Foreign policy and defense
Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Ivory Coast is a nation in Western Africa. Its capital city is Yamoussoukro. The Ivory Coast has traditionally had close relationships with the western world. The country’s most important trading partner and donor is France. However, during the civil war of 2002-2007, relations to the old colonial power were strained when France chose not to help the Gbagbo government to regain rebel-controlled areas in the north. Former President Gbagbo accused outside forces of involvement in the conflict, but the French government saw the war as an internal conflict. Otherwise, through a 1961 defense agreement, France would have had to intervene militarily.
At the end of 2002, a French peacekeeping force (Opération Licorne; Operation Enhörning) was sent to the Ivory Coast. In 2004, nine French soldiers were killed when Ivorian fighter aircraft attacked a French military posting. France responded by knocking out almost the entire Ivorian air force. Leading politicians took advantage of this to stave off anti-French sentiment in the Ivory Coast and many Frenchmen left the country. Since Ouattara was installed as president in 2012, relations with France have been good.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Ivory Coast for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Relations between the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso have also been tense. Land conflicts and xenophobic moods in Ivory Coast, often directed against Burkinians or residents with Burmese roots, led to many being expelled.
During the civil war, the Gbagbo government accused Burkina Faso of supporting the rebel movement MPCI. Nevertheless, it was Burkese President Blaise Compaoré who mediated the peace agreement in 2007. Compaoré fled the Ivory Coast in 2012 after losing power in a popular uprising in his home country. He was granted Ivorian citizenship in 2016 despite Burkina Faso requesting him extradited for a trial in his home country (see further Calendar). Burkinan authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Ivorian President Soro in 2016, after accusing him of being involved in a coup attempt.
In the summer of 2016, the countries became closer, and President Ouattara and his Burkinean colleague Roch Marc Christian Kaboré signed about 10 bilateral agreements, including on cooperation on infrastructure and measures to counter terrorism. The arrest warrant against Soro had also been withdrawn.
In connection with the 2010/2011 wave of violence, the Ivory Coast was temporarily closed off from Ecowas and the AU. Both organizations had previously made great efforts to end the war and resolve the political crisis. After the 2010 elections, both the EU and the US targeted sanctions against Gbagbo and its immediate circle. After the 2010/2011 crisis, both the EU and the US have increased their assistance to the Ivory Coast.
In 2016, the UN lifted the arms embargo that had been in effect since 2004 ((read more about the UN in Ivory Coast in the Foreign Magazine).
The war in Liberia has occasionally touched on the western parts of the Ivory Coast. In 1989, the Liberian guerrilla movement invaded NPFL in Liberia from bases on the Ivorian side of the border. When the civil war broke out in Ivory Coast in 2002, relations between the countries deteriorated further. Ivorian rebel groups were backed by Liberian rebels loyal to Liberia’s then-president Charles Taylor, while Gbagbo for a time assisted Liberian rebel groups that thwarted Taylor’s regime. During the 2010/2011 riots, over 200,000 Ivorians fled to Liberia, but most of them have since returned home. The border area with Liberia has remained unsettled, although the situation has improved in recent years (see Calendar).
With Ghana, there is a border dispute over an oil and gas-rich sea area, where Ghana is already extracting oil today. Since the fall of 2014, a group within the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has mediated the conflict. The mediators decided in April 2015 that Ghana will be allowed to continue extracting oil according to the agreements entered into, but that new oil projects may not be initiated until a final ruling has been presented by the Marine Court. It came in the fall of 2017 and the court granted Ghana justice.
Angola has in recent years tried to widen its influence in West Africa. Gbagbo was in close contact with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos for a long time and received his support after the 2010 election. Under Gbagbo’s rule, the Angolan MPLA signed a series of agreements with Ivorian oil interests, including buying a part in a large oil refinery. Angolan mercenaries are also reported to have been killed on Gbagbo’s side in the civil war. Later, the Angolan government has tried to approach Ouattara, which has been compounded in part by old conflicts between dos Santos and the new Ivorian president, believed to date back to the time when Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Ivory Coast’s first president, supported Unita guerrilla, the MPLA’s opponent in the Angola Civil War 1975-2002.
The national defense is under construction. The 2007 peace treaty stipulates that the government army and rebel forces should form a common national defense, but disarmament and the rebel integration have been slow. In the spring of 2011, the Forces republican de la Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) was formed when several forces supporting Ouattara fought the same after a decree from the president.
The government still has difficulty gaining full control of the defense force, which consisted of former rebels, defected soldiers from the former government army FDS and young men recruited in connection with the FRCI offensive in 2011. Some military commanders from the rebel movement New forces have refused to give up control of the zones in the north, where they have been able to enrich themselves through smuggling and other illegal activities.
Soldiers have also protested that they have not been paid wages and financial contributions that they have been promised (see Calendar).
The UN force Unoci, which had been formed in 2004, completed its mission in June 2017. However, some observers felt that Unoci had to remain in the country for some time (see Foreign Ministry: Political power struggle threatens peace in Ivory Coast).
The French force, which played a key role in the arrest of Gbagbo in 2011, was restructured in 2015 to focus mainly on counter-terrorism in the region. At most, France had 4,000 soldiers in the country, but the troop force was reduced to 500 men in 2011 and then expanded to 900 men after the terrorist attack in the country in the spring of 2016 (see Calendar). In 2016, the government decided to increase funding for the military. The money would go to both new equipment and a modernization of the army.
In early 2017, however, several army unions rebelled and demanded that they receive the “bonuses” they had been promised. In early January, the government succeeded in stoking a rebellion by paying 8,500 soldiers the equivalent of $ 19,000 each. President Ouattara also re-furnished the military command. The first revolt was followed by new soldier protests (see Current policy).
READING TIPS – read more about Ivory Coast in UI’s web magazine:
Political power struggle threatens peace in Ivory Coast (2017-12-18)
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 23 000 men (2017)
The air Force: 1,400 men (2017)
The fleet: 1,000 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.3 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 5.1 percent (2017)