26 February 2015 | Elizabeth J. Rushing , Florence Foster

Côte d'Ivoire: new commitments signal hope for 300,000 still internally displaced

Côte d’Ivoire made a number of promising commitments in 2014 that point towards a better response to the needs of the country’s internally displaced people (IDPs). It was the only country to ratify the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention) during the year, and it also developed a strategy for the achievement of durable solutions. The strategy was informed by a profiling exercise that examined the extent to which IDPs who fled violence during the 2002 to 2007 civil war and the 2010 to 2011 post-electoral violence had brought their displacement to a sustainable end.

The country has also been chosen to pilot the UN Framework on Ending Displacement in the Aftermath of Conflict, adding to hopes that the roles and responsibilities of those who respond to the phenomenon will be more clearly defined. This in turn would lead to a better-informed and more holistic approach towards responding to displacement and preventing it from happening in the future.

Significant security improvements have meant that many IDPs have been able to return to their home areas since mid-2011, but more than 300,000 still live in displacement. Most have taken refuge with host families or rented their own accommodation, but others squat or live in urban slums, where they are at risk of eviction.

IDPs face a range of obstacles to their achieving durable solutions, including difficulties in obtaining the documentation they need, and in accessing employment, livelihoods, land and property restitution mechanisms. These issues not only perpetuate their displacement. They also fuel ethnic tensions in return areas.

Many also still fear for their physical safety, particularly in the west and south-west of the country, where sporadic attacks on villages continue to force people to flee their homes. Forest evictions in the west and the evacuation of flood-prone areas in Abidjan have also caused the new and secondary displacement of thousands of people since 2013.

National and international attention has tended to focus on return and development programmes, but many IDPs and returning IDPs still have humanitarian needs related to their displacement, which tend not to be taken into account. With presidential elections due in October 2015, there are concerns that political violence may flare again, driving new displacement.

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Background and causes of displacement

Discriminatory policies and flawed land management in place since Côte d’Ivoire’s independence in 1960 culminated in the early 2000s in more than a decade of civil war,  political unrest, violence and inter-ethnic tensions. The country suffered two major displacement crises, the first sparked in 2002 and the second in 2010. Sporadic clashes in the west, forced evictions and floods continue to force people to flee their homes.

Land as a driver of conflict*

In an attempt to increase the export of cocoa, timber and coffee produced in the west of the country, national authorities began encouraging migration to the region in the 1960s, when they declared that land would “only belong to those cultivating it”. Migrants came both from within Côte d’Ivoire and from neighbouring countries, mainly Burkina Faso and Mali, and the local population swelled by almost a third, or between four and five million people. Traditional leaders allocated land to allochtones, people from other regions of the country, and allogènes, non-nationals, despite it being considered an inalienable asset under customary law. Contemporary legal frameworks did not recognise the arrangements either.

This legal pluralism created confusion as to the true nature of transactions and the transfer of rights involved. Many buyers asserted that they had acquired ownership rights, while sellers insisted they had only leased their land. The economic and political crises of the late 1980s also led many autochtones, ancestral Ivorians, to reclaim their land, contesting the rights of “newcomers”.

The 1998 Rural Land Law was intended to address such issues. It aimed to convert customary rights into private ownership via certificates issued by the state over a period of ten years. Implementation was poor, however, and confined to Ivorian citizens, meaning that only 817 certificates have been issued, accounting for less than one per cent of rural land (Ministry of Agriculture, January 2014).

Recurrent land disputes have driven tensions and conflict since the beginning of the 1990s (DRC, FAO, NRC, 2012). During the 2010 to 2011 post-election crisis, both sides tried to use ethnicity and its relevance to land disputes to their political gain, and local youth saw the law as a license to reclaim land their elders had sold or ceded to migrants (IDMC workshop, July 2012).

*For more information: “Whose land is this? Land disputes and forced displacement in the western forest area of Côte d’Ivoire” (IDMC, 2009)

Ten years of internal strife

The introduction of the concept of Ivoirité in the late 1990s entrenched ethnic discrimination in the body politic. It established a distinction between “native” Ivorians and those who had been naturalised or who had only one Ivorian parent. As the economy contracted and the perception grew that northerners were being excluded to the benefit of the southern government, political parties started to form along geographic lines, while inter-communal tensions fuelled by religious divides festered. These dynamics led to both the 2002 to 2007 civil war and the 2010 to 2011 post-election crisis.

