|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5765th Meeting (AM)
POLITICAL AGREEMENT SIGNED IN MARCH EASED TENSIONS IN CôTE D’IVOIRE,
BUT DELAYS IN IMPLEMENTATION GROWING CONCERN, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Agreement Facilitated by Burkina Faso, Set Schedule on Range Of Issues,
Including Dismantling of Militias, Unification of Forces, Voter Identification
The Ouagadougou Agreement reached in March this year had led to an easing of tensions in Côte d’Ivoire, but there was growing concern over the parties’ delays in meeting the implementation schedule, Djibrill Yipene Bassole, Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, told the Security Council this morning.
The parties were no longer using weapons, there was free movement and the civil service programme was beginning, Mr. Bassole said, speaking on behalf of his country’s Facilitator of the Agreement. The delay in the electoral process was in no way a reflection of bad will on the part of the parties, but instead was due to the complexity of the operations and the magnitude of resources that were needed.
The launching of mobile court proceedings showed that a decisive phase was now under way, he continued. The Facilitator was aware of the difficulties ahead, and it was essential that the United Nations continue to play a major role in overcoming them, particularly through the certification of the election process. He requested that the Council closely follow commitments undertaken by the parties toward a free and fair election and he proposed that the identification of voter rolls be done under a new timeline, taking into account the complexities of the situation.
Abou Moussa, Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), introduced the most recent report of the Secretary-General (see background). He said that none of the benchmarks which would indicate adjusting the mandate of UNOCI had been met, including the dismantling and disarmament of the militia and the deployment of the State administration throughout the country.
On the other hand, the gradual dismantling of the Zone of Confidence had reached an advanced stage and the overall security situation was stable, although fragile. On the political front, the mobile court operation had been relaunched on 25 September, which constituted an important prelude to the identification process for elections.
He said the Government and the Forces nouvelles authorities had been addressing the lingering security, logistical and financial constraints, but that, for the peace process to become irreversible, priority should be given to the outstanding political and military issues that were most closely tied to key aspects of the Ouagadougou Agreement.
In the ensuing discussion, Council Members welcomed progress in Côte d’Ivoire and expressed gratitude to Burkina Faso for its facilitation. Most speakers, however, expressed concern over the implementation of the key tasks of the Ouagadougou Agreement, including dismantling of militias, the disarmament of combatants, the identification of the population, the restoration of State authority throughout the country, the preparation of a voters’ register and the unification of the Armed Forces.
Many speakers, in addition, were deeply troubled by reports of trafficking of children and other abuses of human rights in the country. Most speakers also agreed that continued international security assistance through UNOCI and the French Licorne forces that supported them was critical. France’s representative said that the road map for peace had been set out by the Ivorians themselves in Ouagadougou, but it was the responsibility of the Security Council to ensure that the two parties fulfilled their commitments and that the process was successfully completed. His country, he said, had proposed a draft text to that effect.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, on the other hand, wondered why the arms ban on his country was not being lifted. “The war is over” in Côte d’Ivoire, he said, adding that he was speaking in accord with those who wanted Africa to manage its own affairs and who believed that financial support, whatever its importance, did not afford partners the right to any kind of intervention. Since peace had been brought about by the sons and daughters of the country and facilitated by a Head of State of the subregion, he proposed that the three African members of the Council be the ones who initiated future texts on the situation.
Also speaking this morning were representatives of South Africa, Peru, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Russian Federation, Belgium, Indonesia, Congo, China, United States, Qatar, Panama, Italy and Ghana.
The meeting started at 10:20 a.m. and closed at 12:05 p.m.
When the Security Council met this morning to discuss the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, it had before it the fourteenth progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in C ôte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) (document S/2007/593), providing an update on major developments in the country since his last report of 14 May (document S/2007/275, for summary see Press Release SC/9019 of 18 May) and recommending that the mission’s troop level be maintained.
