Republic of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
The nation is officially the République de Côte d'Ivoire or Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, although it has historically been called the Ivory Coast in English. The region had played an important role in both the Ghana and Mali Empires, but in the early 18th century the localized Kong Empire took hold in the northeast and remained in power until 1895. Between 1843 and 1844 several treaties were signed with local kings creating French protectorates of their traditional territories. As greater numbers of Europeans moved into the region, more and more territory came under French control. Côte d'Ivoire was made a French colony in 1893, having been given its name (Ivory Coast) by merchants who found the region a rich source for ivory. Additional crops, such as coffee, cocoa, palm oil and bananas were cultivated by French settlers in the coastal regions, who often utilized forced labor. Further inland, meanwhile, French military contingents moved to subdue the indigenous people who resisted French encroachment. The most formidable of these was the Wassoulou Empire established by Samori Ture, which had a well-equipped army of its own. Not until his capture in 1898 were the French successful in bringing Wassoulou land into their domain.
Between 1904 and 1958, Côte d'Ivoire was considered part of the greater Federation of French West Africa, with the standard practice of assimilation emphasizing French language, institutions, laws, and customs, and creating an elite class of classically educated Africans. Although all inhabitants of the Federation were considered French subjects, most were not citizens and had no political rights, although they could be drafted into the military or forced to labor for French enterprises. Despite attempts to create a more equalized society by removing electoral inequalities, the African population began to push towards independence in the mid-1950s, leading in 1958 to Côte d'Ivoire becoming an autonomous member of the French community, and fully independent in 1960.
Félix Houphouët-Boigny, son of a chief, labor organizer, and the first African appointed to the position of minister in a European government, became the nation's first president. He retained this position until his death in 1993, by which time a multi-party democracy had replaced the original one-party system. His successor, Henri Konan Bédié, tightened his hold on political life, often through imprisonment or intimidation of political opponents. Bédié retained his position until a military coup d'etat in 1999 forced him into exile. Civil unrest and public demonstrations surrounded the 2000 presidential elections, in which Laurent Gbagbo won out over General Robert Guéï who had been one of the officers in the 1999 coup.
On 19 September 2002, military personnel from the north, loyal to General Guéï, mutinied and launched attacks on several cities, including the capital Abidjan. Although government forces maintained control over the south and the capital, insurgents wrested control of most of the north and based themselves in the city of Bouake. France intervened, sending 2500 personnel to maintain a peace line and requested the assistance of the United Nations, but fighting raged until late in 2004. In addition to the National Army (FANCI), the government were supported by nationalist militias calling themselves Young Patriots, and mercenaries recruited from Liberia and Europe. The Forces Nouvelles (FN) or New Forces, was the name taken by the insurgent northerners. Although a peace agreement was reached in 2004, it proved short-lived as the FN refused to disarm or give up control of the north. An ongoing peacekeeping mission to the nation, the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), has been in place since April 2004, although a new peace accord was signed in March 2007, with a transitional government including rebel leader Guillaume Soro as prime minister. Violence erupted again following the November 2010 elections, which were contested by supporters of Gbagbo.
Up until April of 2011, the armed forces of were called the Forces Armées Nationales de Côte d'Ivoire or FANCI. Under this umbrella are included the Army (broken into five military regions), a brown-water Navy (essentially a Coast Guard) called the Police Maritime, a largely ineffective Air Force, and the National Gendarmerie. With approximately 14,000 active duty personnel, the FANCI were defeated during the Second Ivorian Civil War (November 2010 to April 2011) and have since been replaced by the Forces Nouvelles de Côte d'Ivoire (New Forces), under which the armed forces themselves are now called Force Republiques de Cote d'Ivoire or FRCI.
Camouflage Patterns of Côte d'Ivoire
- The oldest camouflage patterns in service with this nation are copies of the French tenue de leópard or lizard design. Several uniform types have been documented, although they began to fall out of service in the 1990s. However, it appears a variation of the lizard pattern has been reintroduced for general service in 2010-2011.
- A very unique camouflage design for this nation emerged in the 1980s, incorporating very thin black or dark green "veins" on an grey-green background.