The Patriotic Movement for Côte d’Ivoire (Mouvement Patriotique pour la Côte d’Ivoire, MPCI) took up arms in 2002. It quickly gained control of the centre and the north of the country while government forces held the south, triggering a full-scale civil war. Thousands of people were killed on both sides, and as many as 1.1 million people fled their homes and land. Many sought refuge in the capital, Abidjan.

Following the breakdown of several peace deals in 2003 and 2004, the then-president, Laurent Gbagbo, and MPCI’s leader, Guillaume Soro, signed the Ouagadougou Agreement in March 2007, paving the way for the formation of a national unity government.

After three years of relative peace, Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, his main rival in the 2010 presidential election, both claimed victory after a second round of voting. The dispute sparked the outbreak of widespread, generalised violence in which both sides and their civilian supporters carried out summary executions, rape, abductions and pillage. More than 3,000 people were killed, and as many as a million were displaced (HRC, January, 2012; FIDH, 2 April 2011). In April 2011, Gbagbo was arrested and extradited to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he faces charges of murder, attempted murder, rape and persecution.

Ouattara took office at the same time, but since then the political landscape has remained divided and the reconciliation process has proved laborious. The social and political fault lines along which the 2010 to 2011 violence flared still exist, raising concerns about the outbreak of renewed violence around the October 2015 presidential election (RFI, May 2014; Reuters, November 2014).

Inter-communal and border clashes

A climate of fear and inter-communal mistrust still pervades in the west of the country. Recurrent clashes and cross-border attacks by armed groups along the Liberian border continue to force thousands of people to flee their homes (The Inquirer, May 2014). Ivorian and Liberian mercenaries loyal to Gbagbo and disaffected former Ivorian soldiers have allegedly been behind some of the attacks (HRW, 6 June 2012; WhatsInBlue, October 2014). Anxiety and rumours surrounding such incidents have also caused short-term preventive displacement in the border regions (UNHCR monitoring report, May 2014).

IDMC estimates that 33,826 people have been displaced since 2012 as a result of such clashes in the south-west and along the Liberian border. In 2014, more than 5,500 people fled their homes in Fetai and surrounding villages (UNHCR monitoring report, May 2014; OCHA report on file with IDMC, September 2014). Most have returned to their homes, but 639 were still living with host families in Grabo as of September 2014 (IDMC interview with OCHA, October 2014; UNCHR report on file with IDMC, September 2014). In January 2015, unidentified armed men attacked two villages near Grabo, displacing as many as 2,000 people, mostly allogènes (OCHA report on file at IDMC, January 2015).

Forest evictions

In June 2013, the government launched an operation to evict thousands of people who had lived illegally for anything from a couple of years to several decades in some of the 231 protected areas and forests in the west and south-west of the country. The government’s Forest Development Company (Société de Développement des Forêts, SODEFOR) is in charge of protected forests and the Ivorian Office for Parks and Reserves (Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves, OIPR) is responsible for other protected areas.

The first evictions took place in the Niégré forest in May 2013. Between 25,000 to 40,000 people were consequently evicted in what was seen as a pilot operation for other areas. More accurate figures are not available, because the populations affected were not monitored (IDMC interview with NRC, July 2014). Those evicted were either welcomed into neighbouring villages or set up settlements in surrounding areas. The authorities allowed those who had been living in the forest for more than two years to continue working the land they had cultivated, on the condition that they agreed to live elsewhere and to abandon their plots once the forest had overgrown them. Those who had been living in the forest for two years or less saw their crops destroyed.

The government’s plan to retake control of protected forests from people who had settled there illegally is not in question, but it should balance its interests with those of the thousands of evicted farmers who risk losing their means of subsistence. Doing so involves undertaking genuine consultation with those to be affected before any evictions take place, giving reasonable notice and providing legal remedies, appropriate compensation, alternative accommodation, relief and assistance.