According to the report, the security situation in Côte d’Ivoire has remained calm since the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement on 4 March, but the attack on an aircraft carrying Prime Minister Guillaume Soro underscored the fragile state of the security situation. In response to a request by President Laurent Gbagbo to establish an independent international inquiry into the incident, an exploratory team from relevant United Nations departments will travel to the country to collect information that would enable the Secretary-General to develop realistic options. UNOCI troops continued to conduct regular patrols along the borders with Liberia (concurrently with United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) patrols) to prevent cross-border movements of weapons or armed groups.
The overall political atmosphere in Côte d’Ivoire has remained generally positive, the report continues. However, several opposition parties expressed concern at a 6 August statement by President Gbagbo, in which he said that national elections could take place by the end of 2007. Rushed elections, they claim, could put in jeopardy key aspects of the Agreement, especially the identification of the population. On 13 September, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission indicated that the first round of the presidential elections could be organized by October 2008.
The report notes that the Ouagadougou Agreement had set out specific dates and timelines for implementing key provisions (see document S/2007/275). Implementation progressed well during the first three months, but in June implementation started to lose momentum, mainly because of the limited capacity of national institutions. The first meeting of the Evaluation and Monitoring Committee of the Ouagadougou Agreement on 11 May stressed the need to accelerate implementation, in particular the dismantling of the militias, disarmament of former combatants, redeployment of State administration throughout the country and the identification of the population.
The report goes on to say that, although serious human rights violations have decreased since the signing of the Agreement, the general human rights situation continues to be characterized by abuses inflicted on civilians by the Government’s defence and security forces and Forces nouvelles elements, including intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, and racketeering at checkpoints. Human trafficking, including of children, for forced prostitution and labour is a growing problem. The national Human Rights Commission, established in January, will collaborate closely with UNOCI to promote and protect human rights. UNOCI also continues to advocate for children’s rights in the implementation of the peace process.
According to the report, Côte d’Ivoire’s economic growth is forecast to reach 1.5 per cent in real terms, an achievable target. The forecast for public sector finances and the proposed 2007 budget are based on prudent macroeconomic estimates. Data for the first half of the year are in line with the full-year budget. Relations between the Government, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are being regularized. The first segment of the Fund’s emergency post-conflict assistance programme of $60 million was disbursed early August. The Government and the World Bank plan to carry out an arrears clearance operation in early 2008 that will allow a full bank programme to be carried out.
The Secretary-General states that the positive political atmosphere that has prevailed since the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement gives the Ivorian parties the opportunity to make concrete progress towards its implementation. He expresses, however, deep concern at the failure to adhere to the timelines set out in the Agreement. The overall peace process and the improved security situation will remain fragile and vulnerable to reversals unless concrete progress is made, especially in the areas of dismantling of militias, disarmament of combatants, identification of the population, restoration of State authority throughout the country, unification of the two armed forces and respect for human rights.
Recommending that the current troop levels for UNOCI be maintained because the Agreements benchmarks have not been met, the Secretary-General states that he will provide further recommendations in this regard in his January 2008 report.
ABOU MOUSSA, Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNOCI, introducing the report of the Secretary-General (document S/2007/593), said the report noted that none of the benchmarks set to consider an adjustment of the mandate and troop level of UNOCI had been met, including the dismantling and disarmament of the militia and the deployment of the State administration throughout the country. The continued commitment of the leaders to take ownership of the peace process had yielded some progress in performing the key tasks provided for in the Ouagadougou Political Agreement.
He said the gradual dismantling of the Zone of Confidence had reached an advanced stage with the deployment of mixed brigades. UNOCI was in the process of redeploying its troops, so as to best assist the Government in implementing the military and security aspects of the Agreement. The overall security situation was stable, although fragile. On the political front, the mobile court operation had been relaunched on 25 September, which constituted an important prelude to the identification process for elections. The turnout at the mobile court hearings, which had initially been very low, was now gradually improving, owing to an enhanced sensitisation campaign.
