|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6113th Meeting (AM)
TIMELINE FOR ELECTION IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE NOW PREDICATED ON PROGRESS
IN REUNIFICATION PROCESS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Head of UN Mission Notes Dates, Targets in Process Repeatedly Missed;
C ôte D’Ivoire Says Peace Process Not Stalled, Elections to Be Held By Late 2009
Fearing that momentum was faltering towards holding early elections in Côte d’Ivoire, the head of the United Nations Mission in the divided West African country today told the Security Council that perhaps it was time to “give some deep reflection to the Ivorian reunification problem”, particularly since the timeline for any new poll now appeared to hinge on progress in the reunification process.
“The complicated and mixed picture of the Ivorian electoral map requires some hard thinking on our part,” said Choi Young-Jin, as he briefed the Council on the work of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which he said had focused much of its attention in 2008 on the country’s electoral process, particularly regarding the identification of voter registration, where it had provided technical, logistical and financial support.
At the same time, while UNOCI and the wider international community had been deeply engaged in the electoral process, global actors had been involved to a much lesser degree in the area of reunification, principally because of the sensitivity regarding the attendant military and security matters in the country, which has been divided since an attempted coup in 2002 triggered a civil war between north and south.
Mr. Choi said that, at the start of 2009, the momentum for early elections appeared to have weakened considerably. In the background was a shift in the political priority among the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) protagonists. The fourth supplementary agreement to OPA had reversed the priority between elections and the reunification of the country. Where the third supplementary agreement had provided the political framework for the electoral momentum in 2008, and elections had been set to take place before reunification; under the fourth supplement, the de facto reunification was now to take place ahead of elections.
Within the framework of the fourth supplementary agreement, he highlighted some of the measures to be taken at least two months prior to the elections, among others, the transfer of authority from Zone Commanders to Prefects; centralization of the treasury; completion of the profiling and integration of the Force nouvelles elements in the military, police, gendarmerie; and the payment of around $1,000 to all ex-combatants and militiamen.
“Consequently, any new electoral timeline is now predicated on progress of the reunification process,” he said, adding that speedy progress on the electoral front would only be possible if there were strong political encouragement and urging. The events of 2009, so far, had confirmed such a pattern. In the four months since the signing of the fourth OPA supplement in December, OPA protagonists had been focusing on the reunification issue. Consequently, the electoral process had been struggling with a slower pace, resulting in further delays.
UNOCI had been assisting as best it could to move the reunification process forward, but unfortunately, critical elements of that process such as transfer of authority in the Zone of Commanders to Prefects and the centralization of the treasury, were not progressing as envisioned in the fourth OPA supplement. “Deadlines and targets have been repeatedly missed,” he said, noting the main reason for that could be found in the difference in vision and in strategy of the reunification among OPA protagonists. “As its stands, the prospect for early elections and reunification cannot be described as encouraging,” he said.
However, Mr. Choi told the Council the rather “sombre reality” regarding elections and reunification should not eclipse the ongoing positive developments in the area of peace and security, as well as the degree to which the Ivorian people were retuning to their normal lives, including commercial activities. The restoration of peace was also evident in that not a single major incident had thus far occurred in the identification process, which, to date, had passed the 6 million mark.
On that point, he stressed that the contribution made by the Impartial Forces in providing the general security framework was important. Yet, within that framework, it had been the Ivorian Government and people that had made the real difference, “with their refined political cultures of compromise”. Although hampered by the transitional and coalition nature of the Government, various ministries and State institutions remained in place and there existed around 40,000 State security forces, supported by about $200 million out of total budget of over $5 billion.
“It is now necessary for us to focus our attention both on the progress in the elections process and on the negotiations on reunification,” he said. Now that the electoral process was predicated on the reunification issue, the international community might have to reflect deeply on the “Ivorian reunification problem”, with a view to making some meaningful contribution in that area, and by extension, accelerating the electoral process, he surmised.
