Ivory Coast: UN discovers Israeli-made ammunition in facilities used by pro-Gbagbo security forces

Final report of the Group of Experts on Côte d’Ivoire, UN document S/2013/228, p. 14:

UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire] has documented several dozen metal containers at the Attécoubé naval base, some bearing labels with misspelled information and some also with markings in Spanish (see annex 12 to the present report). It is possible, therefore, that the ammunition manufactured in Israel was relabelled and retransferred to Côte d’Ivoire after initially being exported to a third country. UNOCI also documented dozens of crates from the same lots at the presidential palace and the Attécoubé naval base in June and July 2011. The Group has observed that it is not common in Côte d’Ivoire to find large quantities of homogenous ammunition from the same producer and lot. Moreover, the two above-mentioned sites were facilities used (notably during the 2010/11 post-electoral crisis) by units of the Ivorian security forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo.

It should be noted that Israel generally enjoyed warm relations with the (now fallen) regime of Laurent Gbagbo even after he fell afoul with France and the UN (Marc Perelman, “President of Cote d’Ivoire reflects on Israeli support,” Jewish Daily Forward, 6 June 2008). After a UN arms embargo against the Gbagbo regime was declared in 2004, both the UN and France suspected that Israel was still allowing arms to be exported there (Yossi Melman, “France demands list of Israeli firms selling arms to Ivory Coast,” Haaretz, 11 February 2005; Yossi Melman, “UN probing suspicions Israel sold arms to Ivory Coast,” Haaretz, 28 July 2005).

Gbagbo also enjoyed verbal support from Christian evangelicals and prominent figures in the American right, who saw his leadership as preventing the Ivory Coast from falling “into the hands of Muslims” (Alex Seitz-Wald, “Inhofe, Beck, and Pat Robertson defend brutal Ivory Coast dictator,” Think Progress, 5 April 2011; Justin Elliot, “Why the Christian right is backing a brutal despot,” Salon, 30 March 2011).

This wouldn’t be the first time Israel’s arms export policy has went against the official will of the UN, the major European powers and even the US. In the early to mid 1990s, it was an open secret that Israeli arms were getting through to Bosnian Serb forces as they shelled Sarajevo (Tom Sawicki, “How are Bosnia’s Serbs getting Israeli arms?,” Jerusalem Report, January 1995; Joel Bainerman, Inside the Covert Operations of the CIA & Israel’s Mossad, 1994, pp. 26-27; see also: Batsheva Sobelman, “Israeli citizen suspected of involvement in Bosnia war crimes arrested,” Los Angeles Times [blog post], 18 January 2011). At the time this explicitly went against the US/NATO policy of siding with the Bosnian Muslims and Croats.