As to restoration of authority, he said the Government and the Forces nouvelles authorities had been addressing the lingering security, logistical and financial constraints. Meanwhile, UNOCI continued to support the Ivorian Government in implementing key provisions of the Ouagadougou Agreement. The mission was finalizing the establishment of the certification cell within the Office of the Special Representative. Practical modalities of the electoral process would be defined in the near future.
Despite the tireless efforts of the Government, the peace process faced numerous challenges, he continued. The crucial task was restructuring the armed forces and, in that regard, the Facilitator -- the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré -- had carried out consultations with the Ivorian Army and the Forces nouvelles. Also central was redeployment of State administration throughout the national territory. Further, the Secretary-General had noted, donors had been generous in their support for the Ouagadougou Agreement. In order to encourage donors to maintain their support, it was essential that the parties send strong messages regarding their commitment to comply with deadlines set under the Agreement.
He said the very positive partnership between the United Nations and the Facilitator offered an opportunity for accelerating the Ouagadougou Agreement implementation process. Efforts were under way to develop synergy between the Facilitator’s arbitration and UNOCI’s validation and certification functions. The idea was to define criteria for ensuring an effective performance of those functions. It was hoped that the third meeting of the Evaluation and Monitoring Committee would provide an opportunity to define a clear-cut timetable for performing the remaining key tasks.
In order for the peace process to become irreversible, he said special attention should be paid to addressing the outstanding political and military issues that were closely linked to the performance of other key aspects of the Agreement. It was also essential to develop pragmatic arrangements between the national stakeholders and their international partners in the context of a new partnership for peace.
DJIBRILL YIPÈNÈ BASSOLE, Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, speaking on behalf of the Facilitator of the Ouagadougou Agreement, said that the Agreement had led to an easing of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and to true dialogue among the parties, although there was still much to be done. The parties were no longer using their weapons, there was free circulation and the civil service programme was beginning. The electoral process had been delayed, but that was in no way a reflection of bad will on the part of the parties, and instead was due to the complexity of the operations and the magnitude of resources that were needed.
The Government, UNOCI and the other actors were working to overcome those and all other obstacles, he said. The people of the country were also behind the peace process. The launching of mobile court proceedings showed that a decisive phase was now under way. There had also been more conciliation and mediation activity, and all those should continue to be supported. The Facilitator was aware of the difficulties ahead, and it was essential that the United Nations continue to play an important role, particularly through the certification of the election process. He welcomed the new Representative of the Secretary-General, in that regard.
He requested that the Council follow the commitments undertaken by the parties towards a free and fair election. The identification of voter rolls should be done under a new timeline, taking into account the complexities of the situation. The Facilitator also asked that procedures leading to a fair election be undertaken properly, in order to bolster the confidence of the people in the process. In spite of the slowness of implementation of the Agreement and other obstacles, there was true hope for peace in the country. The parties must carry out their commitments, and the international community must continue to support the process. The Facilitator would certainly continue to devote all efforts to that goal.
JEAN-MARIE BOCKEL, Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophonie of France, said that the Ouagadougou Agreement constituted a real chance for Côte d’Ivoire to resolve its crisis. “There is simply no alternative today,” he said. There had been progress since the Agreement, including the dismantling of the confidence zone and significant symbolic gestures, but that progress was not enough. The parties had incurred a significant delay in the application of the Agreement. No date was sacrosanct, but there must be a clear and irreversible prospect for free and fair elections, towards which the parties must keep their commitments and set a new timetable.
Military grades must be resolved, militias must be disarmed, the proliferation of weapons must be tackled and greater respect for the rule of law must be assured, he said. In the very short term, however, he insisted that priority must be given to identification of the population. All stages of the electoral process, on which the return to civil peace depended, must be certified by the Secretary-General’s Representative. The process would be difficult, but an effective tool existed in the Agreement -– the mobile courts. It was urgent to deploy large numbers of them in the prescribed manner.
