the crisis erupted on 19 September 2002, Côte d’Ivoire
has been split in two: the government-controlled south and
the rebel-held north. A demilitarized zone, dubbed the ‘confidence
zone’, acts as a buffer. Various mediation efforts and
the signing of peace accords (Linas-Marcoussis in January
2003 and Pretoria in April 2005) have so far failed to break
the deadlock. Entrenched differences, compounded by a lack
of trust between the parties, prevented presidential and legislative
elections from taking place by the constitutional deadline:
the end of October 2005. In an attempt to find a way out of
the crisis, the international community adopted UN Security
Council resolution 1633, extending the Ivorian president’s
term of office for one year and appointing a new prime minister
with broader powers to lead the country to presidential elections
by October 2006.
To find out more about what the Red Cross Society of Côte
d’Ivoire is doing in the context of continuing tension
and about the challenges it is facing, Red Cross Red Crescent
spoke to its president, Monique Coulibaly.
Your first term in office ended in August 2005.
How would you assess it?
The conflict broke out five months after I was elected. There
was virtually no initiation period, and before I had time
to get familiar with all the work in hand, we found ourselves
put to the test by the cruel reality of an armed conflict,
obliged to provide humanitarian services without always having
the human, material and financial resources necessary to respond
to an emergency of this kind. But we had faith in ourselves
and the determination of our volunteers.
The volume of assistance distributed, the diversity of our
programmes in the field and our presence throughout the country
attest to the broad reach and acceptance of the National Society.
Moreover, our capacities have been enhanced in every domain,
with the result that our staff is better trained and our material
and logistics resources have improved.
The general assembly in August 2005 elected me to a second
term at the helm of the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire,
which I interpret as a positive assessment of our achievements
in an extremely difficult socio-political environment. However,
we still have a long way to go.
What are the main difficulties that you encountered
during this period?
Bringing our finances back on track and re-establishing cooperation
with all our Movement partners and with international organizations.
We have now done this. Our finances are healthier, as the
audit reports have confirmed. What we still sorely lack are
the means to generate our own funds, so that in the longer
term we can cover 80 per cent of our running costs. Unfortunately,
the emergency meant we could not focus more on this priority.
What are the main problems and needs of the civilian
population after more than three years of crisis, and how
is the Côte d’Ivoire Red Cross responding to them?
The problems are essentially access to primary health care
and sanitation, the return of displaced people to their homes,
and the restoration of social harmony. To respond to these
needs, the Red Cross is developing a number of projects in
cooperation with its partners.
Health centres for displaced people in Abidjan, village health
posts in the west of the country and centres for voluntary
AIDS testing are some of the facilities the National Society
is providing. A project offering socio-economic support to
communities divided by the conflict in four communes across
the country aims to foster social cohesion during the post-crisis
Since the events of 19 September 2002, the country has effectively
been split in two. Despite this, the National Society has
managed to preserve its unity. How?
The training of its volunteers and large-scale public awareness
campaigns have helped to preserve the National Society’s
unity and sense of common purpose. There are two major factors:
first, our commitment to assisting all victims, with no discrimination
of any kind — a victim has no ‘face’ and
no ‘name’; and second, the way the Movement’s
unity of thought and action has translated into a true Red
Cross culture in which the fundamental principles form the
basis of our action.
Your volunteers often have to pass through roadblocks
to get to people in need of assistance. How smoothly does
Our volunteers have encountered no major difficulties. The
security rules put into effect by the ICRC during the crisis
have facilitated our movements on both sides of the buffer
zone. By notifying the forces in question of where we are
going and what we are transporting, we have been able to avoid
any trouble and to remain free of suspicion.
What support does the National Society receive
from its Movement partners?
The ICRC’s support is essentially operational, i.e.,
linked to needs arising from the conflict. It consists mainly
of organizational support to the National Society (training,
communication, equipment, staff, etc.) and assistance to the
The International Federation provided substantial support
during the first months of the crisis, and the French and
Netherlands Red Cross and the Red Crescent Society of the
Islamic Republic of Iran continue to help us with community
development. Our priority, which is also that of our Movement
partners, is to be involved in the vast programme of post-crisis
rehabilitation, mainly in the former rebel-held zones.
For the future, what are you expectations of
More commitment and more support at the organizational level.
The flame of hope that we have rekindled since September 2002
must not go out.
You have been elected for a second term. What
are the challenges ahead?
The main challenge is to improve and increase our own sources
of funding. Aside from the aid we receive from our Movement
partners, we want to be able to take full charge of the running
and supervision of our local branches, for it is in the capacities
of its local branches that the level of development of a National
Society can truly be measured. This is why I will concentrate
on broadening our support to local committees.
Monique Coulibaly has been president of the Red Cross Society
of Côte d’Ivoire for the past four years.
©Carlo Piccinini / ICRC
‘Respect the red cross emblem!’
Drawing by a street child from Abidjan for an illustration
competition about international humanitarian law in 2004.
©RED CROSS SOCIETY OF CÔTE D’IVOIRE / ICRC
The ICRC in Côte d’Ivoire
With a staff of 216 people, including 38 expatriates,
the ICRC in Côte d’Ivoire is active in the
• Visiting people detained in connection with
the armed conflict.
• Restoring contact between family members.
• Distributing food and other essentials.
• Supporting public health and sanitation services.
In addition, and in response to the recent resurgence
of armed clashes, the ICRC has reminded the parties
of their obligation to ensure compliance with international
humanitarian law and to allow personnel of the ICRC
and the Red
Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire to work in
Distribution of kitchen and hygiene sets
in the western region of Man by ICRC and Côte
d’Ivoire Red Cross volunteers, October 2005.