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“Negev – Pictures of Côte d’Ivoire special forces with Israeli made IWI Negev light machine guns and IWI Galatz designated marksman rifles were published in 2022.”
Israel provided Côte d’Ivoire aid in fields of military, agriculture and health since 1962. After a civil war broke out in Côte d’Ivoire in 200 and despite an international arms-embargo there is evidence, that Israeli arms and equipment was supplied to the country. Among others, drones, rifles, night vision devices and surveillance technology were supplied to Côte d’Ivoire between 2003-2020 and was used in two civil wars resulting with the death of around 5,000 people.
Israel – Cote d’ivoire Relations
In 1962 the two countries signed a cooperation agreement and exchanged ambassadors. Israel provided aid, primarily in the form of technical expertise, to the Ivoirian military and to the agricultural, tourism, and banking sectors. After being stopped in 1973, Côte d’Ivoire president Félix Houphouët-Boigny announced the resumption of diplomatic relations in 1986.
In 2012, Alassane Ouattara, current President of Côte d’Ivoire, made an official visit to Israel.((Israël et la Côte d’Ivoire)) some sources reported that Ouattara’s visit was also linked to security concerns. Faced with attempts at destabilization in the West and deprived of the support of Nicolas Sarkozy, the Ivorian president was reportedly seeking a strategic rapprochement with Israel.((Côte d’Ivoire – Israël : les vieux amis se retrouvent))
In 2016 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Côte d’Ivoire Foreign Minister Dr. Abdallah Albert Toikeusse Mabri, during his visit in Israel.((Netanyahu et Rivlin ont rencontré le chef de la diplomatie ivoirienne)) In 2019 Israeli and Ivorian entrepreneurs met in Tel Aviv for a first bilateral economic summit aimed at strengthening and developing relations between the two countries.((Soutien d’Israël à un projet de développement en Côte d’Ivoire))
Israel exports to Côte d’Ivoire was $8.33 million during 2018, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.((Israel Exports to Ivory Coast))
According to European Union data, between 200,000 and 300,000 people in the Côte d’Ivoire make a living from the country’s diamond trade, which amounts to between 50,000 and 300,000 carats annually. Since the late 1990s, the Côte d’Ivoire has experienced extreme political instability, with one coup in 1999, and two civil wars raging between 2002 and 2007, and during 2010-2011. In 2005 The political and social unrest has led the UN to impose a decade-long ban on rough diamonds originating from the country. The ban was lifted in 2014.((The Land of Conflict: Ivory Coast diamonds/)) A United Nations report from 2009 on trade in “blood diamonds” – rough stones whose sale is used to fund conflicts – raises the possibility that an Israeli company active in Liberia and Ramat Gan was dealing in diamonds whose proceeds are used to support rebels in the Côte d’Ivoire.((UN Report: Israeli Company Dealing in ‘Blood Diamonds’ From Ivory Coast))
Israel sold weapons to the Ivoirian government between 2002-2003, according to a report by Amnesty International.((Report: Illegal Arms Transfers in Ivory Coast Continue to Fuel Instability)) In 2004, during a civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, the UN declared an arms-embargo on the country. Despite the embargo there is evidence, that Israeli arms and equipment was supplied to the Côte d’Ivoire after the declaration.