Following concerns over previous procedures, the humanitarian community helped to develop a four-phase action plan for the neighbouring Mont Péko park, covering profiling and awareness raising, preparation for evacuation, evacuation itself, and monitoring and evaluation (Mont Peko national park evacuation plan, January 2014).

The government’s Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Authority (Autorité de Désarmement, Démobilisation et Réintégration, ADDR) profiled those to be affected in November 2013 and decided that, unlike the Niégré forest evictions, a differentiated approach would not be implemented for national security reasons - because the settlers included followers of the militia leader Amadé Oueremi, who is alleged to have had a role in one of the worst massacres of the 2010 to 2011 post-election violence.

Oueremi was arrested in 2013, and many of the 28,000 Mont Péko settlers, including more  than 13,500 children, fled preventatively in anticipation of evacuations. The majority returned when it became clear that the evictions were not to take place in the near future (IDMC interview with OCHA, July 2014).

The government is unlikely to be able to afford to continue beyond the first phase, raising the prospect that evictions may not take place in accordance with international standards (IDMC interview with NRC, July 2014). There is also a risk that transit sites may become permanent settlements.

The implications of a poorly managed process stretch beyond the fate of those evicted themselves. Their influx could undermine the socio-economic stability of an area where communities are already strained, and with most of the forest settlers coming from Burkina Faso, there is also a regional dimension (ADDR profiling on file at IDMC, November 2014). Given the potential economic impact and fact that crops grown in western Côte d’Ivoire account for 40 per cent of the country’s exports, it is doubtful the government will extend such policies.

Flooding and evacuations

Côte d’Ivoire is prone to frequent flooding, which leads to regular displacement. A quarter of Abidjan is at risk, making 80,000 people vulnerable (OCHA, June 2014). Following floods in 2014, the government announced it would demolish homes in flood-prone areas of the capital. It pledged 850 hectares of land to relocate the 3,500 people affected, but in the short-term offered schools as shelters during the July and August break. Many, however, preferred to stay with family and friends (IRIN, July 2014; IDMC phone conversation with NRC, July 2014).

Other areas of the country are also susceptible to flooding. In the southern district of Bas Sassandra, 7,000 people were displaced in June and July 2014, including 3,312 and 3,581 in the towns of San Pedro and Sassandra respectively (UNCHR report on file with IDMC, September 2014; OCHA, 22 July 2014). Around 5,000 of those affected sought shelter in primary schools, and a lack of funds meant that resettlement sites were not made available (OCHA report on file with IDMC, September 2014).

No quantitative data on returns and those still living with host families is available, but it is thought most returned to their precarious urban sites or remote villages after the floodwaters receded. With only limited support from the government, they are at risk of being displaced again, increasing their vulnerability.

Displacement patterns and figures

As many as 1.1 million people fled their homes during the 2002 to 2007 civil war, with the peak figure in 2003. Thousands of civilians from northern and central regions of the country sought shelter in the south, mostly in Abidjan. Tensions over land caused major displacements in the west and in the Montagnes district “cocoa belt”. Almost all IDPs took refuge in host communities, most of them with family or friends, and many were still unaccounted for when the next wave of violence erupted.

The 2010 to 2011 post-election violence displaced as many as a million people. Similar regions were affected, with the Montagnes and Bas-Sassandra districts hosting 150,000 IDPs and Abidjan more than 700,000, particularly in the Abobo and Yopougon neighbourhoods (UNHCR, accessed August 2014). Most IDPs managed to find shelter with host communities relatively close to their home areas, while others took refuge in 35 camps set up across the country. Many in the west went into hiding in forests, where they stayed for weeks in precarious conditions.

Violence and displacement continued despite the post-election standoff officially coming to an end in April 2011, with 247,000 still living as IDPs five months later (Amnesty International, 28 July 2011; OCHA, 30 September 2011).

Anecdotal evidence suggests that in the absence of alternatives, most of those forcibly evicted from slums and forests or displaced by floods return to their former precarious living conditions or similar.

Data collection

In 2014, a profiling exercise implemented by the Ministry of Planning and Development (Ministère du Plan et du Développement), UNHCR and the National Institute of Statistics (Institut National de la Statistique, INS) with the technical support of the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) measured the extent to which IDPs, returnees and repatriated refugees had brought their displacement to a sustainable end in line with the criteria set out the Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC)’s Framework on Durable Solutions. The results of the profiling provided the necessary information to target the activities and priority intervention areas of the country's durable solutions strategy (see International Response).

