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Military of Ivory Coast

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Military of Ivory Coast

Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire
Ivory Coast Coat of arms
Minister of Defense Alassane Ouattara
Active personnel 6,500 (estimate as of 1962)[1]
14,920 (as of 1987)
9,000 (estimate as of 2005)
Budget $94 million (fiscal year 1996)
$541 million (fiscal year 2009)
Percent of GDP 1.5% (fiscal year 2009)
Related articles
History First Ivorian Civil War
Second Ivorian Civil War

The Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (French: Forces Republicaines de Cote d'Ivoire; "FRCI") is the current name of the armed forces of Ivory Coast.


Ivory Coast became independent on 7 August 1960. Ivory Coast had no military until more than a year after independence, one was finally organized and strengthened with French assistance. Ivoirian members of the French Troupes de Marine who had been born in Ivory Coast were transferred to Abidjan in October 1961 to start establishing the armed forces.[1]

In 1962 the total strength of the armed forces was about 6,500, about 4,000 being conscripts doing their military service.[1] The authors of the U.S. Army's Area Handbook series said at the time that '..the Army and Gendarmery (sic) were effective forces in being, but the Navy and Air Force were token forces primarily for prestige and with little actual defense value.'

In 2011, the FRCI, with assistance from French forces and the UN's mission ONUCI, defeated the army of the former government of Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast armed forces serve the Forces Nouvelles de Côte d'Ivoire (FNCI), the political coalition that triumphed in the Second Ivorian Civil War.[2] The FRCI were formerly known as the Armed Forces of the New Forces (FAFN). As of September 2011, the government is attempting to form what is called the Forces Armées Nationales de Côte d'Ivoire (FANCI), which aims to merge 5,000 former rebels of the FRCI with 30,000 veterans of the former regular army (Forces de défense et de sécurité – FDS).[3]

French forces and the Opération des Nations Unies en Côte d'Ivoire are a significant military factor in the country as of late 2011 (see International Forces below).


Ivory Coast military units and base in 2008
Source: Jane's World Armies Issue 23 – 2008
Numbers in brackets indicate parent military regions.
Note: French forces of battalion strength[4] are stationed near Abidjan, as well as over 7,000 troops under U.N. command. In 2011, rebel forces overran the country during the Second Ivorian Civil War.

The army had three infantry battalions and an engineer battalion in 1979, as well as a light tank squadron, a reconnaissance company, and an artillery battery. At that time the active army consisted of 4,450 men. The army at that time operated AMX-13 light tanks, AML-90 and AML-60 armored cars, French 105mm howitzers, and mortars of 81mm and 120mm caliber.[5]

In 1987 Ivory Coast was divided into five military regions, each commanded by a colonel.[6] The First Military Region controlled the concentration of forces in and around Abidjan, its principal units there being a rapid intervention battalion (airborne), an infantry battalion, an armored battalion, and an air defense artillery battalion. The Second Military Region was located in Daloa and comprised one infantry battalion.

The Third Military Region was headquartered in Bouaké and was home to an artillery, an infantry, and an engineer battalion. The Fourth Military Region maintained only a Territorial Defense Company headquartered in Korhogo The Fifth Military Region was formerly known as the Western Operational Zone, a temporary command created to respond to the security threat caused by the First Liberian Civil War. There were a total of 14,920 active troops.

Long-time President Houphouët Boigny, in power since the 1960s, died in December 1993, unleashing a succession crisis which quickly involved the power institutions of the state. The army seized power on 24 December 1999. By a decree of 27 December 1999, the constitution was suspended and all the institutions of government were dissolved. A collective body, the National Council of Public Safety (CNSP), presided over by Brigadier General Robert Guéi, took control.


Following a constitutional referendum of July 2000, the president of the CNSP decided to run for president and declared himself president after the elections of 22 October 2000. After popular unrest Laurent Gbagbo became president and was sworn in on 26 October 2000.