In 2005 after demanding the Israel Foreign and Defense ministries to stop exporting weapons from Israel to the Ivory Coast, the French government demanded information on companies selling arms to the Côte d’Ivoire, where a civil war was raging. The demand, which indirectly placed responsibility on Israeli companies for the death of French soldiers on a peace-keeping mission, was apparently raised by the French Embassy’s military attaché or a representative of its intelligence agencies in talks with Defense Ministry officials.((France Demands List of Israeli Firms Selling Arms to Ivory Coast)) According to a Haaretz report, among the Israeli companies involved in weapons sales to the Côte d’Ivoire were Aeronautics Defense Systems, which in 2003 sold 2 Aerostar UAVs to the country and sent personnel to maintain them. The drones were delivered in 2004. The French said their soldiers were killed when drones and surveillance systems assisted the Côte d’Ivoire air force in attacking a base where they were stationed.((France Demands List of Israeli Firms Selling Arms to Ivory Coast)) ((Arms proliferation and abuse shatter communities in Côte d’Ivoire)) In 2008, Côte d’Ivoire’s president Laurent Gbagbo said in an interview that Côte d’Ivoire purchased the Israeli drones for the purpose of surveillance.((President of Cote d’Ivoire Reflects on Israeli Support))
Different reports show that private Israeli businessmen were involved in different arms deals; Israeli arms dealer Moshe Rothschild sold aircraft, parts and ammunition purchased in Eastern Europe; and Israeli businessman Hezi Betzalel sold surveillance systems manufactured by the Israeli company, Verint Systems.((France Demands List of Israeli Firms Selling Arms to Ivory Coast)) ((Global Witness : HOT CHOCOLATE: HOW COCOA FUELLED THE CONFLICT IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE))
In 2016 A report of the UN Security Council on Côte d’Ivoire said Israeli companies violated the UN arms embargo on the West-African nation. According to the report, “violations of the arms embargo have involved small arms, heavy weapons and related ammunition”.((Israeli-made Night-vision Gear Reached Ivory Coast Despite Embargo)) Also the import of night vision equipment by an Israeli company named Troya Tech Defense was mentioned. During routine inspections of ports in Côte d’Ivoire shipments of night-vision goggles and infrared thermal imaging devices were found in 2015.((Israeli-made Night-vision Gear Reached Ivory Coast Despite Embargo))
In 2020 visual evidence showed Ivorian special forces troops training with a variety of weapons, including Tavor rifles from Israeli company IWI.((Ivory Coast special forces use Tavor assault rifles))
In 2018 the research organization Citizen Lab published that they found evidence of the surveillance malware Pegasus, being operated in Côte d’Ivoire.((Tracking NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware to Operations in 45 Countries)) The controversial spyware Pegasus was developed by the Israeli company NSO Group. Anderson Diédri, a reporter who worked on reporting in Côte d’Ivoire as part of the West Africa Leaks((An ICIJ Investigation WEST AFRICA LEAKS/)), an international corruption investigation, says that Pegasus’s presence in the country constitutes an “unacceptable threat to the freedom of the press, especially investigative journalism.”((Spyware hijacks smartphones, threatens journalists around the world))
In 2021, At ShieldAfrica 2021, the International Security and Defense Exhibition in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the Israeli company Rafael presented its full range of naval defense systems, including a naval version of its Spike surface-to-surface guided missile. A launcher unit of the Naval Spike ER missile was showcased at the Rafael booth.((ShieldAfrica 2021: Rafael from Israel to offer naval version of its Spike surface-to-surface missile))
Usage of Israeli Arms
Tavor rifles: 3rd Airborne Unit of the Côte d’Ivoire Special Forces.((Ivory Coast special forces use Tavor assault rifles))\
In 2021, Côte d’Ivoire military soldiers with Tavor TAR-21 rifles were documented.((IMI Tavor rifles on Ivory Coast soldiers))
Aerostar drones: were reportedly being used by Ivorian military forces.
Pegasus: was used in Côte d’Ivoire.((
Negev – Pictures of Côte d’Ivoire special forces with Israeli made IWI Negev light machine guns and IWI Galatz designated marksman rifles were published in 2022.((pictures of negev – ivory coast))
Human Rights Violations
The first Ivorian civil war began in 2002. A failed coup fueled unrest and ignited civil war, leaving the country divided into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south. Peacekeeping troops from France, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and later the United Nations (UN) created a buffer zone, known as the “zone of confidence,” between the rebels, known as the New Forces, and the Ivoirian government troops. In 2004 the already volatile situation worsened when French peacekeeping troops were accidentally killed in one of the Ivoirian bombing raids, prompting retaliatory bombing by France that in turn resulted in anti-French demonstrations and the looting and burning of French businesses, schools, and residences. In response to the escalating situation, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Côte d’Ivoire in an attempt to stem the influx of weapons into the region. In April 2005 peace talks held in South Africa led to a new cease-fire agreement between the Ivoirian government and the rebels, with all parties declaring an end to the war. More than 1,500 people died in the war.