The joint profiling collected data on the number of people displaced since 2002, their geographical distribution, socio-economic characteristics, current living conditions and future intentions. It profiled 4,680 households in areas most affected by the country’s two displacement crises, namely the six western departments of Bangolo, Blolequin, Daloa, Duekoué, Guiglo and Man, and the four south-western departments of Abidjan, San Pedro, Sassandra, Soubré and Taboo.

The profiling report revealed that more than 2.3 million people had been internally displaced since 2002, of whom 300,889 were still living in internal displacement as of mid-2014. Sixty-two per cent of remaining IDPs were living in Abidjan, where most said they planned to integrate locally. The capital also hosts more than half of the country’s returning refugees and returning IDPs.

In parallel, a national population census conducted in 2014 under the supervision of the INS included a number of questions targeting IDPs, with the aim of shedding light on the scale of displacement caused by violence since 2002. Final results are still pending, but early reports suggest that more effort was needed to raise awareness of the relevant questions among census participants.

Obstacles to durable solutions

IDPs continue to face obstacles in their efforts to achieve durable solutions. In the rural west, insecurity and access to personal documentation are the main challenges. In Abidjan, access to livelihoods is the main concern, making local integration or relocation elsewhere in the country less likely. Returning IDPs face similar difficulties.

Physical security

Threats to IDPs’ physical safety continue to constitute a significant obstacle to their return, despite a general improvement in security. Inter-communal violence, robberies and roadblocks persist in many western regions, where the situation is complicated by the continued proliferation of weapons and the relative isolation of return areas (UN SC report, January 2014; IDMC workshop, July 2014).

Sporadic cross-border attacks and other violent incidents involving armed groups take place in the west and along the border with Liberia, feeding an atmosphere of fear and fatigue that IDPs identify as both causing their repeated displacement and hampering their return (UNHCR report on file at IDMC, September 2014). Inter-communal tensions are also high in these areas, where 38 per cent of IDPs currently reside, and 31.5 per cent have returned (Draft Durable Solutions Strategy - DSS, on file with IDMC, 2015). A recent resurgence of hate speech in some media outlets has fuelled tensions and mistrust further, a worrying trend ahead of the October 2015 presidential election (SC report, January 2014).

Many parts of the country are still militarised, which also helps to feed insecurity. Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes have made only slow progress, and many former soldiers and militia members have returned from exile (RFI, July 2014; HRW, February 2015). Abidjan hosts 35 per cent of the country’s former combatants and the city’s crime rate is worryingly high (Activity bulletin, ADDR 2013). This is all the more concerning as Abidjan hosts 62 per cent of all IDPs in Côte d’Ivoire and more than 53 per cent of returning IDPs (Joint profiling report, February 2015).

Members of self-defence groups, former associates of the Ivorian military and Dozos - a brotherhood of traditional hunters seen as Ouattara supporters – continue to intimidate, extort, pillage and burn down homes in the west of the country (IE report, May 2014; HRW, December 2014; IDMC workshop, July 2014).

Housing, land and property

The destruction and looting of property and financial assets has undermined IDPs’ pursuit of durable solutions, particularly in the west. Nearly a third of the 23,000 houses damaged or destroyed during the 2010 to 2011 post-election violence are still to be rebuilt, and returning IDPs and refugees often find their homes, land and plantations have been occupied or illegally sold in their absence (IDMC HLP workshop, October 2012; IDMC workshop, July 2014; interview with IDPs’ representative, July 2014). Of the IDPs surveyed during the joint profiling, 21.6 per cent had lost a home, 9.7 per cent lost access to their land, and 9 per cent could no longer access the land they used to farm (Joint profiling report, February 2015).

In some cases, armed groups have prevented returning IDPs from accessing their land or imposed arbitrary taxes for doing so (ICLA presentation at IDMC workshop, July 2014). One in five households surveyed by the joint profiling said they were currently involved in a land dispute, with IDPs and returnees constituting the majority of cases (Joint profiling report, February 2015).

