UN Dispatch has reported a statement from the United Nations which warns of the possibility of genocide in Ivory Coast, where opposing sides continue to face off over a disputed presidential election in late 2010. Francis Deng, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Edward Luck, the Special Adviser focusing on the responsibility to protect, held a joint press conference on 19 January 2011 to voice their concern over the situation. They stated that they “remain gravely concerned about the possibility of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing in Côte d’Ivoire.” Furthermore, they noted that:

“We are disturbed by allegations that the armed forces and militia groups that back opposing camps in the current political crisis are recruiting and arming ethnic groups allied to each camp. We are also deeply troubled by reports of continuing hate speech that appears to be aimed at inciting violent attacks against particular ethnic and national groups. In the past few days, ethnic clashes have occurred… There is a real risk that such clashes could spread across the country.  If not checked, they could culminate in mass atrocities.”

Both urged that proper steps be taken in accordance with the Responsibility to Protect doctrine in order to discourage incitement to hatred and ethnic violence. Click here to read more excerpts of the comments by Deng and Luck. While it is to be hoped that the situation in Ivory Coast will not escalate to the point of mass atrocities and possibly genocide, many of the risk factors are certainly present. The Sentinel Project will soon be expanding our list of situations-of-concern  as our assessment capabilities grow and this situation will certainly be a strong candidate for increasing monitoring.