West Africa: Fragile Stability

Until recently it was not Iraq, but West Africa that had earned the unenviable description – ‘the most dangerous place on the planet’ – with the deadliest wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The region is now enjoying an uneasy peace and its flashpoints blink alongside two of Africa’s most stable multi-party democracies: Senegal and Ghana. Along the West African coast there are constant threats to the delicate balance, most immediately dangerous is the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.

The World Today Published 1 November 2005 Updated 15 October 2020 5 minute READ

The eighteenth-month ceasefire between the Côte d’Ivoire government and northern-based rebels was shattered a year ago when the airforce bombed the main rebel-held cities and a French base, killing nine French soldiers. France retaliated by decimating Ivoirian airpower. That sparked a new colonial war: local militants attacked French people and property, and French soldiers fired live ammunition into demonstrators in Abidjan, the economic capital.

The UN Security Council imposed a thirteen-month arms and military equipment embargo, threatening further sanctions on human rights abusers and peace process spoilers, including a travel ban and assets freeze. This left President Laurent Gbagbo’s government with few friends beyond Angola. Israel has distanced itself and China, although interested in oil and cocoa, has refused to provide military training.

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