The road map for peace had been set out by the Ivorians themselves in Ouagadougou, but it was the responsibility of the Security Council to continue to support the country and ensure that the two parties fulfilled their commitments and that the process was successfully completed. France, for its part, would continue to act towards that end, as it had all along. Like the Secretary-General, it considered it necessary to maintain the mandate of the impartial forces and the level of troops of UNOCI as defined in July, while adapting their roles, and so maintaining the capacity to react promptly in the case of an attack on the peace process. His delegation had presented a draft statement to that effect. “We must seize this opportunity to the full by supporting the Facilitator’s action and showing that we are vigilant with respect to compliance of commitments,” he said.
DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said that, since the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement, it had often been pointed out that some of the processes and obligations of the parties had not yet materialized. He remained, however, optimistic that all the parties in the country had demonstrated the political will to move the process forward and to adhere to the agreed upon timeframes. He agreed with Prime Minister Soro, who had said that his commitment to preserving the credibility of the electoral process was more important than adhering to strict deadlines. He welcomed the setting up of the integrated command centre, the establishment of the six mixed unites and the launching of the mobile courts, as well as the restoration of State authority throughout the country. In that regard, he was sensitive to the challenges that prevented the parties from adhering to the timetable.
He said the recently held donor round table was demonstrative of the goodwill, commitment and desire by the international community to see peace, prosperity and development return to the county. He called on the international and donor community to continue their material and technical support. South Africa, agreeing with the Secretary-General in his assessments, committed itself to work with the leaders of Côte d’Ivoire and the international community in ensuring that the promises of the Ouagadougou Agreement would come to fruition and that peace, stability and prosperity would once more return to the people of the country.
JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said that, although the Ouagadougou Agreement had been a historical milestone in the conflict, it was a matter of concern that, seven months after its signing, there were still considerable delays in its implementation. The delays in progress were caused by the inability of the national institutions to manage the process. International assistance was, therefore, necessary, in particular for the integrated command centre and the deployment of mixed units. The delays, however, did not constitute an obstacle to the continuation of the peace process.
He welcomed the financing by the international community of the Agreement. Tasks in that implementation included disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as the dismantling of militias, redeployment of State authority, identification of the population and voter registration. Those processes were all a preparation for elections, the final element of peacebuilding. In that regard, he expressed concern that no date was set for such elections. He asked regional organizations, especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to continue their cooperation with UNOCI to implement the Ouagadougou Agreement. He was concerned that elements of the Forces nouvelles had been intimidating and detaining civilians. He was also worried about reports of trafficking in human beings, especially in children, for prostitution and forced labour. In the present context, it was important to maintain the present levels of UNOCI troops.
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said that her country hoped to work very closely with the Facilitator, Burkina Faso, on its efforts, adding that the Ouagadougou Agreement was the best chance yet for peace in Côte d’Ivoire. However, she shared the concern of other speakers over delays in the electoral process and the other essential elements of the Agreement. She also expressed deep concern over reports of human rights abuses in the country, and called on the new Special Representative to make that one of his priorities. Finally, she expressed support for the draft statement proposed by France’s representative.
PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) welcomed the fact that the implementation of the Ouagadougou Agreement continued to enjoy broad support in Côte d’Ivoire. It was important to maintain and broaden that support in the run-up to the elections, by assuring that they were the result of a truly inclusive process, allowing for equal, free and fair participation of all political forces. He expressed concern, however, that the process had begun loosing momentum due to significant delays. He agreed with those that had proposed realistic timelines and benchmarks for the implementation of the Agreement.
He expressed particular concern over the limited progress in the unification and restructuring of the Ivorian Armed Forces, and expressed disappointment that an improved political climate had not been mirrored in the everyday life of the Ivorian people, particularly in the area of human rights. The security situation also continued to be extremely fragile, as shown by the attack on Prime Minister Soro’s plane and the continuing presence of militias. He urged close cooperation between the Council and the Ivorian authorities in that regard, and for available measures to be fully implemented to promote stability. Finally, he expressed continued support to the presence of UNOCI and the French Licorne troops within their current mandate and troop levels.
KONSTANTIN K. DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) said that, given the instability of the security situation, current troop levels of UNOCI should be maintained. The Ouagadougou Agreement represented a unique opportunity for a comprehensive settlement, provided that the parties implemented provisions within the set timeline. He condemned all actions that undermined the peace process, in particular the attack on Prime Minister Soro.
