekeepers.

UN sources said an agreement on extra troops remained a possibility.

The extension of the peacekeeping mandate came ahead of meetings in New York expected to determine whether the UN will slap individual sanctions against Ivorian leaders seen as sabotaging the peace process, or inciting hatred and violence.

UN special envoy for Cote d'Ivoire, Swedish diplomat Pierre Schori, was in New York on Thursday to brief the council on developments in the war-torn country. According to diplomats, a decision on sanctions is expected this week or next.

"The mood is that sanctions will be imposed," one western diplomat told IRIN.

High on the list of potential candidates facing a travel and asset ban is Charles Ble Goude, leader of the nationalist pro-Gbagbo youth movement Young Patriots, according to the French news agency Agence France Presse.

His youth movement was behind four days of anti-UN riots last week that paralysed the government-run south of the divided country, and left at least five protesters dead in the western town of Guiglo. Northern Cote d’Ivoire has been in the hands of rebels for more than three years.

Protesters torched and ransacked UN offices and vehicles, and hundreds of peacekeepers were forced to retreat. The trouble has disrupted humanitarian assistance to some three million Ivorians, a million of whom receive food aid.

According to UN officials speaking on condition of anonymity, the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire is bolstering security for its offices and staff in case sanctions spark fresh riots.

The UN Security Council has brandished the threat of targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and a travel ban since an outbreak of violence in November 2004.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.

We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant. 

But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced. 

You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission. 

Support The New Humanitarian today.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join