- An Asian copy of the French Europe Centre (CE) woodland camouflage design has also been in service since the 1990s.
- Likewise, copies of the US m81 woodland camouflage pattern, some with modified coloration, have been in service with the FANCI throughout the present period.
- A variation of woodland pattern with a stenciled FANCI logo incorporated into the design was adopted by this nation circa 2007. The uniform was worn during the civil war period by government forces, in order to better identify the Armed Forces from insurgent fighters, many of whom wore older camouflage uniforms also in woodland patterns. This camouflage design appears to have been phased out of use by 2012.
- At one time, the Brigade Anti-Emeute (Anti-riot Brigade) of the Gendarmerie wore a "zebra stripe"-like design seen here.
- The Police Maritime wear a unique "blue lizard" camouflage design, of which at least two variations have been documented. One version has the "Police Maritime" logo stamped over the camouflage design itself.
- The Gendarmerie Nationale have in recent years worn a blue-green woodland derivative pattern, incorporating the national coat-of-arms into the design. This design is likely to be fully replaced in the coming years, with the adoption of a new series of patterns for the GN (see below).
- Circa 2010-11, members of the FRCI (particularly members of the Garde Republicaine) have adopted a copy of the Universal Camouflage Pattern or UCP designed in the USA.
- Some members of the FRCI and the Gendarmerie have recently been documented wearing commercial tiger stripe patterns such as these.
- In mid-2012, a new pattern for Ivory Coast appeared in public for the first time, inspired by the splinter camouflage designs first developed by the Germans during the Second World War. The first of these patterns features black and light brown splinter shapes on a grass green background, with the national coat-of-arms incorporated into the design in black ink. A second version of this colorway has been documented featuring a reduction of the overall shape size by at least 50%. Both the Army and Gendarmerie Nationale appear to wear versions of this design, but sources in country confirmed this was the standard issue uniform of the Army in 2015.
- Another pattern of the GN can be seen here, with light brown and black splinter shapes on a white background. This colorway has also been produced with a reduction of the overall size of the shapes by at least 50%. Research indicates this colorway is worn by the Presidential Guard (Garde Presidentielle)
- A third variation is seen here, with mid-brown and tan splinter shapes on a sandy background. A fourth variation, with red and black on a pale blue background, has also been documented. A more recent variation, with shape size reduced by 50%, is also in circulation.
- A variant pattern for the Gendarmerie exists with splinter shapes in solid black as well as shapes in a composite of black dots, both on a pale blue background.
- Yet another Gendarmerie variation is documented featuring dark red, black and grey splinter shapes. This version has also been produced with a 50% reduction of shape size.
- An additional variation of the splinter pattern, also in use with the Gendarmerie Nationale is shown here, having a primarily dark blue-black colorway with pale blue contrasting background. As with most other splinter variants, this one has been produced in both large and reduced size versions.
- First observed in 2013, a variation of the French Army tricolor desert pattern with the Ivorian coat-of-arms embedded into the design is worn by at least one unit of the Armed Forces.
- Another camouflage design adopted recently by some units of the Armed Forces is Multicam, which first appeared in 2013.
- In addition to their standard midnight blue and black-colored fatigue uniforms, some members of the Police Nationale (under the Ministry of the Interior) wear camouflage-like dark striped print pattern uniform. The design actually incorporates the title Police Nationale RCI into the design, the title being printed in light grey or pale blue on a midnight blue background. It is worth noting, however, that some versions appear to have larger lettering than others.
- In service since at least 2013, agents of the Ministry of Water and Forests (Ministre des Eaux et Forêts) wear a unique camouflage design with a primarily green colorway.
- The Customs Service of Ivory Coast (Douanes de Côte d'Ivoire) issue a unique camouflage-like uniform having a yellow-green colorway. This uniform is worn by regular personnel of the Customs Service.
- Members of the Customs Service Special Brigade have their own camouflage uniforms, either in a copy of the USMC MARPAT design, or what appears to be a copy of the Colombian Army pixelado pattern. Both are worn by members of the Brigade.