|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6263rd Meeting (AM)
Top United Nations Official in Côte d’Ivoire, Briefing Security Council,
Outlines Issues Blocking Holding of Early Presidential Election
Questions Remain over Electoral List, Territorial Reunification, He Says
The long-awaited presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire could take place before mid-2010 if solutions could be found to key outstanding issues relating to the electoral list and the country’s reunification, Choi Young-Jin, the senior United Nations official in the country, said in a briefing to the Security Council this morning.
Mr. Choi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), said the electoral process had made remarkable progress in a peaceful environment, with the processing of data for the registration of around 6.3 million voters having been successfully completed in November 2009. That had resulted in the Independent Electoral Commission’s publication of the provisional electoral list on 23 November.
With about 5.3 million persons confirmed and around 1 million awaiting confirmation, the list was “well balanced, credible and consensually agreed by the major political protagonists”, he said. An appeals process had resulted in over 500,000 persons additionally traced, which would give basis for a definitive electoral list of 5.8 million people.
However, a contentious problem had emerged after the Commission had cross-checked the 1 million non-traced persons and produced a second list of 429,000 traced people. According to the Commission, that list had been prepared purely for the internal consumption of its 31 regional supervisors, but the presidential camp had contested that explanation, claiming that that semi-official list had been used to distort the official appeals process.
With that dispute yet to be resolved, it might take several weeks before the electoral process could regain momentum, he cautioned, adding, however, that once the definitive electoral list was established next month, only six additional weeks would be needed to prepare for the presidential election: two weeks to produce around 6 million identity cards and 5.8 million voters’ cards; two weeks to distribute the cards and transport electoral materials to about 10,000 voting sites; and two weeks for official political campaigns.
The question of reunification was another possible obstacle to the electoral timetable, he said. According to the fourth supplementary agreement to the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, de facto reunification was to be completed two months prior to the presidential election. Although that process had been very slow, all parties to the Agreement had so far taken the position that lack of progress on reunification should not hamper the election.
He said a question had also arisen over how to meet the need for elements of the 8,000-strong mixed brigades to be deployed across the country for electoral security. With the Integrated Command Centre having acknowledged that it could only generate some 2,000 elements, President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire and the Facilitator, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, had jointly proposed a practical solution: the deployment of a 500-strong Burkinabé battalion for three months. That proposal deserved support, Mr. Choi said.
Alcide Djédjé ( Côte d'Ivoire) said it was true that the President of the Independent Electoral Commission had conducted irregular operations which had resulted in denunciations and appeals for greater control of the Commission’s activities. After consultation with all Ivorian political parties as well as the Facilitator, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro had established a monitoring committee responsible for strengthening the Commission’s capacities and restoring confidence. The incident constituted a minor disturbance of the electoral timetable.
In order to alleviate the deficit in the number of peacekeepers and elements of the mixed brigades, he said, Presidents Gbagbo and Compaore had proposed the deployment of a Burkinabé contingent under the aegis of the United Nations, a proposal that the Secretary-General had recommended to the Council. Ivorians were eager for elections, but not elections that would only bring them back to square one –- another conflict. They wanted transparent and credible polls with a reliable electoral roll, in accordance with the certification criteria set by the United Nations.
Mr. Djédjé also expressed the Ivorian Government’s condolences to the families of United Nations staff killed during the Haiti earthquake, and to the Government and people of Haiti. Côte d’Ivoire would donate $1 million to Haiti, he announced.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the twenty-third progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), covering major developments since his report of 29 September 2009 (document S/2009/495).
Recommending a six-month extension of UNOCI’s mandate, through 31 July, the Secretary-General (document S/2010/15) notes that the overall security situation in the country remained stable, despite an upsurge in armed robberies and other criminal activities, particularly in the west.