A succession of military coups followed, which gave rise to an rebellion which began on 19 September 2002. From 2002 until 2011 Ivory Coast was split by the rebellion between the existing government in the south and the Forces Nouvelles in the north. As of July 2011, General Soumaïla Bakayoko is the chief of staff of the army, and colonel-major Gervais Kouakou Kouassi is the Chief of the Gendarmerie.[7]

As of October 2011, previously active units around Abidjan reportedly included the:[8]

  • 1st Infantry Battalion – (1er Bataillon d’infanterie des forces armées terrestres ivoiriennes), at Akouédo (new camp)
  • Armoured Battalion – (Battaillon Blinde), at Akouédo (new camp). The new camp at Akouedo had reportedly been almost completely destroyed. Akouedo appears to be at 5' 21 7 N, 3' 26 30 W.
  • 1st Parachute Commando Battalion – 1er Bataillon des Commandos Parachutistes (1er BCP), old camp at Akouedo, on the route to the village Ébrié.

The 2nd Infantry Battalion appears to have been based at Daloa for some time. A 2003 change of command usshered in the 16th commander of the unit,[9] and there are also reports from 2009 and 2011.

In 1987 the Library of Congress Country Study appeared to say that the Third Military Region and Third Battalion at Bouake were coterminous.

General Soumaila Bakayoko, Chief of staff of the Army, conducts a passing review of his troops in Odienné

Current strength

As of 2012, major equipment items reported by the IISS included ten T-55 tanks (marked as potentially unserviceable), 5 AMX-13 light tanks, 34 reconnaissance vehicles, 10 BMP infantry fighting vehicles, 41 wheeled APCs, and 36+ artillery pieces.[10] Under the recent Laurent Ghagbo and Alassane Ouattara governments, the Ivorian military has undergone an extended period of expansion, purchasing additional helicopters, T-55s, BMP-2s, and Eland Mk7 armoured cars.

Reported special forces units include:

Air Force

After achieving independence from France in 1960, Ivory Coast maintained strong links with France through bilateral defence agreements.[11] French training and operating techniques has been used since the establishment of the air force. The first equipment supplied included three Douglas C-47's and seven MH.1521 Broussard STOL utility aircraft in 1961. The first jet aircraft to enter service in October 1980 were six Alpha Jet CI light attack and advanced training aircraft; six more were ordered, but were subsequently cancelled. However, another was purchased in 1983.

The 1979 air force had only transport and liaison aircraft.[5] In 1987, the Library of Congress Country Study said that the Air Force's official name, Ivoirian Air Transport and Liaison Group (Groupement Aérien de Transport et de Liaison—GATL), 'reflects an original mission focused more on logistics and transport rather than a combat force.'[6]

In 2004, following an air strikes on French peacekeepers by Ivorian forces, the French military destroyed all aircraft in the Air Force of Ivory Coast. Gbagbo had ordered air strikes on Ivorian rebels. On 6 November 2004, at least one Ivorian Sukhoi Su-25 bomber attacked a French peacekeeping position in the rebel town of Bouaké at 1 pm, killing nine French soldiers and wounding 31.[12] An American development worker, reported to have been a missionary, was also killed. The Ivorian government claimed the attack on the French was unintentional, but the French insisted that the attack had been deliberate.[13]

Several hours after the attack French President Jacques Chirac ordered the destruction of the Ivorian air force and the seizure of Yamoussoukro airport. The French military performed an overland attack on the airport, destroying two Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft and three Mi-24 helicopter gunships.[14] Two more military helicopters were destroyed during combat in the skies over Abidjan. France then flew in 300 troops and put three Dassault Mirage F1 jet fighters based in nearby Gabon on standby.[13]

Since then, the Air Force of Ivory Coast has been rebuilt.[14] In 2007, Aviation Week & Space Technology reported a total of six aircraft in service: one Antonov An-32 tactical transport, one Cessna 421 Golden Eagle utility aircraft, two Eurocopter SA 365 Dauphin helicopters, one Gulfstream IV VIP aircraft, and one Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter.[15] It is unknown whether any of these aircraft were truly operational. In addition, reported two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 attack aircraft.[16]


Current inventory

A Côte d'Ivoire SA330 Puma at Faro Airport, Portugal
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Boeing 727 United States VIP 1[17] Acquired in 2011
AS365 France utility 2[18]
Alouette III France light utility 2[18]
SA 330 Puma France transport / utility 1[18]