Many returning IDPs live in cramped conditions with others. In Abidjan, only 4.2 per cent of IDPs lived with other families, whereas in Blolequin, half of those surveyed shared a household with others (Joint profiling report, February 2015). Those returning from abroad face similar problems, with more than 50 per cent of former refugees forced to find shelter with family and friends (UNHCR, May 2014).

Nine out of 10 disputes in the west relate to land, conflicts which are complicated by a general lack of tenure documents under a system of customary law. Of the few documents that did exist, many have been lost or destroyed. Poor implementation of the 1998 Rural Land Law has only served to make securing rights and proving ownership more difficult still. Ninety-six per cent of people involved in land disputes in the west of the country have no documents to back up their claims, and four per cent have only petits papiers, a form of informal contract that has been accepted by the courts in past cases when settling land disputes (Draft DSS, on file with IDMC, 2015).

The discrimination against women inherent in the customary system’s regulation of rural land is also problematic. Many women now head displaced households, but their right to inherit from their husbands tends not to be recognised, particularly if they do not have male offspring. Formal ownership is more common in urban areas, but women often still face difficulties in exercising their land rights because they are less likely than men to have personal documents or to be named on title deeds (IDMC workshop, July 2014; NRC, 2012).

Livelihood opportunities

As many as 73 per cent of IDPs in the west, 68 per cent in Abidjan and 61 per cent in Bas-Sassandra report having lost livelihood assets such as farmland, livestock and diplomas during the post-election crisis (Protection Cluster, 27 December 2011January 201212 January 2012; Draft DSS, on file with IDMC, 2015). Many are left to live off irregular income, often compelled to stay with host families and with little opportunity to improve their situation (IDMC interview with NRC, July 2014).

Less than half of all displaced households have regular or stable means of generating income. Those who have secured jobs are mostly in the agricultural sector or describe themselves as self-employed (Joint profiling report, February 2015).

Violence against women

Thousands of women and girls have been victims of gender-based violence (GBV) since 2002, with both sides in the conflict committing serious abuses, often on the basis of ethnicity (AI, 31 November 2011). Displaced women and girls without personal documentation are particularly vulnerable at checkpoints.

Changes in gender roles within the family and women’s place in the community during displacement have created tensions when IDPs return to their home areas, where attitudes have not changed. Violence related to gender roles has increased among returning families (IDMC workshop report, July 2014).

GBV is in decline nationwide, but it is still alarmingly prevalent in Abidjan and on the rise in western regions, particularly Duékoué. Incidents are linked to insecurity, particularly in areas where former combatants have reintegrated and those affected by displacement. As many as a quarter of cases are perpetrated by armed men or during raids and by Ivorian soldiers abusing their power during evictions in Abidjan (OCHA, January 2014; IE report, May 2014; HRW, February 2015).

There are concerns about the normalisation of GBV in Ivorian society, particularly among young people, who are increasingly both perpetrators and victims.

Food insecurity and malnutrition

IDPs, returnees and repatriated refugees have more difficulty meeting their nutritional needs than their counterparts in the general population. Twenty per cent have only one meal a day (Joint profiling report, February 2015). Food security has improved in areas where humanitarians intervened, but it remains high in the parts of the west affected by displacement; in Bangolo, Blolequin and Man, nearly half the population has only one meal per day (Joint profiling report, February 2015).

Food insecurity has a number of causes, and they are often inter-related. They include the legacy of conflict and displacement, structural problems linked to the late return of farming households, land disputes, lack of agricultural labour and other inputs, unseasonal rainfall and floods. In areas directly affected by conflict, harvests were down by 38.5 per cent (DRC, FAO, NRC, 2012; Fewsnet, May 2014). Many IDPs expressed serious concern about sustained food insecurity should they continue to be unable to access their illegally occupied land (HRW, October 2013; UNHCR report on file at IDMC, September 2014; UNSC, May 2014).

Health and hygiene services

Most health facilities in the west of the country have reopened, but health care provision remains poor. Meagre rural coverage, structural problems and a shortage of resources force many IDPs and returnees to travel to urban areas for medical attention. Those unable to do so give birth at home, self-medicate and rely on traditional healers (UNHCR report on file at IDMC, September 2014).

