Ten soldiers from the Ivory Coast were shot dead in two separate incidents on Sunday and Monday. As reported by CNN, on Sunday gunmen killed five soldiers at a police station in the Abidjan neighbourhood of Yopougon, which has historically supported former Ivory Coast president, Laurent Gbago. The next day, five other soldiers were killed in Abidjan when a military camp was raided by heavily armed soldiers.
The Ivorian government says that the attackers are militia members “nostalgic for the old regime” of ex-president, and current prisoner at the International Criminal Court, Laurent Gbagbo.
As Gbago sits in The Hague, his loyalists have continued to threaten the fragile peace reached after post-electoral violence this past year. According to political analyst Dr. Gary K. Busch, the militias are taking refuge in Liberia and Ghana and they are fully-armed.
“The Ghanaians were hostile to any military attacks by the refugees for a long time but now, as the Ivory Coast is trying to steal the oil concessions in or near the Jubilee Field, their restraint is wavering,” said Busch. The oil field lies off the Ghanaian coast and the new Ivorian government is making territorial claims that are angering Ghana.
The United Nations has maintained an operational presence in Ivory Coast since 2004. It is charged with a protecting civilians and reforming the Ivorian security system. The UNOCI, as it is known, contains peacekeeping forces that until last month contained 9,400 troops.
In July, the Security Council extended the UN mandate for the mission, but decreased the size of their force. Youssoufou Bamba, Ivory Coast’s Ambassador to the UN, called the troop reduction “deplorable.”
The UNOCI was established in Ivory Coast during the civil war between the country’s government controlled south and rebels in the north, which decimated the then-prosperous Ivory Coast. At the heart of the conflict was the perceived differences between those in the south who saw themselves as more ivoirité, or “native,” and a poorer, more Muslim, more immigrant-dense northern population backed by what southerners called a neocolonial United Nations.
These themes were resurrected in post-election violence last year when Laurent Gbagbo, the sitting president from the south, refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim whose parents were allegedly immigrants. Ouattara was widely recognized by international groups as the victor, but ensuing fighting resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 Ivorians.
Dr. Busch said that the Monday attacks were in retaliation for violence that has been committed by the military during Ouattara’s tenure.
Gbagbo is currently at the ICC in the Netherlands where he faces accusations of bearing criminal responsibility for murder, rape, persecution, and other inhuman acts in the wake of the elections. The commencement of Gbagbo’s trial was postponed last Thursday while it is determined if he is medically fit to stand trial.
He is the first former head of state to face charges at the ICC.