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07ABIDJAN200 2007-02-23 14:42:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abidjan
Cable title:  

COTE D'IVOIRE: IDENTIFICATION PROCEEDING SLOWLY

Tags:   PGOV PREL UN IV 
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1. (U) SUMMARY: The identification process continues to
proceed at a snail's pace. Two courts in Abidjan are issuing
both birth certificates and certificates of nationality
despite the lack of political agreement on Prime Minister
Banny's revised procedures which call for issuing these two
documents separately. Poloff visited the Adjame court where
to date less than 400 birth certificates and only 150
certificates of nationality have been issued. The Prime
Minister is trying to maintain some semblance of control over
the audiences foraines (AF) and expand the number of courts,
but since their resumption on January 19 only two courts have
opened, the Adjame and Attecoube districts of Abidjan,
despite weekly announcements by the Ministry of Justice that
twelve new courts will open. Court clerks and magistrates
continue to threaten to strike and hamper the efforts to
expand the courts unless the government gives them the full
per diem they believe was promised to them for their travel
to the AF sites. The Ministry of Justice continues to hold
the portfolio of the identification hearings even though the
Prime Minister said he was taking it over. Opposition party
leaders have complained bitterly in the press that the Prime
Minister's office has poorly managed the re-launch of the
hearings and has given in to pressure from the President's
camp aimed at complicating the process to obtain certificates
of nationality. On the one hand, the decisions of these
mobile courts could well still be challenged at a later date
by the Gbagbo camp; on the other, continued lack of
participation in identification may discredit the opposition.
END SUMMARY



2. (SBU) Poloff visited the AF court of Adjame, a
predominantly working class and ethnically northern district
within Abidjan on February 15, and met with Adjame's
opposition RDR (Rally of Republicans), Mayor Youssouf SYLLA,
as well as the court tribunal. The mayor reported that since
the re-launch of identification in Adjame on January 19,
participation has been lower than expected with only 360
birth certificates and 150 certificates of nationality issued
to date. Mayor Sylla expressed concern that participation in
identification was low despite all their efforts to publicize
and encourage inhabitants and particularly RDR faithful to
register and obtain their identity papers. The Mayor's
office has sought to publicize the identification hearings in
the neighborhoods of Adjame through word of mouth and radio
announcements. The mayor also noted that his office
conducted a door-to-door campaign among the RDR party members
to survey who needed identity papers and further publicize
the AF. He said they had found 1500 RDR party members who
lacked identification papers but he lamented that none of
these people have shown up at the court.



3. (C) Poloff observed the court in session and the
adjudication of several cases, which rather resembles visa
adjudication, as the burden of proof is on the applicant,
combined with the drama of a "Judge Judy" courtroom. Because
of the controversy preceding the 2006 launch of the AF where
President Gbagbo and the FPI party challenged the legitimacy
of the courts' mandate to issue nationality certificates, the
Judge, Ehounou Kan MANLAN of the Adjame court and president
of Transparency International in Cote d'Ivoire, feels it is
important to proceed carefully with the cases, especially
those in which the petitioner is claiming Ivorian
nationality.



4. (SBU) The only requirements for petitioning for a birth
certificate (the first step to gaining national identity
papers if the petitioner is determined indeed to be Ivorian)
are that the petitioner must (1) be at least 13 years of age
(as determined by the AF medical examiner) and (2) bring two
witnesses who are older than the petitioner. Judge Manlan
explained to Poloff that the cases where both parents are
present as witnesses are the simplest to adjudicate; however,
tis is rarely the case. Typically one or both parets are
deceased and the judge has to determine te credibility of
the witnesses. Petitioners and itnesses often confuse the
concept of mother, daghter, aunt, cousin, etc in the French
language ith traditional notions of familial relationships
that consider the children of one's parents' siblngs as
sisters or brothers rather than cousins (i some local
languages, including the Dioula langage spoken by most
northerners, the word "cousin doesn't even exist). Judge
Manlan believes thi sometimes deliberate exploitation of the
confuson between traditional notions of family and the
modern state's definitions casts doubt on the statements of
witnesses in support of the petitioner,s claim to Ivorian
nationality. Since the tribunal cannot conduct an
investigation into each case they are forced to ask the
petitioner to bring other witnesses which further lengthens

ABIDJAN 00000200 002 OF 002


the process.



5. (C) Judge Manlan noted that he is under great pressure
from the Ministry of Justice (NOTE: Minister of Justice was
also a member of the New Forces' Ouagadougou negotiating
team. END NOTE) to proceed swiftly in deciding cases and to
issue certificates of nationality as expeditiously as
possible. He noted that the tribunal and the medical office
may receive up to 40 or 60 petitions a day but the tribunal
is proceeding slowly with the nationality certificate cases
to avoid mistakenly giving citizenship to those who are not
Ivorian. In order to accurately decide on the issuance of
the certificates, Judge Manlan prefers to review the
petitions and accompanying evidence carefully and away from
the occasionally distracting drama of the AF courts. He
strongly believes that delivering certificates of nationality
at the AF, under pressure, could lead to issuing certificates
to those who do not qualify.



6. (C) Judge Manlan also fears that for cultural reasons
people will use AF to legitimize children born out-of-wedlock
by using other relatives as witnesses to establish the
paternal relationship and then adding the father's name on
the birth certificate without his expressed consent. This
melding of socio-cultural concerns with the legal and
political problem of identifying the estimated 3.5 - 4
million undocumented people in Cote d,Ivoire further
intensifies the pressure on the tribunal to be circumspect in
determining the credibility of the witnesses and therefore
the legitimacy of the claim of Ivorian nationality.



7. (C) COMMENT: The AF highlight the challenges of marrying
a modern Ivorian state with traditional society. Continued
low turnout in the identification process may undermine the
opposition,s contention that identification is an essential
step before elections. Further undermining the opposition's
arguments is the very slow pace at which the AF is
proceeding. At the current rate, identification could not be
completed until long after the October 2007 date currently
scheduled for elections. END COMMENT
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