Most IDPs have experienced psychological traumas that endure beyond their return, and some have suffered repeatedly throughout the cycles of violence (IDMC interview with UNHCR, July 2014). Ongoing tensions in return areas and attacks such as the one on the Nahibly displacement camp in 2012 and others on western villages also perpetuate existing traumas. Little or no psychosocial assistance is available, however, leaving many needs unaddressed.

IDPs have only limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, leading to a decline in health and hygiene. In rural areas, especially in the departments of Bangolo and Blolequin, more than half of displaced households defecate in the open, which raises the risk of epidemics and has implications for women’s and girls’ dignity (Joint profiling report, February 2015).


Displacement, insecurity, and damaged, looted and occupied schools have all interrupted education during times of conflict (OCHA, 17 July 2012; IE report, May 2014). Displaced children are generally unable to pursue their education, because many have lost their birth certificates and other documents needed to enrol. Many families lack the financial means to pay for school fees and supplies, and a shortage of resources has also delayed the reconstruction and reopening of facilities (Humanitarian Needs 2014 on file at IDMC; CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011).

Such problems persist in areas still affected by sporadic displacement. The school in Fetai has been closed since May for security reasons, leaving many returnee children from surrounding villages without access to education (UNHCR report on file at IDMC, September 2014). Local authorities encouraged those affected to attend Soto and Grabo village schools, a three-kilometre walk away.

The school enrolment rate varies from one area of the country to another, but it is particularly low in areas affected by displacement. In western areas and the Abobo and Youpogon neighbourhoods of Abidjan it barely reaches 60 per cent (Draft DSS, on file with IDMC, 2015; Humanitarian Needs 2014 on file at IDMC, 2014).

Personal documentation

Many people lost vital civil documents such as identity cards, birth certificates, voter cards and title deeds during both waves of violence, hampering their access to basic rights, services, land and jobs. There have also been reports of state and local authorities harassing people and restricting their freedom of movement at checkpoints (ICLA at IDMC workshop, July 2014; protection cluster, 27 December 2011).

As of October 2011, around 80 per cent of IDPs had lost key civil documents (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, October 2011). However, by 2014, 82.4 per cent of IDPs had managed to secure a national identity card or identity certificate and 85.7 per cent had a birth certificate. Those still without such documentation cited the high cost of obtaining the documents, their loss during flight and a lack of knowledge as to administrative procedure as the main obstacles (Joint profiling report, February 2015). Roughly 25 per cent of minors were not registered and as such were at risk of statelessness (UNICEF, October 2014).

The latter figure raises concerns about the effectiveness of a law that expired in July 2014 which aimed to facilitate the registration of births and deaths that took place in north-central and western areas of the country between September 2002 to July 2011, and between November 2010 to July 2011 nationwide. No figures have been published, but tens of thousands of children were able to register under the legislation. Many who were still displaced, however, who lived outside target areas or were unaware of the legislation did not register.

The process of obtaining or replacing official documents is complex, and a shortage of funding and information about the relevant laws has made it more difficult still (ICLA presentation at IDMC workshop, July 2014). There has been a lack of political will to prioritise the issue, leaving civil registry offices short of resources to reorganise and modernise, and legal jargon makes frameworks and texts inaccessible (IDMC workshop, July 2014; IDMC correspondence with NRC, September 2014).

Unaccompanied and separated children

Many children were orphaned or became separated from their families during their flight, leaving them vulnerable to violence and abuse (OCHA, 5 January 2012). At least 840 children were separated from their families during the 2010 to 2011 post-election crisis (ICRC, 18 September 2012).

Aside from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross Society, which have been working on reuniting families since 2011, the few agencies who work in this area lack the capacity to reach out to communities effectively, or to identify and handle cases (OCHA, 23 May 2012; ICRC, June 2014). Efforts are further hampered by the number of people without birth certificates and other documents. Many separated children have become heads of households (IDMC workshop, July 2014).

Justice and restitution

A shortage of information and documentation, burdensome processes and the travel needed to reach facilities have all served to hamper IDPs’ and returnees’ access to justice (IDMC workshop, July 2014).