UNOCI has stepped up efforts to coordinate election observation activities, the report says, adding that, despite the postponement of the first round of the presidential election scheduled for 29 November, there was progress in implementing identification and election-related tasks stipulated under the Ouagadougou Political Agreement. They included publication of the provisional electoral list throughout the country, the launch of the appeals process, and validation of all major candidates for the presidential ballot. Under a new time line, the first round of the election will be held by the end of February or beginning of March.
Meanwhile, progress in implementing the fourth supplementary agreement to the Ouagadougou Agreement, relating to disarmament and reunification of the country, remained limited, the report states. On 16 November, however, President Gbagbo signed decrees relating to the reunification of the defence and security forces. The total number of demobilized ex-combatants stands at 16,081, with an estimated 12,000 Forces nouvelles elements yet to be demobilized. Funding for demobilization allowances was not forthcoming, and no progress was made in dismantling pro-Government militias.
As for restoring State authority and reunification of the treasury, the report says it remained limited, though some progress was made towards re-establishing the judiciary in the northern part of the country. However, local officials in the north continued to experience difficulties in view of the uneven deployment of operational units from the Integrated Command Centre.
According to the report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) basket fund for support of the electoral process disbursed some $25.6 million out of an available $48 million, while the basket fund to support the national programme de sortie de crise disbursed $13 million out of the available $18 million to support the redeployment of State administration, the return of internally displaced persons and the reinsertion programmes for former combatants. The Peacebuilding Support Office approved an additional allocation of $1.5 million to support facilitation of the Ouagadougou Agreement.
As at 31 December 2009, the report states, UNOCI’s military strength stood at 7,391 troops, against an authorized ceiling of 7,450, and its police strength stood at 1,138, out of an authorized strength of 1,200 officers. Meanwhile, UNOCI issued a new military operation order last September, in accordance with its revised military concept of operations and rules of engagement. Furthermore, following the deterioration of the situation in neighbouring Guinea, UNOCI forces stepped up border monitoring activities, including intensified air and ground patrolling.
The mission also finalized an integrated security plan to support the security of the electoral process, the report says. In addition, planning arrangements for the temporary reinforcement of UNOCI with troops and assets from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), in the framework of inter-mission cooperation, are being updated. Furthermore, President Gbagbo and the Facilitator, President Compaore, jointly proposed the three-month deployment of a 500-strong military unit from Burkina Faso to reinforce security arrangements for the presidential election. Pending final approval by the Security Council, the Secretariat is evaluating the proposed unit’s capabilities and the feasibility of its deployment.
The Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the first review of the economic programme for Côte d’Ivoire under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility and provided budget support of $57 million. France cancelled a $455 million bilateral debt and restructured the remaining debt. The London Club of private creditors agreed to reduce the Ivorian debt by $536 million.
In his observations, the Secretary-General notes that the publication of the provisional electoral list constitutes a significant milestone, urging the Independent Electoral Commission and its technical partners to complete the final electoral list in a transparent and credible manner. Implementation of the delicate remaining stages of preparing the elections will require continued international engagement, including with regard to securing the process.
In that regard, the Secretary-General encourages the Ivorian parties to make headway in deploying mixed brigades throughout the country, and recommends that the Council mandate the limited deployment of the proposed unit from Burkina Faso, as well as the temporary reinforcement of UNOCI with troops and assets from UNMIL.
He notes that, beyond the elections, critical challenges remain regarding unfinished aspects of the Ouagadougou Agreement, including disarmament of former combatants, reunification of the Ivorian defence and security forces, centralization of the treasury and redeployment of State administration throughout the country. The Secretary-General strongly encourages the Ivorian parties to continue working cooperatively to make further progress on those issues.
The report signals the Secretary-General’s intention to dispatch a technical assessment mission immediately after the presidential election and to consult the newly elected Government on the post-election role of the United Nations, in line with advanced transition planning arrangement, and on appropriate exit arrangements. Options in that regard will be presented in his next report.
* *** *For information media • not an official record