| Mario Giro’s Work|
Mario Giro’s Work
In 2003, Mario Giro participated in the Linas-Marcoussis meeting launched by President Chirac to try to resolve the Ivorian crisis. Since the 1980s, the Community of Sant’Egidio has been present in the country developing multiple activities. Following the armed attack of the main Ivorian towns by rebels during the night of September 19, 2002, Sant’Egidio strove to facilitate a solution.
In November, Mario Giro was invited to Lome by Togolese authorities who were attempting the first mediation and obtained the first cease-fire. On this occasion, Mario Giro shuttled between the rebels and President Gbagbo to test the possibility of a broader agreement. In late 2003, he was invited by President Chirac’s Diplomatic Advisor to the Elysée in order to discuss the possibility of organizing a meeting in France. It would be held in Marcoussis, behind closed doors, in the presence of very few witnesses outside the two parties involved. It was followed by the International Conference held at the Centre Kléber, which resulted in the creation of a government of national unity.
Further meetings would be needed to resolve the Ivorian imbroglio in which intertwine elements of history, ideology, and political and ethnic rivalries. Meanwhile, Sant’Egidio developed, in the Côte d’Ivoire, ties with key religious leaders and thus avoided adding a religious dimension to the crisis’ already complex problems.
Since independence in 1960, and for over twenty years, the Côte Ivoire was one of the most prosperous countries of West Africa, thanks in particular to the development of cocoa production for export and foreign investment. However, starting in the mid-1980s, the economy stagnated, state debt rose, and foreign relations deteriorated.
This crisis was compounded by Henri Konan Bedie’s (1993-1999) difficulties in succeeding after President Felix Houphouet-Boigny. Intensified political turmoil, the imprisonment of several opposition leaders, the exacerbation of tensions in the press were all factors that weakened the country. A new electoral code was adopted in 1994 requiring candidates to prove their ancestry and their Ivorian nationality. This was part of the principle of Ivoirité.
In December 1999, the first military coup in the country’s history overthrew the government. Robert Guei, the leader of the junta took power. Then in 2000, was proclaimed winner of the presidential elections against Laurent Gbagbo, despite the decision of the Supreme Court, destabilizing the Côte d’Ivoire even further. Clashes burst out between militants of the ruling Front populaire ivoirien (FPI), headed by Laurent Gbagbo and those of the Rassemblement des républicains de Côte d’Ivoire (RDR). Robert Guei was forced to step down.
On September 19, 2002, an attempted coup failed but rebel soldiers took over the cities of Bouake and Korhogo. The northern half of the territory (about 60% of the territory) was occupied by the movement of the Forces Nouvelles (FN) trained by the rebellion. Robert Guei was assassinated. Confronted with these events, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) deployed 10,000 peacekeepers. France, historically present on the Ivorian territory, sent 4,500 of its troops to protect the country’s security. The French “Operation Unicorn” supported and complemented UN activities.
In January 2003, the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement was ratified at France’s initiative in hopes of organizing a return to peace. It maintained President Laurent Gbagbo in power with a government made up of all parties, including rebels who obtained the ministries of Defense and Interior. A monitoring committee for the Agreement’s implementation was established and chaired by the UN. The stability of Côte d’Ivoire remains very uncertain however and the north is still in the hands of rebel forces. In addition, the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement was not always well received. Violent riots broke out and an anti-French sentiment grew.
On July 30, 2004, the Accra Peace Accords were adopted by the Ivorian political forces who had signed the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement. The new accords complemented the previous agreements, which had been disavowed. Two days later, UNOCI discovered hundreds of dead bodies in Korhogo and “Operation Unicorn” suffered a deadly air raid (9 dead and 34 wounded). French forces responded with a counter attack. This military incident would exacerbate the latent anti-French sentiment growing amidst certain fringe segments of the population. Insecurity forced more than 8,000 French citizens to return to France. Following these events, the UN Security Council condemned the Ivorian army’s air strikes, renewed its support for efforts undertaken by the UNOCI and French forces, and decided on an immediate weapons embargo.
On March 4, 2007, the Ouagadougou Agreement was signed between Laurent Gbagbo, Guillaume Soro, and Blaise Compaoré, as a facilitator. This led to the appointment of Soro, leader of the Forces Nouvelles (FN, rebellion) as Prime Minister replacing Charles Konan Banny, appointed in 2005 by the international community. The third Prime Minister in five years of crisis, Guillaume Soro had until the end of 2007 to address issues of disarmament, reunification, and the organization of elections.
The Côte d’Ivoire is slowly emerging from the crisis. The major hurdle remains the implementation of the Ouagadougou process and organizing transparent and credible elections.
August 7, 1960: Proclamation of Independence of Côte d’Ivoire.
November 27, 1960: Felix Houphouet-Boigny was elected President of the Republic and was re-elected five times in 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, and 1990.
December 8, 1994: Adoption of a new Electoral Code, which required candidates to prove their ancestry and their Ivorian nationality.
October 22, 1995: Henri Konan Bedie was elected President of the Republic with 96.44% of the vote. Since the death of Felix Houphouet-Boigny in 1993 and as Chairman of the National Assembly, Henri Konan Bedie was already fulfilling the functions of the Head of State.
December 24, 1999: Following a coup d’état, former Chief of Staff Robert Guei destituted Bédié of his functions and took over.
October 22-28, 2000: Following the coup, popular and military uprisings led to the recognition by the Supreme Board of Laurent Gbagbo’s victory in the elections against Robert Guei. A mass grave of 57 bodies was discovered in Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan. Two months later, Gbagbo declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew.
September 19, 2002: An attempted coup in Abidjan degenerated into an armed uprising. The towns of Bouake in the center and Korhogo to the north, fell into the hands of rebels. General Robert Guei was killed. “Operation Unicorn” was established and the first French reinforcements to ensure the country’s security arrived. A week later, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) established a contact group and decided to send a peacekeeping force.
December 2002: Tensions broke out between French soldiers and rebels resulting in a dozen rebel victims on December 1. The French army discovered a mass grave of 120 bodies on December 5 at Monoko-Zohi in the west and then suffered a massive attack on the 29th.
January 15-23, 2003: The Linas-Marcoussis agreement was signed at France’s initiative. The agreement provided for the creation of a national reconciliation government, the establishment of a timetable for national elections, the disarmament of armed groups, the restructuring of defense and security forces…
July 30, 2004: Accra Agreement adopted by the Ivorian political forces that had signed the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.
November 2004: On November 4th and 5th,the regular army bombed former rebel positions in the north. The forces of Operation Licorne riposted. An Ivorian air strike was launched on the 6th against the French forces in Bouake resulting in the death of 9 French soldiers and wounding 34 others. The French army responded and destroyed all Ivorian aircraft leading to looting and anti-French demonstrations in Abidjan. This led Paris to send 600 more men to reinforce Operation Unicorn. Fleeing anti-French reprisals, 8,332 out of 13,000 French nationals were repatriated to France.
March 4, 2007: Laurent Gbagbo; Guillaume Soro, leader of the Forces Nouvelles; and Blaise Compaore, President of Burkina Faso, signed the Ouagadougou political agreement. The agreement aimed to revive the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire and to reunify the country.
October 31, 2010: The first round of the presidential elections took place peacefully. Laurent Ghagbo is in first place with 37% of the votes, followed by Alassane Ouattara (34%) and former President Henri Konan-Bédié (27%).