Most Ivorians have little faith in the justice system, with 72 per cent perceiving it to be inefficient, unreliable and untrustworthy. Only three of the more than 200 investigations opened into serious crimes committed during the post-election crisis relate to perpetrators from pro-Ouattara forces, and several military commanders remain in key positions, fuelling the perception of victor’s justice (IE report, May 2014; HRW, February 2015).

Conversely, the symbolic release of detainees close to Gbagbo has eroded trust in the separation of the executive and judiciary (UNOG, February 2014; UN News, June 2014; HRW, February 2015). Inquiries into the attack on the Nahibly displacement camp in July 2012, which forced more than 5,000 IDPs to flee, have proceeded only slowly. Investigations have been conducted in private, and no arrests have been made (FIDH, October 2014; HRW, February 2015).

This ongoing sense of injustice risks fuelling disenfranchisement and tensions, and raises concerns about social cohesion in the run-up to the October 2015 presidential election (IE report, May 2014; IDMC interview with OCHA, July 2014).

International response

Given the considerable improvement in security since the 2010 to 2011 post-election violence, an increasing state presence and a growing economy, international organisations have shifted their focus back to development programming. Those taking part in the cluster system have now transferred their responsibilities to national authorities.

In the absence of an effective transition between the humanitarian and development sectors, the latter’s failure to engage early enough and the fact that it is not aware of, or willing to address obstacles to durable solutions for IDPs has left a significant shortfall in humanitarian funding and coverage, and many protection needs unmet.

A new durable solutions strategy, however, informed by the joint profiling results, raises the hope that roles and responsibilities will be better defined, leading to a more informed and holistic approach.

From humanitarian to development interventions

Cluster leads transferred their responsibilities to government authorities during 2012 and 2013. The process took place mainly at the central level in Abidjan, where capacity allowed for the monitoring. Regional government capacity is weak or non-existent, and the transition has relied principally on authorities at the prefecture level which assume the role of coordinators for the Coordination Committee for Regional Expansion (Comité de Coordination Elargi Régional, CCER).

As part of the updated UN Framework Development Plan (UNDAF) for 2012 to 2015, responsibilities for the coordination of protection activities were transferred from the humanitarian country team to the Ministry for Solidarity, the Family, Women and Children (Ministère de la Solidarité, de la Famille, de la Femme et de l’Enfant, MSFFE). The ministry co-chairs the new Coordination Committee for Expansion (Comité de Coordination Elargi (CCE) with the humanitarian coordinator.

Durable solutions

Côte d’Ivoire was the only country to ratify the Kampala Convention in 2014. As a monist state, the incorporation of the convention’s provisions in to domestic law is automatic, but a shortage of funds has hampered efforts to mainstream and disseminate the text (MSFFE in IDMC workshop, July 2014). Elements of a national legal framework upholding the rights of IDPs, including a bill to establish mechanisms to compensate war victims, have been drafted but never signed. There has also been no more formal focal point for IDPs since the closure of the Ministry of Solidarity and War Victims (Ministère de la Solidarité et des Victimes de Guerre) in 2010 (IDMC, 22 February 2010). A new section for compensating victims was created within MSFFE, but it is unlikely have enough funds to fulfil its role.

Côte d’Ivoire is a pilot country for the UN Secretary General’s framework on ending displacement, but it did little towards its implementation until the end of 2013, when a consultant was appointed to draft the first version of a durable solutions strategy. The Ministry of Planning and Development (Ministère du Plan et du Développement), which leads a follow-up committee established in July 2014, oversaw the finalisation of the strategy and ensured it was aligned with the national development programme (programme national de développement, PND).

Taking areas with high densities of returned IDPs and the results of the joint profiling results into account, the strategy focuses on two objectives:

1. The restoration of social cohesion and state authority, and conflict resolution

2. Poverty reduction: the revitalisation of local economies, restoration of basic social services and socio-economic reintegration

These are positive developments, but the process will have to retain momentum and implementation will have to be robust if IDPs, returnees and host communities are to achieve durable solutions to their displacement.


