|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6808th Meeting (PM)
Côte d’Ivoire Making Significant Strides on Path to Peace, Stability, but Continues
to Face Significant Challenges, Threats Security Council Told
Head of UN Operation Says at ‘Complex Phase’ Continued UN Support Needed;
Country’s Representative Calls for Mandate Renewal, Including Election Assistance
As Cote d’Ivoire makes impressive strides on the path to peace but also faces significant challenges and threats, the United Nations must continue to assist the Government’s efforts to transition to a peacebuilding phase, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this afternoon.
“In this complex phase, it is important that the United Nations continue to play its supportive role to assist the Government’s efforts to stabilize the security situation, protect civilians, restore State authority, promote reconciliation as well as undertake post conflict development assistance,” said Albert Gerard Koenders, who is also the head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), in a briefing the was followed by a statement by the representative of the West African country.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s most recent report (see Background), Mr. Koenders said that the economy is recovering, the country is progressively reintegrating into the West African region and the overall security situation had improved since the end of the post-electoral crisis last year. Moreover, following legislative elections, the National Assembly had begun its work with a commitment by its President to contribute to national reconciliation and provide effective oversight of the Government on behalf of the people.
Even so, he continued, the positive picture should not obscure the fact that, in the last couple of weeks the country has been characterized by a certain degree of political anxiety, which showed that the root causes of conflict — land-related issues, unreformed security forces, impunity, and lack of reconciliation and political dialogue — need to be tackled urgently and in a transparent manner.
The security situation remained volatile especially, but not exclusively, in the west, at the border with Liberia, due to weak State authorities and the presence of large numbers of weapons, armed elements, former combatants, militias and competition over resources. Attacks against villages in the border area and reports of rearming of former combatants from both countries, and possible planned attempts against State security were matters of substantial concern.
He recalled that seven United Nations peacekeepers from Niger lost their life in an attack by armed elements near the border last month, showing the need for continuous vigilance and enhanced action on protection of civilians. The Government had strengthened its military presence and established a commission to investigate the attack, with UNOCI providing technical assistance. UNOCI had also reinforced its troops within the western sector and was working closely with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) both in coordinating operations and in strengthening cooperation between the bordering countries.
It was critical, he said, to combine firmness and vigilance, and to encourage the Government to further increase its civilian presence, invest in development and ensure the equitable treatment of land issues, along with other concrete measures to promote reconciliation.
Country-wide, the necessity for genuine political dialogue remained paramount, and a follow up mechanism for ongoing dialogue had been announced after a 27-28 April meeting chaired by the Prime Minister and including opposition participation. A new momentum was needed, and all parties should strengthen political will to engage in well-formulated, serious political dialogue. It was important for the Government to clarify the context and timetable for further consultations, taking reconciliatory measures whenever possible. At the same time, opposition parties should act constructively, using conciliatory language.
For the success of upcoming local elections, for which the Government had requested United Nations assistance, he said more responsibility must be taken by the Ivorian Government, with clarity on timing, inclusiveness and security, as well as allowing for the reform of the electoral and administrative bodies concerned. Only under such clearly specified conditions should UNOCI support be considered and supported with financial, administrative and military means.
In the area of human rights, he said, a culture of respect must be promoted and it was crucial that progress made was solidified, that violators were brought to justice irrespective of their status or political affiliations, that the Investigative Commission speed up its work and that all detainees received clarity about their status. UNOCI remained preoccupied with the situation and asked the Council to pay special attention to it. Many human rights violations resulted less from the State’s complicity than from the State’s failure to prevent them, according to the Independent Expert on human rights in the country.
For that reason, speeding up security reform and the demobilization process should be encouraged, he said, welcoming President Outtara’s steps in those areas and affirming that UNOCI stood ready to continue its assistance. He stressed, however, that a unified demobilization entity was needed, with strict rules on eligibility and a reliable base.
In order to maximize its impact in all challenge areas, he said, UNOCI, together with the United Nations Country team, was reinforcing its field presence and enhancing cooperation within the United Nation’s family, opening field offices staffed by military, police and civilian personnel. “Continuous vigilance, research for political solutions and efforts to enhance reconciliation remain key to accomplishing our tasks successfully,” he said, affirming the importance of the Security Council support in those efforts.
Laying out a still-fragile security situation, Youssoufou Bamba of Côte d’Ivoire described the contents of a letter his Prime Minister had sent the Secretary-General, in which he requested a renewal of UNOCI’s mandate, including support for future local elections. And, whereas the Secretary-General had proposed a reduction in forces, the Government sought reinforcement, owing to the pockets of insecurity. In particular, it requested a francophone contingent to better meet the Operation’s communications goals and assist reconciliation and political dialogue.
Mr. Bamba affirmed concerns over security in the country’s western region, citing the attacks in June by armed elements from Liberia. Those had “shed raw light” on attempts to destabilize the country. “Perfectly and logically coordinated,” those criminal acts were designed to cause fear among civilians, he said, adding that the armed groups were aided by exiled Ivorians and financed by illegal mining. Every effort was being made to apprehend the offenders, and cooperation between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia had been strengthened. He was also pleased with the transfer to UNOCI of three attack helicopters.
