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The Ivorian military remained confined to their barracks until December 24, 1999, when they staged a coup d’état. They had been instrumental in sustaining Félix Houphouët-Boigny’s rule, characterized by a deep culture of patronage in which they actively participated. After French colonialism used Ivorian soldiers in securing the territories they conquered, the Ivorian army, after its creation, became a pivotal element in the creation of the nascent Ivorian bourgeoisie, a class of planteurs (plantation owners) and entrepreneurs linked to the State. Houphouët-Boigny was unwilling to fund the army because he did not trust their loyalty to him. He preferred to focus on education, health, and infrastructure, arguing no external was threatening the country. As a consequence, the Ivorian military was neglected, poorly equipped, and inadequately trained. Complex relations have existed between the military, the ruling elites, and the state. In 1995, when the Baoulé elites and their new leader, Bédié, began losing their grip on power and faced competition from Northern elites that identified with Ouattara, they resorted to the dubious ideology of Ivoirité to consolidate their class position. The balance of power was shifting swiftly among ethnicized and competing members of ruling elites, ill-prepared to negotiate the fallout from their own instrumentalization of ethnicity, belonging, and autochthony for power. In 2002, a failed rebellion divided the country in two. The atrophied military could not assume their fundamental duties of keeping the country together. As militias, insurgencies, rebellions, and gangs mushroomed across the country and fought for a piece of the state, violence became their preferred strategy to advance political agendas until elections were organized in 2010. A situation of no war and no peace ensued until Laurent Gbagbo, who did not recognize his defeat, was removed from power by force in 2011. The French, with the assistance of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in a semblance of multilateralism, intervened militarily to allow Ouattara’s troops to capture Gbagbo on April 1, 2011. Placed within a context of longue durée, an analysis is provided of how the long presence of the French military base and their experts and soldiers, under an agreement Houphouët-Boigny signed with the French government in 1961, has been a powerful deterrent and determinant of civil–military relations in Côte d’Ivoire, from independence in 1960 to the 2011 war. The presence of the French army, the Forces Nouvelles’ armed insurrection, and the weakness of the military have made possible the preservation of a “negative” peace, one that not only reshaped the class structure, but also enabled the preservation of the rentier state as the central institution in the creation and distribution of wealth. The loyalty of local ruling elites to French interests mattered significantly in the preservation of stable civil–military relations. As long as ethno-factions, political parties, and local elites are able to align their interests with powerful French interests, a semblance of stability will prevail and the military will continue exerting a reduced direct impact on Ivorian politics. As soon as that fragile equilibrium ruptures and a renewed internal struggle for primacy among ruling elites erupts, the country may descend into chaos, especially if the reconciliation process, engaged after Ouattara took power in 2011, does not yield tangible results, and if horizontal inequalities persist.

Article

Dominant narratives and theories developed at the turn of the 21st century to account for the links between state formation and civil wars in Africa converged around two main ideas. First was the contention that the increase in civil wars across the continent—like that in many parts of the globe, including South Asia and Central Europe—was linked to state failure or decay. Violent conflict thus came to be seen as the expression of the weakness, disintegration, and collapse of political institutions in the postcolonial world. Second, guerrilla movements, once viewed as the ideological armed wings of Cold War contenders, then came to be seen as roving bandits interested in plundering the spoils left by decaying states, and their motives as primarily, if not only, economic or personal, rather than political. However, recent research has challenged the reductionism that underlay such accounts by looking into the day-to-day politics of civil war, thus moving beyond the search for the motives that bring rebels and rebel movements to wage war against the established order. Drawing on this literature, this article argues that violent conflict is part and parcel of historical processes of state formation. Thus, in order to understand how stable political institutions can be built in the aftermath of civil war, it is essential to study the institutions that regulate political life during conflict. This implies a need not only to look at how (and if) state institutions survive once war has broken out, but also to take into account the institutions put in place in areas beyond the control of the state.