John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Ivory Coast, Disarmament, and the Dozos

by John Campbell
August 4, 2011

Dozos stationed along the road from Man to Duékoué in western Ivory Coast, July 2011. (Nancy Palus/Courtesy IRIN)

As Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara embarks on a long and difficult process of national reconciliation after the divisive elections of November 2010 that led to four months of violence, the role of Dozos, a multinational fraternity of game hunters that participates in some traditional West African cult practices, complicates the process, especially in the western border regions.

Villages in Ivory Coast began employing Dozos to provide security in response to rising crime rates in the early 1990s. In general, they were viewed as a stabilizing force, providing protection when and where the police could not. In return, they were paid cash, allowed to hunt on private property, and even provided land to cultivate crops.

However, as Amnesty recently reported (see my blog post earlier this week), the Dozos have been implicated in atrocities alongside forces loyal to President Ouattara  in southwestern Ivory Coast, which generally supported defeated president Laurent Gbagbo in the November 2011 elections.

IRIN news service reports that Ouattara’s government has publicly asked for assistance from Dozos in providing security. But Dozos are irregulars, not subject to, nor accepting of, military discipline.  Further, they are not indigenous to the areas where they have now established themselves and where refugees and internally displaced persons are likely to return.  It is unclear how the Ouattara government will deal with them or what their future will be. But, they will certainly complicate the Ivorian process of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of irregular fighters left over from a decade of political instability and civil war.

H/T to Asch Harwood.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Folusho Dolire

    Ambassador sir,
    Please reconsider going through the first paragraph where reference is made to November 2011. Do you mean to write 2010?

    Thank you

  • Posted by Joseph Hellweg

    I did three years of anthropological fieldwork among dozos in Côte d’Ivoire in the 1990s, returning there in 2002 (at the moment when the rebellion began) and in January 2009 as well. I authored the book, ‘Hunting the Ethical State: The Benkadi Movement of Côte d’Ivoire’, which is cited in one of the articles linked to the blog, and I am interviewed in the other linked article. I very much appreciate Mr. Campbell’s efforts to raise awareness of recent accusations against dozos for war crimes. These atrocities need thorough investigation. Here I want to place them in a larger context.

    Animosity between mostly Manding and Senufo-speaking dozos and Guéré-speakers in western Côte d’Ivoire has a long history. Manding and Senufo-speakers have been settling in the region for decades to work on its rich agricultural fields. Land was delegated to them for their labor. But when economic conditions went sour in Côte d’Ivoire starting in the 1980s, resentment developed, and the autochthonous populations wanted settlers to leave. Some United States citizens feel similar resentment (in my opinion, unjustified) against Latino immigrants, and for similar reasons at a time of dwindling economic fortunes. So whatever violence dozos—or members of the Forces Républicaines—may have committed against local populations, it sits within a larger historical frame, which makes it no less despicable.

    But, that frame implicates “irregular” conduct beyond that of dozos alone. The rulers of the Ivoirian state have, since independence, manipulated ethnicity and religious affiliation to consolidate their power and to minimize that of their rivals. The same sort of ethnically motivated violence imputed to dozos has been wielded by the state itself since the Bédié regime inaugurated the doctrine of ‘ivoirité’, or “Côte d’Ivoire for Ivoirians.” Politicians, behaving irregularly, beyond the bounds of legality, have been running Côte d’Ivoire for years. Gbagbo, for example, came to power in elections organized by a regime that seized power in a coup d’état, and he remained in power even after having lost an election—at least in the eyes of the United Nations the so-called international community. His authority and his forces were therefore far from regular. Ouattara’s forces, too, composed of men who had attempted a coup d’état in 2002, were hardly regular in their origins; yet many of them now belong to the Ivoirian army simply because they won a military engagement.

    Mr. Campbell’s focus on the notion of “irregularity” therefore appears highly significant to me, simply because the notion of “regularlity” has been so fluid in recent Ivoirian history. Mr. Campbell has, to my mind, identified the crucial question for understanding the viability of the country’s current transition back to some semblance of stability: How can the new regime establish a solid, transparent consensus on normative—“regular”—legality, when one has been absent for so long?

    Philosopher Giorgio Agamben captured the Ivoirian state’s situation well, I think, with his notion of the “state of exception,” which he defines as a state that resorts to extra-constitutional means to bolster its ostensibly constitutional status. Successive Ivoirian presidents adopted this strategy, altering the constitution and other national legal documents at will and engaging in extrajudicial violence, as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have amply documented. The dozo phenomenon is therefore more exemplary of Ivoirian politics than exceptional to it. And it raises a provocative question: Whose power in Côte d’Ivoire is not “irregular?”

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required