16 April 2013 Despite considerable progress since the end of the violent post-election crisis two years ago, Côte d’Ivoire still faces significant threats to its long-term stability, including the presence of armed elements, transnational crime, terrorism, piracy, and a security sector in need of reform, a top United Nations peacekeeping official said today.
“Some of the major threats identified include political dynamics and remaining deep divisions, the continued existence of networks affiliated with the former regime aimed at destabilizing the Government [and] the reported presence of mercenaries, former combatants and other armed elements along the border with Liberia,” Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, told the Security Council.
He was presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the West African country, where a 2010 presidential election, meant to be the culminating point in a long-running UN peace process, resulted in months of violence when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing to Alassane Ouattara. Mr. Gbagbo finally surrendered in April, 2011.
Summarizing the report, Mr. Mulet stressed the need for the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to remain in the country – where it was first mandated nine years ago to support reunification and stabilization after the nation was split by civil war in 2002 – but with various reductions and adjustments.
In his report Mr. Ban recommended that UNOCI, whose military strength was 9,552 personnel in March, be reduced by at least one battalion as of 31 July to 8,837, comprising 8,645 troops and staff officers and 192 military observers, with a further gradual reduction of two more battalions by mid-2015, depending on the situation on the ground.
Other threats that Mr. Mulet enumerated included the uncontrolled circulation of weapons, slow progress in reconciliation and security sector reform, halting progress in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, divisions within and among the security agencies, continued human rights violations by formal and informal security agencies with impunity, intercommunity violence, land conflicts and poverty.
“The incidence of sexual and gender-based violence remains of particular concern,” he added, noting UNOCI’s core priorities would include the protection of civilians, support for security sector reform and the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants, and help in addressing border security challenges.
He noted that Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia had taken further steps to enhance cross-border cooperation after an attack last month by armed elements in Petit Guiglo, in Côte d’Ivoire’s western region, where UN peacekeepers are supporting Ivorian forces and protecting civilians through ground and air patrols. Security is a primary concern as Ivorians prepare for the local elections this Sunday.
In his report, Mr. Ban welcomed improvements in security in the border area and the enhanced cooperation between the national authorities, but stressed that preserving stability along the border cannot be achieved by security measures alone, but must be accompanied by tackling the root causes of the Ivorian conflict, as well as new grievances including land-related issues.
He commended Mr. Ouattara’s leadership and personal engagement in addressing security challenges, accelerating economic recovery, and advancing other processes critical to achieving peace and long-term stability.
“The Government’s gestures towards the opposition and its engagement in direct discussions with the former ruling party are encouraging. I urge both parties to intensify these discussions with a view to paving the way for political reconciliation,” Mr. Ban wrote.
“It will be important that all political parties occupy their legitimate political space and participate constructively in the political life of the country, including by ensuring conditions conducive to the widest possible participation in the upcoming local elections.”
5 April 2013 Two United Nations peacekeeping missions and the Governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia today agreed to mutually reinforce security along the border in light of recent attacks against neighbouring villages and towns, and to conduct joint riverine and land border patrols.
Today’s quadripartite discussion in Monrovia – which included representatives from the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) – were meant to assist the security of the region, as well as to address the sources of conflict, such as reconciliation, the return of refugees and distribution of humanitarian aid.
During the meeting, the UN and Government representatives “vehemently condemned” the recent attacks, including an attack last month by armed elements in Petit Guiglo, in Côte d’Ivoire’s western region.
The participants “underscored that these recurrent armed attacks call for coordinated and consolidated cooperation between the two neighbouring countries, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, supported by their two partners, UNMIL and UNOCI, for the consolidation of peace and security along the border and in the sub region,” according to the communiqué that the meeting produced.
Among agreements related to boosting security, participants agreed to strengthen collaboration and coordination between the Security Forces through exchange of intelligence information and common actions, according to the document.
In addition, the representatives encouraged “the two countries to take practical steps towards the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Ivorian ex-combatants and request UNMIL and UNOCI to continue providing appropriate support.”
Following the meeting, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Karin Landgren, said the meeting had been successful.
“The UN Security Council last September noted with satisfaction the increasing cooperation between the neighbouring Governments, and the two UN Missions, in coordinating security and judicial activities in the border areas,” she said in a press release.
“I am pleased to report the continued support of the UN, including to Operation Restore Hope; and to strengthened border patrolling, including the shared use by UNMIL and UNOCI of three armed helicopters.”
Operation Restore Hope refers to an ongoing operation led by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in southeastern Liberia started in June 2012.
The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Côte d’Ivoire, Arnauld Akodjenou, praised the efforts made by the two countries and welcomed “the significant progress made within the framework of collaboration between their security and defence forces.”
The Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, Albert Gerard Koenders, told UN Radio yesterday that the Mission is “in a situation of transition” and is putting greater emphasis on security, confidence-building, human rights and job creation.
4 April 2013 On the eve of a meeting between the United Nations and the Governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia to address an outbreak of violence on the border, a senior United Nations peacekeeping official said security remains a priority in the country, particularly as preparations continue for upcoming local elections there.
Tomorrow’s quadripartite discussion in Monrovia – including the participation of officials from the neighbouring Governments and representatives of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) – will assist the security of the region, as well as address the sources of conflict, including return of refugees and distribution of humanitarian aid, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, Albert Gerard Koenders, told UN Radio.
UNOCI and UNMIL reinforced their patrols after an attack last month by armed elements in Petit Guiglo, in Côte d’Ivoire’s western region. Blue helmets have deployed to Petit Guiglo, and are supporting Ivorian forces and protecting civilians through ground and air patrols.
Security is a primary concern as Ivorians prepare for the 21 April local polls. A 2010 presidential election, meant to be a culminating point in the peace process, resulted in months of violence when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing to Alassane Ouattara, who finally took office in May 2011.
“If you have elections then tensions will rise,” said Mr. Koenders, who is also the head of UNOCI.
“Our mandate is to assist Ivorian actors to ensure that in all those different constitutes there are peaceful elections, and also calling on politicians to remain calm and really have open and free and transparent elections,” Mr. Koenders noted. He added UNOCI also provides technical support to the polls through support to the independent electoral commission.
UNOCI has been supporting the reunification and stabilization of the West African country, split by civil war in 2002. The Security Council extended its mandate by one year in July 2012, but it is possible that its responsibilities might be revised when the 15-member body discuss UNOCI this year.
“We are slowly in a situation of transition in the mission,” said Mr. Koenders, who is at the UN Headquarters this week to discuss the situation in his region and to defend the proposed Mission budget for the upcoming year. He depicted UNOCI as focusing on four factors: security, confidence-building, human rights and job creation.
As a peacekeeping mission, Mr. Koenders said, UNOCI is creating a “security net” for Ivorians to take over their security with less assistance from the UN.
The UN is also assisting capacity-building measures to better unify the army and to create more confidence between the army and the gendarmerie.
Mr. Koenders noted the Mission’s work in support of respect for human rights and equitable justice, which “requires an investment and political willingness from Ivorian authorities with support in a technical way from us.” He added that justice must be equitable and “independent of the political affiliation of those who are suspected of serious crimes.”
To assist the Ivorians, the UN is supporting the Government and partners to establish “catalytic programmes to create jobs, return of social service and so on” so that “increasingly the Ivorians see the dividends.”
Economic growth in Cote d’Ivoire is predicted to reach 9 per cent this year, Mr. Koenders said, “but in many areas it is important the people see the difference.”