Regional Stability

Mercenaries from Mali to Foment Unrest in Côte d’Ivoire?

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UNOCI Conducts Disarmament Operation in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – February 2012. Photo: United Nations/flickr

According to a controversial report commissioned by the United Nations, former Ivorian President Laurent Gbabo’s exiled allies are recruiting Islamists from Northern Mali to destabilize the current government of President Alassane Ouattara.

News of the report broke on Saturday, October 6, 2012 on Radio France International (RFI). In an article entitled “Côte d’Ivoire: UN report rich in revelations” [fr] RFI describes the alleged links between the pro-Gbabo Ivorian Patriotic Front (FPI) and Ansar Dine Islamists in Mali. Their report also claims that a meeting took place on the border between Mauritania and Senegal to discuss the mobilization of mercenaries.

Truth or Propaganda?

French national newspaper Le Figaro took up the RFI story [fr], followed by the Associated Press, whose story was republished on the New York Times and other international news sites.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson of the UN mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) emphasized that the report was by no means binding upon the UN [fr]:

Contrary to what has been said on RFI and sowed confusion, this is not a UN report. It is an independent expert report to be submitted to the Security Council.

(…) the findings of this report solely bind those experts.

We have to wait for everyone to read the report and see the evidence collected by experts to determine whether the elements are true…

The five independent experts in question were mandated by the UN Security Council and appointed by the Secretary General in June 2012.

Théophile Kouamouo, a well-known blogger and editor in chief of pro-Gbagbo opposition newspaper Nouveau Courrier doubts [fr] the accuracy of the UN expert investigations:

The experts should, before publishing a report, rely on documented sources tested or based on at least two independent sources. They should also, whenever possible, [to] contact the respondents and collect their version of facts. This has not been done, according to numerous persons interviewed by The New Courier. For example, on a subject like the alleged meeting in Takoradi (Ghana), Marcel Gossio, can easily prove that he was not in Ghana at the date cited.

Casting further doubt on the report’s accuracy, Kouamouo assumes that the current Ivorian regime must have provided the UN-appointed experts with the mobile phone messages exchanged between exiled FPI politicians and Islamists:

Moreover, according to RFI, the report evokes intercepted SMS messages as evidence against the pro-Gbagbo [opposition]. However, the expert committee is not comprised of experts on wiretapping, and neither is UNOCI. The reality must be that, beyond this well-oiled propaganda operation, it is highly probable that the securocrats of Ouattara’s regime have simply released the alleged “evidence” to the experts.

For further information on the topic, please view the following publications from our partners:

In Brief: Ivory Coast Back on the Brink

Cote d’Ivoire’s Post-Election Crisis

Mali’s Political Crisis and Its International Implications

For more information on issues and events that shape our world please visit the ISN’s Security Watch and Editorial Plan.

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