Updated: Mar 13
Now, not a very well known or popular heist, the Ivory Coast Crown Jewels are yet another set of Crown Jewels stolen. Looking back in history, the two biggest cases of lost crown jewels apply to Ireland and England, but in only about 12 years ago we have a story, this time taking place in the country of Côte d'Ivoire, otherwise known as Ivory Coast. This western African country was home to several political crisis' and civil wars that eventually led to the disappearance of priceless artifacts.
The crisis started with an election process that had not happened in 10 years. The very popular and current president, Laurent Gbagbo, had been in power since 2000 and had massive support in the South of the country. However, up North, support fell towards Alassane Ouattara. The reason for such a division was due to the First Ivorian Civil War, in which the rebels were up North and the government powers were situated South. The war started in 2002 and lasted until about 2005, the same year that there was scheduled to be an election, but had to be postponed due to the violence. Eventually a peace agreement was set into place in 2007 and new proposed election date was set for December 6, 2009. After several back and forth dates, finally the actual election took place on October 31st and November 28th of 2010.
Here is were things get weird. On December 2nd, the Ivorian Commission Electorale Indépendante (CEI), showed results that claimed Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the second round. He dominated with a win of 54.1% of the vote. Gbagbo had claimed that only 81% of the population had voted. By the given deadline, no more votes had been turned in and the other governing body, The Constitutional Council, claimed that the CEI had no authority of calling the winner. They in return announced that Gbagbo had won the election with 51.45% of the vote. Riots, upheaval, and violence soon followed on both sides. In a confusing conclusion, both parties were sworn into the presidency and worked towards a solution.
During the months of December and January the Second Ivorian Civil War started to wreak havoc in the capital city of Yamoussoukro and the Southern coastal city of Abidjan. Civilians were getting caught up in the cross fire and dozens of human rights violations were starting to take place. By this point other nations were starting to take side, including the US, who stated that Gbajbo "had to go". However, the fighting continued well into March and April.
Amidst all of the chaos and destruction, several robbers took advantage of the situation and broke into the
Museum of Civilisation. Prior to the Ivory Coast becoming its own country in 1893, the area was home to prominent kingdoms including The Kong empire, Abron of Gyaaman, and The Anyi Kingdoms. All of these kingdoms had massive amounts of gold and other valuables that had been eventually placed on display in the museum. With likely help from someone on the inside, around 80 artifacts were stolen. Items included masks, sculptures, gold pendants, necklaces, and religious art. The estimated worth is around $6.5 million and has yet to be found again. Some think that the 17th and 18th century treasures were melted down and resold in the gold market. Regardless, Interpol catalogued the items so that if they ever show up on the market they would know.
Not only were the crown jewels stolen, but the museum was left in shambles due to shelling and bullets. It was a true travesty for the curator of the museum as well as the country and its beautiful history. On April 11th, 2011, Laurent Gbagbo was captured and imprisoned for his past crimes, while Ouattara gained presidency over the country.