Welcoming the positive steps taken recently in implementation of the Agreement, such as the deployment of mixed police units and establishment of UNOCI observer posts, he said the Ivorian leaders must show a further commitment to implementing the key tasks of the Ouagadougou Agreement. The international community must ensure that the country received timely assistance, in order for it to carry out the electoral process.
JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) reiterated his country’s full support for the Ouagadougou Agreement, whereby, seven months ago, the parties had given a new impetus to the peace process. In that regard, he welcomed the courage of the ex-combatants who had been able to draw a line and separate themselves from their past. Also, the peace process would not have been possible without the activities of the Facilitator.
He said that, despite positive developments, however, the peace process continued to be fragile, and he expressed concern at the considerable delays in the Agreement’s implementation. Ivorians must take up their responsibilities and ensure speedy implementation of key provisions, in particular those that would lead to untainted elections. He was also concerned at the persistent allegations of violations of human rights, especially regarding women and children. He recognized, however, that since the signing of the Agreement, some progress in that regard had been made.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said he was discouraged by the possible implications of not meeting the timelines for the implementation of key tasks of the Ouagadougou Agreement, including dismantling of militias, the disarmament of combatants, the identification of the population, the restoration of State authority throughout the country, the preparation of a voters’ register, the unification of the Armed Forces and respect for human rights. Continued international support for capacity-building was essential. The key to progress in the implementation of the Agreement was a secure security situation. As the situation was fragile, continued international support in enhancing the security conditions through UNOCI was critical.
He was deeply troubled by reports of trafficking of children for labour and prostitution. Support for enhancement of national capacity to deal with those issues should be a priority and the conduct of personnel of the UNOCI mission must also be fully addressed. Allegations regarding the widespread sexual exploitation and abuse by UNOCI military personnel must be fully investigated. Since progress on the two key benchmarks to review the mandate and troop levels of UNOCI had not yet been met, current troop levels should be maintained.
PASCAL GAYAMA ( Congo) welcomed improvements in the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, but noted that the security situation remained fragile, as shown by the attempt on the life of the Prime Minister. He called on the Ivorian political class to make sure that such incidents were not repeated. He also noted the delays in implementation of the Agreement. As obstacles in that regard included financial difficulties, he welcomed the financial support to the country, as well as the assistance of the international financial institutions. It was now incumbent on the Government to set timelines, so that those commitments were met.
He unreservedly supported the call to provide support for the Facilitator in Abidjan. Measures to increase security were also welcome. He also supported the continuing role of UNOCI and the French forces supporting it, to whom he expressed gratitude. He lent his support to the statement proposed by the French delegation.
DU XIACONG ( China) expressed hope that peace and stability would be restored in Côte d’Ivoire, saying that the positive developments were heartening in that regard. Nevertheless, considerable efforts would still have to be expended by all parties in a cooperative spirit to meet all their commitments under the Agreement and to rebuild the institutions of the country. China stood ready to assist all efforts to that end.
JACKIE WOLCOTT ( United States) said her country applauded the launching of the movable courts and urged the Government to expand implementation of the process as soon as possible. Only through a complete identification and registration process could fair elections take place. She expressed frustration at the current slow process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and hoped that disagreements regarding that programme could soon be resolved.
Condemning the attack on Prime Minister Soro, she stressed that the perpetrators of that act must be brought to justice. Concerned at human rights abuses against civilians around the country, the United States was encouraged by a new draft bill that would establish anti-trafficking programmes in cooperation with ministries in the country and international organizations, including the International Organization for Migration, and encouraged speedy adoption of the law. She also expressed support for the statement on Côte d’Ivoire distributed by the French delegation.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said that the Ouagadougou Agreement was an historic turning point in the Ivorian crisis and his country had been closely watching progress. Expressing concern at delays in implementation of the peace process, he maintained that the Government and the Ivorian parties must act immediately to overcome those hurdles, especially through the Evaluation and Monitoring Committee and implementation of the Agreement, with the assistance of UNOCI and the French Licorne troops and other actors, in order to seize the historic opportunity offered by the positive political climate currently prevailing in Côte d’Ivoire.
