23rd Mar 2018

MEPs question French intervention in Ivory Coast

Members of the European Parliament have questioned the nature of French and United Nations intervention in the Ivory Coast, just hours after a final surge resulted in the capture of the country's incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo.

Paris has denied reports that it was French forces who successfully extracted Gbagbo from a bunker within the presidential palace in the city of Abidjan on Monday evening (11 April), but the dismissals have failed to halt cries of 'neocolonialism'.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Speaking on Tuesday morning with the European External Action Service's (EAS) managing director for Africa, Nicholas Westcott, several members of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee also expressed doubts over the UN mandate for direct military intervention, seen in recent days.

"I'm uneasy about the type of intervention which occurred in the Ivory Coast, given the role of French forces involved ... We simply jump from one area to another," said Slovenian Liberal MEP Ivo Vajgl, a reference to France's second military operation in Libya.

"Has the intervention [in the Ivory Coast] been a success ... there are criticisms that we are moving back to 19th Century colonialism," added Vajgl.

Belgian Socialist MEP Véronique De Keyser also described her "unease" over international actions in the Ivory Coast, which saw French and UN helicopters strike military targets and heavy weapons depots on Monday and Wednesday of last week.

"It seems slightly unusual that the UN was involved in offensive operations," said Conservative MEP Van Orden, also questioning why Zimbabwe had not seen similar action over the years.

The EAS official defended the moves as necessary to limit civilian casualties, after a five-month standoff following disputed presidential elections in the Ivory Coast last November recently broke down into fierce fighting in Abidjan.

"I think people who criticise the French Licorne intervention don't really know what is happening there. It was logical that it protect civilians," Westcott told the committee.

"The United Nations Operation in the Ivory Coast (UNOCI) had from the start quite a robust mandate for the protection of civilians, reinforced over a week ago by resolution 1975."

"I understand the disquiet over the type of intervention, but it took place under the circumstances of a civil war. Gbagbo was clearly intent on keeping himself in power by whatever means possible, including the dropping of mortar bombs on civilians in market places."

On Monday night, the internationally-recognised winner of the presidential elections, Alassane Ouattara, issued a call for calm after national television showed images of Gbagbo being held in a hotel room in Abidjan.

Experts say a huge challenge now lies before Ouattara, with the country's geographic, religious and ethnic divisions running back over a decade. The Ivory Coast has effectively been split in two following a rebellion in 2002.

Recent atrocities committed by both sides are likely to complicate that task, with a report by Human Rights Watch over the weekend detailing how forces loyal to Ouattara: "summarily executed and raped perceived Gbagbo supporters in their homes, as they worked in the fields, as they fled."

EU high representative Catherine Ashton has called for all perpetrators of human rights abuses to be held accountable for their actions, with Ouattara pledging to set up a 'peace and reconciliation committee'.

The question of land reform is also likely to be raised, with a long-running land dispute cited as one explanation behind the reported massacre which took place near the western town of Duékoué earlier this month, an event which saw over 800 people killed, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of Cocoa, with traders now keen to get back to business after EU-imposed sanctions brought much of the industry to a standstill in recent months.

Establishing a governance system which suitably reflects the country's divisions was also among the subjects raised by the MEPs. "The EU has supported a devolution project in the Ivory Coast for many years," said Westcott. "It will continue to do so if that is what Ivorians opt for."

EU summit takes hard look at Russia

EU leaders will discuss Russian security threats in the wake of the UK attack, but will not adopt new sanctions at Thursday's summit.

Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing

An Austrian police unit headed by a far-right town councilor and tasked to tackle street crime was sent to raid the offices and homes of people working for Austria's domestic intelligence agency - prompting German counterparts to review cooperation.


EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery

The EU-Turkey deal was agreed two years ago in Brussels. Focus has largely been on reducing migrant flows across the Mediterranean and helping Syrian refugees in Turkey, while the plight of those on the Greek islands are ignored.

Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair

US authorities have arrested the chair of the Maltese-registered Pilatus Bank for tax evasion. The bank facilitated political corruption in Malta but its whistleblower is now facing jail in Malta and fears for her life.

Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing

An Austrian police unit headed by a far-right town councilor and tasked to tackle street crime was sent to raid the offices and homes of people working for Austria's domestic intelligence agency - prompting German counterparts to review cooperation.

News in Brief

  1. EU will be exempted from tariffs, says US minister
  2. Malmstroem: EU 'hopes' for US tariffs exemption
  3. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says
  4. Italy's centre-right set to share top posts with 5-star movement
  5. Brussels condemns tear gas in Kosovo parliament
  6. Finland pays billionaire €400,000 in EU farm subsidies
  7. 44 leaders sign up for Africa free trade area deal
  8. British 'blue' passports to be made in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU summit takes hard look at Russia
  2. Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing
  3. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  4. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  5. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  6. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  7. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  8. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections