Côte d’Ivoire

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CÔTE D’IVOIRE 2021

The authorities prevented peaceful gatherings from going ahead. Hundreds of protesters who were arrested in the context of the 2020 presidential elections were released, and investigations took place into violence during that period. The right to food was compromised as the price of basic necessities increased by 8.8%. The houses of thousands of people were demolished without alternative housing being provided. The government took measures to boost Covid-19 vaccination numbers. The National Assembly approved a law to remove the requirement for survivors of gender-based violence to pay for a medical certificate to file a complaint.

Background

Between 21 January and 28 February, the government imposed a state of emergency to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. It was renewed in March until June, then extended in July until 30 September.

Parliamentary elections were held on 6 March, more than four months after the presidential elections in which Alassane Ouattara was re-elected president for a third term. In June, former prime minister Guillaume Soro was sentenced in his absence to life imprisonment for undermining national security.

Freedom of assembly

On 17 June, the day former president Laurent Gbagbo returned to Côte d’Ivoire after the ICC acquitted him on charges of crimes against humanity (see below, Right to truth, justice and reparation), the police used tear gas to disperse groups of his supporters throughout the day.

The police prevented a peaceful protest from going ahead on 21 July, basing its decision, in part, on health and safety issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The protest was organized by Initiative Citoyenne contre la Cherté de la Vie, a movement which had denounced the high cost of living.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

In January, five women opposition members, who were arbitrarily arrested during a peaceful demonstration in August 2020 against president Ouattara’s candidacy, were released unconditionally after more than four months in detention.

In April, Pulchérie Edith Gbalet, president of the social justice organization Alternative Citoyenne Ivoirienne and her three colleagues, Gédéon Junior Gbaou, Aimé César Kouakou N’Goran and Cyrille Djehi Bi, were released from MACA central prison in Abidjan. The case against Pulchérie Edith Gbalet was pending at the end of the year. She was arbitrarily arrested on 15 August 2020 by masked men after she had called for peaceful demonstrations, and was charged with “compromising public order, participation in an insurrectionary movement, undermining the state’s authority, wilful destruction of public property and provoking a gathering”. About 100 others, also arrested during 2020 protests, were freed in April under interim release orders or under judicial supervision. The detainees had been held in appalling conditions with limited access to lawyers.1

On 17 June, tens of Laurent Gbagbo supporters were arbitrarily arrested for compromising public order when they gathered to welcome the former president back to the country. They were all subsequently released.

In August, on the eve of Independence Day, President Ouattara announced the conditional or provisional release of 69 more people and pardoned nine others who had opposed his candidacy.

Right to truth, justice and reparation

In January, the authorities began field investigations into the electoral violence committed between August and November 2020. In December, the public prosecutor presented the final report of the Special Investigations Unit which said that 273 people were suspected of committing crimes; 233 of them had already been apprehended, most of whom were provisionally released or subjected to judicial supervision, while 11 remained in pretrial detention.

In March, the ICC acquitted Laurent Gbagbo and the former minister of youth Charles Blé Goudé of all charges of crimes against humanity. They had been tried in connection with alleged crimes committed during the 2010-2011 post-election violence. In July, the ICC lifted an arrest warrant against the former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, issued in connection with charges of crimes against humanity allegedly carried out during the same period.

On 15 April, an Abidjan court found former militia leader Amadé Ouérémi guilty of crimes against humanity for acts committed during the 2011 post-electoral violence.

Right to health

The government began its Covid-19 vaccination programme in March. It responded to the low vaccination take-up with an awareness-raising campaign, and in July set up 12 mobile clinics in Abidjan to boost access to vaccines. On 8 September, the government announced that it would permit the use of a mixture of Covid-19 vaccinations in order to increase vaccination rates after it ran out of AstraZeneca supplies. In the same month, it also announced a campaign to boost vaccinations in the Grand Abidjan region for those most at risk, including people over 60, people with underlying health problems, health workers, defence and security forces, and teachers. In December, the government renewed a vaccination campaign in Abidjan for 10 days in light of the Omicron variant.

Right to food

In July, Ivorians used social media to denounce the high cost of living and a surge in the price of basic necessities, including food, which caused hardship for large sections of the population. The National Institute for Statistics reported that the price of food and non-alcoholic drinks increased by 8.8% between August 2020 and August 2021. The prime minister met various people involved in the consumer goods supply chain to find a solution to rising prices, and announced that the activities of the National Committee Against the High Cost of Living would be strengthened in order to control market prices.

Right to housing

In October, the homes of thousands of people were demolished in Banco Nord Extension 2 on orders from the municipal authorities in Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan, without their being provided with alternative housing. The demolitions occurred days after the community began legal procedures to stop their eviction. The government had relocated them to the area over 30 years earlier.

Sexual and gender-based violence

In October, the General and Institutional Affairs Committee of the National Assembly unanimously adopted a law specifying that survivors of sexual and gender-based violence do not need to provide a medical certificate as proof of abuse when making a complaint. Under the law, if the police or prosecutor require such proof, the victim will not bear the prohibitive cost of certificates which had previously prevented survivors from seeking justice.


  1. Côte d’Ivoire: Hundreds arrested languishing in detention following presidential election unrest”, 26 March