The embargo on arms imports and the targeted sanctions should also be fully adhered to, he said, and the activities of UNOCI and other international actors should not be hindered. He also stressed the importance of focusing on the economic recovery of the country and addressing the worsening humanitarian situation, as well as human rights abuses by Government security forces and members of the Forces nouvelles and the growing problem of human trafficking.
GIANCARLO SOLER TORRIJOS ( Panama) welcomed the positive developments in the country, as well as the fact that there was good coordination between ECOWAS and the Council. The Ouagadougou Agreement was an important attempt to unify the country, and he was encouraged that, at a political level, the process continued. The different stages of the Agreement must be implemented, however. In particular, disagreements regarding the military ranks of participants in the Forces nouvelles should be solved in order to achieve disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.
He said the Ouagadougou Agreement had launched a new momentum for national ownership. The international community must, therefore, give technical and other support for its implementation. In particular, the tasks of reform of the security sector, voter registration, respect for human rights and establishing State authority throughout the country should be carried out with urgency. Sexual abuse against children continued to grow. Intervention of the International Criminal Court could be a way to fight impunity regarding sexual abuse of children, but such intervention was impossible because of the resistance by the Ivorian parties. It was, therefore, up to the authorities to end impunity.
MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) underlined the importance of international support for Côte d’Ivoire, as there was a danger of a reversal in the peace process. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the security situation would remain fragile unless it was underpinned by progress in implementation of the Agreement. It was important, however, to note that shortcomings and delays in implementation were not caused by a lack of political will. Despite existing difficulties, there was hope for a real peace in the country.
He said the Council and the international community were heavily indebted to the Facilitator. The activities of the ECOWAS, moreover, epitomized the approach of regional involvement and dialogue that should be more and more encouraged by the Council. As the Agreement was in place and the Facilitator remained strongly engaged, there was room for trust, and the Council should not be hesitant in expressing such trust. The voice of the Facilitator should be the first one to be heard on what more, or what else, the Council and the Organization as a whole could do to support his efforts.
Council President LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana), speaking in his national capacity, said that the Ouagadougou Agreement had opened a genuine window opportunity for Côte d’Ivoire and much progress had been made since then. Some delays in progress were due to a lack of capacity in Ivorian institutions. Others showed evidence of a lack of political will, such as delays in the unification of the Armed Forces. He called for the Ivorian parties to overcome the obstacles to further progress and for continued international assistance to the country, along with the continuance of UNOCI’s mandate.
ILAHIRI A. DJÉDJÉ ( C ôte d’Ivoire) said that the report of the Secretary-General clearly showed that the political situation in his country had generally improved since the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement and the adoption of resolution 1765 (2007). However, he said that there was no evidence shown to back up assertions in the report that children were being trafficked in the south of the country and that torture and other mistreatment was being carried out in the north. It was, therefore, unnecessary for the report to call on leaders of the Forces nouvelles and the Ivorian defence and security forces to address persistent human rights violations and to impose discipline within their units.
In addition, asserting that “the war is over” in Côte d’Ivoire, he wondered why sanctions were not being lifted on his country. Since peace had been brought about by the sons and daughters of the country and facilitated by a Head of State of the subregion, he proposed that the three African members of the Council be the ones who initiated draft resolutions on Côte d’Ivoire.
In 2004, it was the African Union that came up with the idea of imposing sanctions. Today, the Union and ECOWAS were requesting that sanctions be lifted. “Why,” he asked, “was France so intent on getting at Côte d’Ivoire and some of its political actors?” If it was to punish them, it would be contrary to the Charter of the United Nations. He said that he was speaking in accord with those who wanted Africa to manage its own affairs and who believed that financial support, whatever its importance, did not afford partners the right to any kind of intervention.
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