As Mr. Choi wrapped up his presentation, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire assured Council members that all signatories to the Ouagadougou Agreement had but one agenda, “that of ensuring that presidential elections are effectively held in 2009”. Although implementation of the fourth supplement to OPA faced some challenges, mainly logistical and financial, they were being resolved. As at 31 March, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had agreed to allow Côte d’Ivoire to benefit from debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative. The restoration of State authority and the redeployment of the civil service throughout the country were almost completed.
He said that, as of today, 6,081,625 people, out of a total of 8,600,000 voters, had been registered. It was hoped that registration could be completed by mid-June. According to a proposed timetable of the Independent Electoral Commission, the presidential election could be held between 11 October and 6 December. “I wish to insist on the fact that the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire is not stalling; the political decision had been made: the first round of the presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire will be held no later than 6 December 2009,” he said.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 10:26 a.m.
When the Council met, it had before it the twentieth progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (document S/2009/196), providing an update on major developments since the last report of 8 January (S/2009/21) as at 2 April, as well as on progress towards achieving benchmarks for a possible phased drawdown of troop levels.
According to the report, the overall security situation in the country has remained stable, with largely unhindered freedom of movement of people, goods and services throughout the country, although several incidents highlighted the continuing fragility of the security situation. The continued presence of armed militias, the incomplete disarmament of former combatants of the Forces nouvelles, the proliferation of small arms and difficulties faced in the reunification of the security forces have the potential to affect the peace process.
Since the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement in March 2007, Côte d’Ivoire was now at a stage where only two critical processes needed to be completed in order to restore normalcy: reunification and elections. The fourth supplementary agreement to Ouagadougou of 22 December 2008 outlined the way forward in that regard and provided a timeline of completion of the disarmament of the former combatants and dismantling of the militias two months before elections; reunification of defence and security forces; and the effective redeployment of State administration throughout the country.
The report states that the parties had not met the deadlines for completing the reunification processes. The meeting of the Permanent Consultative Framework scheduled for 11 March has been postponed until April. On 16 March, the Facilitator, President Comparoé of Burkina Faso, met with President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Soro to discuss ways forward. A joint working group was established by the integrated command centre to review proposals on modalities for reunification.
Uneven progress was made in efforts to restore State authority throughout the country, including the fiscal, customs and judicial administration, the report continues. The effective functioning of the judiciary in the north continued to be hampered because of the insufficient presence of police and gendarmerie, poorly equipped or secured court premises and poor conditions of detention. Public safety continued to be affected by frequent prison breaks. No further major progress was made in disarming Forces nouvelles combatants beyond the regrouping operations described in the last report. National institutions to implement the disarmament and reintegration of former combatants and militias continue to face financial and operational capacity constraints.
As for elections, the report states that, as of 31 March, 5.9 million Ivorians had been identified and registered as voters. The identification and voter registrations operations continued to be marred by significant logistical, financial and procedural obstacles. No realistic timeline for elections in 2009 has been made public. Delays in the redeployment of the judiciary to Forces nouvelles-controlled areas meant that a large number of registrations applicants were unable to obtain their registration documents.
The Secretary-General observes that, despite the slow progress towards the elections and the divergent views of the parties on reunification, the country has generally maintained a steady course of recovering from the conflict. The economy is rebounding, the Government is now able to meet most of the costs of the peace process and the capacity of national institutions to implement the Ouagadougou Agreement is increasing.
The Secretary-General states that, should the security situation continue to improve, and if progress is made on reunification and elections, it will be necessary to consult the parties in order to determine which areas UNOCI should focus its support. Based on those consultations and the Secretariat’s assessment, he intends to propose to the Council, in his upcoming reports, possible adjustments in the role and configuration of UNOCI.
In the interim, he says, the Mission will continue to contribute to a peaceful environment through its deterrent presence and to monitor and investigate human rights violations with a view to help end impunity, with particular focus on combating violence against women and children. The Secretary-General calls on the Ivorian parties to develop the necessary confidence-building measures to prevent human rights violations, in particular electoral violence.
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