In 2011 when a new crisis Ivory Coast escalated into full-scale military conflict between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the President of Ivory Coast since 2000, and supporters of the internationally recognized president-elect Alassane Ouattara. After months of unsuccessful negotiations and sporadic violence between supporters of the two sides, the crisis entered a critical stage as Ouattara’s forces seized control of most of the country with the help of the UN, with Gbagbo entrenched in Abidjan, the country’s largest city. International organizations have reported numerous instances of human rights violations by both sides, in particular in the city of Duékoué where Ouattara’s forces killed hundreds of people. Overall casualties of the war are estimated around 3000. Nearly 700,000 Ivorians were displaced. The UN and French forces took military action, with the stated objective to protect their forces and civilians. France’s forces arrested Gbagbo at his residence on 11 April 2011.((Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo held after French troops move in)) ((Disputed election of 2010 and protracted political standoff)) He faced four charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and persecution in the International Criminal Court.((HRW The Need for Justice for Côte d’Ivoire’s Post-Election Crimes)) ((Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé))
Arms Transfers During Civil Wars:
Angola, China, Belarus, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Israel sold weapons to the Ivoirian government between 2002 and 2003, according to an Amnesty International report. A 2004 UN arms embargo did little to halt the flow of weapons into the country, according to the report.((Arms proliferation and abuse shatter communities in Côte d’Ivoire)) Spending on military hardware eventually climbed to more than 10 percent of the Côte d’Ivoire’s national budget in 2004-05.((Report: Illegal Arms Transfers in Ivory Coast Continue to Fuel Instability)) Arms received both before and after the embargo went into effect were used during Ivory Coast’s 2010-11 post-election conflict.((Report: Illegal Arms Transfers in Ivory Coast Continue to Fuel Instability)) ((Côte d’Ivoire awash in weapons))
Human trafficking in Ivory Coast is a long-standing problem. Although the country is used for domestic and international trafficking of children and adults, domestic trafficking of children is most prevalent.((Cote d’Ivoire OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS)) Child labor in the cocoa industry is widespread, with children brought in from surrounding countries to work in poor conditions on the plantations.((Cote d’Ivoire OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS))
Journalists, human rights defenders, activists and opposition members faced arbitrary arrests, detention and deportations for expressing dissent in 2019 and 2020. Peaceful demonstrations were dispersed with the use of excessive force by security forces. On 4 October 2019, security forces killed one person and injured several others when they opened fire on protesters in Djébonoua against the arrest of an opposition politician.((HRW Cote divoire Events of 2019))
Côte d’Ivoire’s National Human Rights Council reported on 10th of November 2020 that 55 people were killed and 282 injured between October 31 and November 10 in the political and intercommunal violence that accompanied presidential elections.((Côte d’Ivoire : Déclaration du CNDH relative aux atteintes aux droits de l’homme)) Security forces failed to adequately protect civilians and in at least one case used excessive force to disperse opposition-led protests, shooting dead at least two demonstrators and beating a man unconscious. President Alassane Ouattara was re-elected for a third term with a reported 94 percent of the vote in the controversial election, which the main opposition parties boycotted. The poll triggered confrontations between opposition and government supporters in the capital, Abidjan, and at least eight other towns, resulting in brutal street clashes fought with machetes, clubs, and hunting rifles. Since the election, Ivorian authorities have arrested a dozen opposition party members, who rejected the results and said they had formed a National Transitional Council to organize new elections.((Côte d’Ivoire: The use of machetes and guns reveals horrors of post-election violence/))