The common humanitarian action plan for Côte d'Ivoire was not renewed for 2013, in line with the general shift towards development programming. Humanitarian agencies, however, have struggled to adapt to new donor requirements and processes, such as those of the European Union, the World Bank and the African Development Bank (IDMC interview with NRC, July 2014; WB, June 2014; Daily Trust, June 2014). Funding dropped to only a third of the $98.4 million requested, while public development funding reached $2 billion.

A rise of $12 million in humanitarian funding in 2014 can be attributed to the emergency Ebola response. It is hoped, however, that renewed financing from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will improve recovery and rehabilitation initiatives. A new grant from the Peace Building Fund may also help to bridge the gap between current responses within comprehensive peace-building programmes.

Pockets of acute vulnerability still exist in the west and the north of the country, and these shortfalls have hampered the provision of assistance to those most in need. Development funding, meantime, is channelled mainly through government institutions, where it is used for capacity building, rather than for community-based activities that target the most vulnerable. 

National response

The integration of humanitarian initiatives into the PND means that the development sector now responds to humanitarian needs. Issues such as rural land disputes, civil documentation and social cohesion have not been properly addressed as a result, which threatens the sustainability of peace and the return of displaced populations in some areas, particularly in the west (IDMC workshop, July 2014). The new durable solutions strategy will hopefully reinforce efforts to bridge the gap between remaining humanitarian needs and the government’s focus on development in its new PND.


The Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation (Commission pour le Dialogue, la Vérité et la Réconciliation, CDVR) was created in 2011, and its initial two-year mandate was extended to the end of 2014. Following national consultations in 2013 during which victims were able to report the violations they had suffered, public testimonies were held in September 2014. The fact that the hearings were not widely enough broadcast, however, undermined their expected impact on the national peace-building process (AFP, 30 September 2014).

The commission delivered its final report on violations from 1999 to 2011 in December 2014. Among the recommendations is a proposal to establish national days of memory and forgiveness, and days dedicated to dialogue. The commission chairman also expressed hope that judicial proceedings would be accelerated and that those who did not constitute a danger to society would be released in the name of reconciliation.

The government still needs to implement the commission’s recommendations. It has set aside 10 billion FCA francs ($17.3 million) to compensate victims, on top of the 16 billion spent since 2011 under CDVR’s mandate (La Voix du Gold, 15 December 2014). Doubts remain about impartiality and accessibility of compensation process, but the effective processing of all victims’ claims will be crucial in rebuilding trust, particularly during the investigative phase, which has yet to start (IRIN, January 2014; RFI, March 2014; IE report, May 2014).

In parallel, the planning ministry’s national programme for social cohesion (programme national pour la cohésion sociale, PNCS), has been active since 2013 as a more permanent vehicle for the implementation of CDVR’s recommendations. It works with authorities at the prefecture level, and has developed a forum for dialogue and cooperation between victims’ associations and communities (PNCS at IDMC workshop, July 2014). MSFFE’s Observatory for Solidarity and Social Cohesion (Observatoire de la Solidarité et de la Cohésion Sociale (OSCS), was created to define indicators and develop initiatives to promote social cohesion, conduct studies and evaluate policies and programmes.

Despite these efforts, overlapping mandates make it unclear how the institutions will function effectively together. Victims are often confronted with multiple entry points and referral systems to access services, both within and between institutions (IE report, May 2014; IDMC workshop, July 2014).

Land disputes

The government’s renewed interest in addressing land issues led to two inter-governmental seminars in 2012. It also granted a ten-year extension for the formalisation of customary land rights in August 2013 (StarAfrica, August 2013).

The international community has made efforts to support the resolution of land disputes, via a UN-led property forum (forum foncier), training on housing, land and property issues for ministries and local authorities (préfets) and making recommendations to adapt the 1998 Rural Land Law to IDPs’ specific needs.

The government, however, has continued to impede landowners from obtaining title deeds and has failed to prevent sales, illegal allocations and the application of flexible or unclear terms (NRC, December 2012; IDMC correspondence with NRC, September 2014).

The resolution of land disputes is considered essential to social cohesion, but there has been hardly any official recognition of the relationship between them and displacement (IDMC interview with workshop participant, July 2014). This complicates the situation of those currently displaced, and those at risk of displacement, still further.