The International Observatory on Statelessness

Cote d'Ivoire

It has been estimated that nearly twenty percent of Côte d’Ivoire’s 18 million inhabitants have documentation problems, and nationality and identity were at the root of the war that ravaged Côte d’Ivoire in 2002. In previous decades, the country welcomed millions of West African immigrants, particularly laborers from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ghana who came to work on cocoa, coffee, and cotton plantations. But when commodity prices declined, the welcome wore thin. Birth on Ivorian soil does not automatically translate to citizenship - a right reserved in most cases for those who can prove at least one parent was also born in the country. Blurring the issue further, many native Ivorians have family ties that stretch across borders drawn by European colonizers in the nineteenth century.In late 2005, the UN Security Council appointed a neutral Prime Minister to head the transitional coalition government, which includes ministers favorable to President Gbagbo and to the opposition, to govern the country until a new election could be held. Shortly after his appointment, the Prime Minister’s office created a mobile pilot program, “Audiences Foraines,” to document people over 13 years of age who lacked birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. The pilot program found that approximately 16 percent of those seeking nationality documentation were ineligible and thus at high risk of statelessness.

In December 2008, Ivoirian parties agreed that elections would follow the identification process and the disarmament of ex-combatants. The UN’s Special Representative in Ivory Coast has said that the identification process should be completed in spring 2009.