Foreign policy and defense
The Ivory Coast has traditionally had close
relationships with the western world. The country's most
important trading partner and donor is France. However,
during the civil war of 2002-2007, relations to the old
colonial power were strained when France chose not to
help the Gbagbo government to regain rebel-controlled
areas in the north. Former President Gbagbo accused
outside forces of involvement in the conflict, but the
French government saw the war as an internal conflict.
Otherwise, through a 1961 defense agreement, France
would have had to intervene militarily.
At the end of 2002, a French peacekeeping force (Opération
Licorne; Operation Enhörning) was sent to the Ivory
Coast. In 2004, nine French soldiers were killed when
Ivorian fighter aircraft attacked a French military
posting. France responded by knocking out almost the
entire Ivorian air force. Leading politicians took
advantage of this to stave off anti-French sentiment in
the Ivory Coast and many Frenchmen left the country.
Since Ouattara was installed as president in 2012,
relations with France have been good.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Ivory Coast for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Relations between the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso
have also been tense. Land conflicts and xenophobic
moods in Ivory Coast, often directed against Burkinians
or residents with Burmese roots, led to many being
During the civil war, the Gbagbo government accused
Burkina Faso of supporting the rebel movement MPCI.
Nevertheless, it was Burkese President Blaise Compaoré
who mediated the peace agreement in 2007. Compaoré fled
the Ivory Coast in 2012 after losing power in a popular
uprising in his home country. He was granted Ivorian
citizenship in 2016 despite Burkina Faso requesting him
extradited for a trial in his home country (see further
Calendar). Burkinan authorities issued an international
arrest warrant for Ivorian President Soro in 2016, after
accusing him of being involved in a coup attempt.
In the summer of 2016, the countries became closer,
and President Ouattara and his Burkinean colleague Roch
Marc Christian Kaboré signed about 10 bilateral
agreements, including on cooperation on infrastructure
and measures to counter terrorism. The arrest warrant
against Soro had also been withdrawn.
In connection with the 2010/2011 wave of violence,
the Ivory Coast was temporarily closed off from Ecowas
and the AU. Both organizations had previously made great
efforts to end the war and resolve the political crisis.
After the 2010 elections, both the EU and the US
targeted sanctions against Gbagbo and its immediate
circle. After the 2010/2011 crisis, both the EU and the
US have increased their assistance to the Ivory Coast.
In 2016, the UN lifted the arms embargo that had been
in effect since 2004 ((read more about the UN in Ivory
Coast in the Foreign Magazine).
The war in Liberia has occasionally touched on the
western parts of the Ivory Coast. In 1989, the Liberian
guerrilla movement invaded NPFL in Liberia from bases on
the Ivorian side of the border. When the civil war broke
out in Ivory Coast in 2002, relations between the
countries deteriorated further. Ivorian rebel groups
were backed by Liberian rebels loyal to Liberia's
then-president Charles Taylor, while Gbagbo for a time
assisted Liberian rebel groups that thwarted Taylor's
regime. During the 2010/2011 riots, over 200,000
Ivorians fled to Liberia, but most of them have since
returned home. The border area with Liberia has remained
unsettled, although the situation has improved in recent
years (see Calendar).
With Ghana, there is a border dispute over an oil and
gas-rich sea area, where Ghana is already extracting oil
today. Since the fall of 2014, a group within the UN
Convention on the Law of the Sea has mediated the
conflict. The mediators decided in April 2015 that Ghana
will be allowed to continue extracting oil according to
the agreements entered into, but that new oil projects
may not be initiated until a final ruling has been
presented by the Marine Court. It came in the fall of
2017 and the court granted Ghana justice.
Angola has in recent years tried to widen its
influence in West Africa. Gbagbo was in close contact
with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos for a
long time and received his support after the 2010
election. Under Gbagbo's rule, the Angolan MPLA signed a
series of agreements with Ivorian oil interests,
including buying a part in a large oil refinery. Angolan
mercenaries are also reported to have been killed on
Gbagbo's side in the civil war. Later, the Angolan
government has tried to approach Ouattara, which has
been compounded in part by old conflicts between dos
Santos and the new Ivorian president, believed to date
back to the time when Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Ivory
Coast's first president, supported Unita guerrilla, the
MPLA's opponent in the Angola Civil War 1975-2002.
The national defense is under construction. The 2007
peace treaty stipulates that the government army and
rebel forces should form a common national defense, but
disarmament and the rebel integration have been slow. In
the spring of 2011, the Forces republican de la
Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI) was formed when several
forces supporting Ouattara fought the same after a
decree from the president.
The government still has difficulty gaining full
control of the defense force, which consisted of former
rebels, defected soldiers from the former government
army FDS and young men recruited in connection with the
FRCI offensive in 2011. Some military commanders from
the rebel movement New forces have refused to give up
control of the zones in the north, where they have been
able to enrich themselves through smuggling and other
Soldiers have also protested that they have not been
paid wages and financial contributions that they have
been promised (see Calendar).
The UN force Unoci, which had been formed in 2004,
completed its mission in June 2017. However, some
observers felt that Unoci had to remain in the country
for some time (see Foreign Ministry: Political power
struggle threatens peace in Ivory Coast).
The French force, which played a key role in the
arrest of Gbagbo in 2011, was restructured in 2015 to
focus mainly on counter-terrorism in the region. At
most, France had 4,000 soldiers in the country, but the
troop force was reduced to 500 men in 2011 and then
expanded to 900 men after the terrorist attack in the
country in the spring of 2016 (see Calendar). In 2016,
the government decided to increase funding for the
military. The money would go to both new equipment and a
modernization of the army.
In early 2017, however, several army unions rebelled
and demanded that they receive the "bonuses" they had
been promised. In early January, the government
succeeded in stoking a rebellion by paying 8,500
soldiers the equivalent of $ 19,000 each. President
Ouattara also re-furnished the military command. The
first revolt was followed by new soldier protests (see
READING TIPS - read more about Ivory
Coast in UI's web magazine:
Political power struggle threatens peace in Ivory
FACTS - DEFENSE
23 000 men (2017)
The air Force
1,400 men (2017)
1,000 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
1.3 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
5.1 percent (2017)