Peacekeeping: UN Confronts a Crises in Ivory Coast


January 20, 2006: The UN is facing a peacekeeping crises in the Ivory Coast. Following Monday's incident in the western part of the country. in which supporters of president Laurent Gbagbo attacked U.N. peacekeepers. The response included deadly force, which killed at least four attackers, causing the U.N. forces to pull out of the town. One result of this is that representatives of the principal opposition group, Forces Nouvelles de Cote d'Ivoire, have warned that the peace process is failing and a renewal of the country's protracted civil war is imminent. This is a pretty accurate assessment.

Although the U.N. brokered a transitional unity government and peace talks, Gbagbo has decided - and stated publicly - that he's strong enough to take on the rebels, if only the 10,000 U.N. and French peacekeepers would get out of the way. The result has been a series of confrontations between Gbagbo's supporters, mostly young thugs, and U.N. troops. So far, the attacks have avoided confrontations with the French, who are much better trained and equipped, and have in the past retaliated with considerable force when attacked. But it seems only a matter of time before there's a confrontation with French peacekeepers as well.

Gbagbo's strategy is to create an "incident' that can be used to manipulate world opinion against continuing the peacekeeping mission. Hence the recent series of attacks on U.N. personnel. It's hard to say whether he's got much chance of getting the U.N. out, as senior U.N. officials appear to be angry over the recent developments. Nor are the French likely to leave any time soon. And in any case, even if the peacekeepers were to pull out, it's highly unlikely that Gbagbo's forces will be able to defeat Forces Nouvelles.

The Ivorian Army seems to number only about 6,500 or so troops, supplemented by a small air force and navy. There is also a reserve that supposedly consists of some 10,000 men, plus about 1,250 men in the Presidential Guard and a similar number in the militia, though that may be supplemented by large number of irregulars, primarily street thugs, and probably is still covertly employing some mercenaries.

Forces Nouvelles are based in the north and controlling rather more than half the country. Although figures on FN's military resources are not available, it appears the movement has more than enough manpower and equipment to cope with Gbagbo's forces.




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