Once the most stable and prosperous of West African nations, Cote d’Ivoire has seen in the 21st century with a series of internal conflicts following a coup against the then president Henri Bedié in 1999. As in so many other parts of Africa, ethnicity and the distribution of wealth have played their part in stoking intercommunal violence and regional allegiances.
After years of shaky calm following a military mutiny in 2002 that effectively cut the country in two, the latest bout of fighting came about as a result of a disputed presidential election in October 2010 which the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede to his long-term rival Alassane Ouattara.
Despite the election having been a close race, the country’s electoral commission awarded Ouattara a convincing 54% of the vote, a result Gbagbo refused to accept. By early 2011 the dispute had degenerated into all out civil war, with forces loyal to Ouattara advancing on Gbagbo’s last stronghold of Abidjan, the country’s largest city.