Since 2002, Côte d’Ivoire has been paralyzed by a divide between the rebel-held North and the army-controlled South. The instability began in 1999 when General Robert Guei organized a coup to overthrow the then President Henri Bedie. Guei also instilled religious discord by refusing to allow a Muslim northerner to take part in Presidential elections. The only contender allowed in the election, Ivorian Popular Front (IPF) candidate Laurent Gbagbo, won the election and violence ensued.
After attacks on government facilities and the murder of Guei, Gbagbo heightened security by way of military operation, causing the displacement of approximately 12,000 individuals. Rebel groups also took control of the north and subsequent attempts at ceasefire proved fruitless. The United Nations considered much of the violence state-led and implemented peacekeepers to patrol the border zone between the North and South. Such actions were met with hostility and anti-UN sentiments from government supporters. In November of 2004, nine French peacekeepers were killed in an airstrike on rebel territory, illustrating the gravity of the situation to the international community. Unfortunately, all attempts at stabilization failed and Gbagbo delayed the October elections in hopes that he could remain in office. Widespread and violent riots against the UN occurred in January of 2006, prompting the UN Security Council to declare sanctions against political leaders.
The recent appointment of Prime Minister Charles Konnan Banny was intended to provide some glimmer of hope for peace in Côte d’Ivoire. Chosen by Nigerian and South African Presidents to lead a reconciliation government, Banny was to work with the international community in promoting a resolution. Unfortunately, little stability has come from his recent efforts and the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire continues to add more peacekeeping forces. Attempts are currently being made to encourage disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) among militias. The situation remains incredibly unstable, and much has yet to be done before the newly scheduled October elections can occur. It is likely that Gbagbo and other government supporters will again try to delay elections, but if Côte d’Ivoire is to become peaceful and prosperous again, both African and international forces must ensure that voting can take place without militia involvement.