Ivory Coast has a brown-water navy whose mission is coastal surveillance and security for the nation's 340-mile coastline. In 1979 the armed forces were dominated by the army; the navy and the air force only had 450 men between them.[5]

International forces

A mutual defense accord signed with France in April 1961 provides for the stationing of French Armed Forces troops in Ivory Coast.[19] The 43rd Marine Infantry Battalion of the French Army's Troupes de Marine (43e bataillon d'infanterie de marine) was based in Port Bouet adjacent to the Abidjan Airport from 1979 and had more than 500 troops assigned until 2011, when it appears to have been disbanded. The French military also maintains a force as part of Operation Licorne.

From summer 2011, Operation Licorne, the French force, previously over 5,000 strong, is roughly 700, and consists of Licorne headquarters, Battalion Licorne (BATLIC), seemingly made up of elements of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment and the Régiment d'infanterie-chars de marine, and a helicopter detachment.[4]

The United Nations has maintained the peacekeeping mission ONUCI in the country since 2004. On 28 February 2011 ONUCI consisted of 7,568 troops, 177 military observers, and numerous international civilians and Police; the mission had received helicopter and infantry reinforcement from UNMIL during the stand-off since the late 2010 elections which had been won by Alassane Ouattara.[20]

Gendarmerie in 1987

In 1987, the Library of Congress Country Studies described the National Gendarmerie in the following terms:[21]

"The third pillar of internal security, the National Gendarmerie, consisted of a headquarters staff, four legions (corresponding to the four military regions) and a professional training academy, the Gendarmerie School (Ecole de Gendarmerie). This national constabulary force was formed in October 1960, replacing the Guard of the Republic that had been established in 1958. In 1988 Colonel Koffi Botty was the high commander of the National Gendarmerie, having replaced Brigadier General N'daw in 1983.

The National Gendarmerie was responsible for defending rural areas and maintaining domestic order, thereby complementing the conventional tactical capabilities of the regional military commands. Its effective strength of 1,500 in the late 1960s doubled to 3,000 in the early 1970s, and in 1987 it was estimated at 4,500. The headquarters included an intelligence bureau; administrative and training center; bureaus of logistics, personnel, and budget planning; and a security and foreign liaison division."

"The four National Gendarmerie legions each had a general staff, detached companies that were deployed in and around the major towns and population centers in their respective prefectures, and a small number of mobile squads for rapid reaction and general support."


  1. ^ a b c Area handbook for the Ivory Coast. Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962, Chapter on the Armed Forces
  2. ^ CIA Factbook
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b (French) French Ministry of Defence, Les forces françaises en Côte d'Ivoire, 28 September 2011, accessed November 2011
  5. ^ a b c Keegan, pp. 381–382
  6. ^ a b Library of Congress, Cote d'Ivoire Country Study, circa 1987, accessed January 2009
  7. ^
  8. ^ accessed November 2011
  9. ^ accessed 2011
  10. ^ IISS The Military Balance 2012, 429.
  11. ^ World Aircraft Information Files. Brightstar Publishing, London. File 338 Sheet 02
  12. ^ "Ivory Coast seethes after attack", BBC News, 7 November 2004.
  13. ^ a b Ann Talbot, "Ivory Coast: protests erupt vs. French military strikes", World Socialist Web Site, 9 November 2004.
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ "World Military Aircraft Inventory", Aerospace Source Book 2007, Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 15, 2007.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b c
  19. ^ Boubacar N'Diaye, 'Ivory Coast's Civilian Control Strategies 1961–68: A Critical Assessment,' Journal of Political and Military Sociology Special Issue on West Africa, Vol. 28, No. 2, Winter 2000, p.253
  20. ^ See United Nations Security Council Resolution 1967 and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1968
  21. ^ Library of Congress, Cote d'Ivoire Country Study, circa 1987, accessed November 2011


  • Keegan, John. World Armies. New York: Facts on File Inc., 1979. ISBN 0-87196-407-4.
  • Area Handbook for the Ivory Coast. Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962.

Further reading

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