Ivory Coast - Military Doctrine

the central mission of the Ivoirian armed forces was self-defense. The military was not prepared by doctrine or available resources for offensive operations. The armed forces had modest overland mobility, some light weaponry, and limited armor and air defense capabilities; the navy was suited only for coastal defense missions; and the air force, with its small fleet of aircraft, could carry out only token air defense, interdiction, transport, and support operations. The air force had no helicopters for tactical mobility or attack. With the establishment in 1984 of a radar network linking Bouake and Yamoussoukro, some territorial surveillance was possible, but the military had no long-range ground or maritime surveillance capability.

The Ivoirian armed forces consisted of three services, all small and lightly equipped. With the exception of military training exercises and a small, regional revolt in 1970, as of the end of the 1980s the military had remained in its barracks. It played no role in domestic peacekeeping, in the drive for modernization, or in mobilizing the population. Unlike its counterpart in neighboring states, the Ivoirian officer corps viewed itself as a distinct profession under civilian control.

The presence of a French battalion based near Port Bouet reinforced the importance of maintaining professional norms of service. Moreover, Houphouet-Boigny kept military salaries attractive and named officers to high positions in the PDCI, in effect assimilating the military elite. Greater contact between the civilian elite and military officers led to social integration and completed the co-optation of the military. With a solid stake in the "Ivoirian miracle," the senior officer corps had little interest in altering the status quo. With the passage of time, psychological inertia further institutionalized civilian control, and the civil bureaucracy gained experience, expertise, and confidence.

Many events had the potential to precipitate future military intervention in domestic politics. These would include a stalemate in the Political Bureau of the PDCI over a successor to Houphouet-Boigny, the emergence of an incompetent administration, extreme economic austerity coupled with a declining franc, and widespread unrest led or supported by students, unions, or the urban unemployed. As an institution with an untainted past, the military could, in any of these cases, be called upon to lead a movement promising a return to stability and greater access to economic resources for less favored groups. Nevertheless, given the broadening base of the party, the politics of co-optation, the as yet inchoate class struggle, and the division of peacekeeping responsibility among the Surete Nationale and the armed forces, most observers agreed that government control over the military would probably continue.

By 2010 Côte d’Ivoire was still rife with armed militia groups, in particular in the west. Although their actual strength and military capabilities cannot be assessed accurately, they form a well structured organization. Similarly, armed and unarmed urban youth groups in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro and San-Pedro were often manipulated by the key political stakeholders and pose a serious threat to the population. Other long-standing sources of insecurity in the west could fuel any violence that may erupt as a result of the current political stalemate. These include banditry and armed criminality, which are still commonplace, and the frequent inter- and intra-community clashes in that area, particularly over land. In addition, unregulated and porous borders, particularly in the north, allow for the circulation, with little scrutiny, of small arms and natural resources, as well as trafficking of drugs and persons.

The political environment appeared to be improving, with the Government remaining committed to taking forward measures to ease tensions and invigorate the political dialogue while also generating economic development and putting in place conditions conducive to the return of refugees and others who left Côte d’Ivoire during the post-elections crisis. Notwithstanding those improvements, the 2015 elections would be an important barometer of the sustainability of the prevailing stability. Ensuring an environment conducive to peaceful elections would require overcoming political challenges in a host of areas, including with respect to taking forward electoral reforms in a manner that is inclusive and enhances confidence.

While the security situation had improved, pockets of insecurity remained, particularly in the west. Considerable tensions arose from land disputes, unresolved nationality issues and the population’s lack of confidence in FRCI and affiliated armed groups, which were conducting most security operations. Armed robbery, racketeering and other criminal activities were rife, and many feared that there could be violence during the electoral period. There remained significant mistrust between FRCI, the police and the gendarmerie, particularly outside Abidjan, where FRCI led efforts in maintaining law and order despite the presence of the police and the gendarmerie. While improvements had been made with respect to the operational effectiveness and governance of the security sector, considerable political challenges remained. There were also hurdles to be overcome to enable the Government to meet its ambitious timeline of disarming the full caseload of former combatants by mid-2015, not least owing to remaining questions about the inclusiveness of the process, the future of former zone commanders and dozos, and the challenges in creating sustainable employment opportunities.

The situation in the Liberia-Côte d’Ivoire border area had improved considerably since similar assessments were conducted in 2012 and 2013. There had been no major cross-border attack since March 2013, although there was an attack near the border with Liberia in February 2014. At the same time, the border remained highly porous and progr ess in building national capacity to address cross-border security issues remained slow in both countries. Officials on both sides of the border noted the absence of sufficient human, financial and material investment in border stabilization. Traditional chiefs and elders said they required support in establishing locally owned cross-border initiatives and advocated for an increased role for youths in confidence-building initiatives to mitigate the risk of their involvement in destabilizing activities. Pointing to security improvements, a government minister advised that the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles in Côte d’Ivoire may no longer be necessary.

Improvements had also been achieved in the region, including as a result of efforts made by the Mano River Union and ECOWAS to reinvigorate regional mechanisms for fighting transnational organized crime. Many of the strategic review team’s interlocutors expressed concern, however, about the prospects of a reversal of the current stability, given that several countries, including Côte d’Ivoire and two of its neighbours, Burkina Faso and Guinea, were going to hold sensitive elections in 2015.

Join the mailing list