Forces on the ground in Ivory Coast

14th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ivory Coast's deteriorating political crisis as rivals battle for the presidency has raised the spectre of renewed civil war. Multiple rival armed groups are present in the fragile west African state.

Herewith is a breakdown of the main players on the front line:


The trump card in strongman Laurent Gbagbo's deck as he tries to cling to power, FDS is the abbreviation given to the Ivorian state's official military and police forces. Estimated at 17,000 strong, UN sources put their effective strength at 55,000.

The FDS traditionally controls the south of Ivory Coast, below the 2003 ceasefire line that divided the country in two.

However since mid-February they have lost control of four towns in the west, as his rival's forces push towards the main cocoa port San Pedro.

On Monday gunfire erupted in a pro-Gbagbo suburb in Abidjan, near the home of FDS chief General Philippe Mangou.

Gbagbo relies heavily on two elite units: the 1,500-strong Republican Guard and the 2,000-strong Cecos special forces anti-robbery brigade -- at the forefront as he cracks down on challenges to his rule since Alassane Ouattara claimed to have won the November 28 election.

Republican Guard commander General Dogbo Ble and Cecos' commander Police General Georges Guiai Bi Poin are on a list of Gbagbo allies placed under European Union travel bans.


Internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara is backed by the New Forces rebels led by his prime minister Guillame Soro, who traditionally hold the north of the country.

Estimates for the total strength vary wildly, but experts and diplomatic sources think they could put between 5,000 and 10,000 men in the field.

If fighting broke out between north and south, however, the group would be essentially reliant on a hardcore of relatively well-drilled and armed troops under two "zone commanders" with only a few hundred men each.

Cherif Ousmane is in command around the rebel "capital" in the centre of the country, Bouake, and Martin Kofie Kouakou in the northern town of Korhogo. Both have been under UN sanctions since 2006 for their roles in violence.

In a battle for legitimacy, the FN announced in early March that the armed forces involving FN and FDS combatants having defected to Ouattara camp are named "Republican Forces of Cote d'Ivoire."

In the populous suburb of Abobo, an "invisible commando" group comprising pro-Ouattara supporters has also clashed with Gbagbo troops in recent weeks.


The United Nations Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI), present in the country since 2004, fields 8,600 "blue helmets" -- soldiers from volunteer member states -- and 1,250 armed civilian UN police, charged with monitoring the ceasefire and protecting civilians.

Some 1,000 members of the force have set up a cordon of armoured vehicles around the Golf Hotel where Ouattara's government is holed up, and have orders to fire back if fired upon.

The UN Security Council has decided to send reinforcements of 2,000 men, rejecting demands by Gbagbo that the troops be withdrawn.


Somed 900 French troops remain in Ivory Coast, serving as a rapid reaction back-up to UNOCI.

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article