The regional dimension of the security situation was also clear, he said, pointing to “the precursor signs of crisis” in Mali and Guinea Bissau, and activities taken to prevent that.
He spoke at length about the many national initiatives in place to implement the disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation process, as well as security sector reform. A national security council would be created to oversee both processes, and concrete plans were in place for their implementation. Towards national reconciliation and political dialogue, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was working on longer-term goals, while a grass-roots approach was being taken to boost ownership of the initiatives. The political process was progressing, and it was now possible to have “frank, open dialogue” with all parties, aimed at national reconstruction.
Turning to the concerns raised about the human rights situation, he noted that after two visits, the Special Representative had concluded that most violations were due to the difficulties in reforming the security sector and in restoring stability throughout the country. The Government had inherited a “true no-man’s land” with regard to human rights. It was, in fact, a “rule of no rights”, where Ivorians had been victims of the worst forms of human rights violations perpetrated by death squadrons and based merely on suspicion of being opposed to the regime or of having roots in the north.
He said the President sought to build “true rule of law” and he had a zero-tolerance policy with regard to impunity. The first priority of the Human Rights Ministry was to train, educate and raise the awareness of law enforcement personnel; in short, to promote a human rights culture. Respect for human rights required a well-functioning judiciary, so, in April, a national justice strategy had been adopted, with the help of UNOCI and the European Union.
The representative recalled “with joy and enormous pride” the recent Security Council visit to the country, noting that its members had seen for themselves both the progress and remaining challenges, through their transparent and exhaustive exchanges. The President had presented his vision for the nation and his intentions to make it “a country of the twenty-first century”.
The meeting opened at 3:07 p.m. and closed at 3:40 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the thirtieth progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (document S/2012/506), which covers developments since 29 March 2012. In the report, the Secretary-General recommends an extension of the mandate of the Mission, known as UNOCI, which expires at the end of this month, for one year at an overall authorized strength of 10,392, until 31 July 2013, with a review of the situation by 31 March 2013, commenting that UNOCI continues to play an important role in supporting the Government’s efforts to stabilize security and protect civilians.
He recalls that in his special report of 29 March 2012 (S/2012/186), he recommended that the Mission’s authorized military strength be reduced by the equivalent of one battalion, thus bringing the total authorized strength to 8,837, comprising 8,645 troops and staff officers and 192 military observers, while also maintaining the current authorized police strength of 1,555 personnel, comprising 1,000 formed police unit personnel and 555 individual police officers. The recent instability in areas bordering Liberia, causing “death, injury, destruction and displacement”, including the deaths of seven peacekeepers from the Mission, “have not compromised the underlying rationale for this recommended reduction”, he adds, based on an assessment of the overall security situation and the effectiveness of the national security forces in Abidjan. The situation will be kept under close review. Currently, 9,585 military personnel and 1,366 police are deployed in the country, according to the report’s annex.
The violence in the West of the country, along with what he calls alarming reports of rearming and recruitment of former Ivorian and Liberian combatants and cross-border movements of armed groups, represents a significant threat not only to the people living in the area, but also to the stability of Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and the broader region of West Africa, the Secretary-General says. Noting joint measures by the two neighbouring countries to provide security in the area, he calls for those efforts to be stepped up, along with measures to identify spoilers and hold the perpetrators of violence accountable.
He said that UNOCI and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the respective United Nations country teams will continue to provide support to the Governments in that regard, while further enhancing their activities and cooperation on the basis of their respective mandates. In addition, he reiterates his call for the development of a subregional strategy for security. Welcoming initiatives towards regional cooperation that have been made, he commends President Alassane Ouattara for his leadership as Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority and for his efforts in responding to crises in the subregion.
Effective security sector reform and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in both countries are critical, as are efforts to address the drivers of conflict and tackle land tenure and identity issues. He said that in Côte d’Ivoire, there is also an urgent need to promote reconciliation through concrete measures at the national level, while prioritizing the strengthening of the rule of law and the restoration of State authority in the West. In that regard, he welcomes President Ouattara’s first visit to the western region, which he says sent an important signal of peace and reconciliation.
In other areas, the Secretary-General says he is encouraged by the overall progress that the country has made towards stability, reconciliation and economic recovery. Welcoming the inauguration of the elected National Assembly, he notes that the Government has requested United Nations assistance for holding upcoming local elections, and their success will depend on timing, inclusiveness, security and reform of electoral and administrative bodies. He also calls for constructive dialogue between the Government and the opposition, pledging the readiness of the Special Representative to use his good offices role to facilitate it. He urges comprehensive security sector reform, in particular an end to human rights abuses by individuals connected with security agencies, as well as a regional demobilization programme and an end to impunity for all human rights violations.
Finally, he pays tribute to the fallen peacekeepers, who were from Niger, saying that the loss of their lives is a stark and tragic reminder of the very high price that peacekeepers sometimes pay in their efforts to bring peace to countries emerging from conflict.
* *** *For information media • not an official record