|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6947th Meeting (AM)
CÔte d’Ivoire Has Entered ‘New Phase’ in Consolidating Peace, But Still Faces
Formidable Threats that Require Continued UN Presence, Security Council Told
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Briefs on Assessment Mission;
Country’s Representative Highlights Progress in Security, Reconciliation, Justice
While Côte d’Ivoire had entered a positive “new phase” in consolidating the hard-won peace achieved following the 2011 post-election crisis, the West African nation continued to face formidable security threats — including from disruptive networks affiliated with the former regime — which required the continued presence of the United Nations Operation in the country (UNOCI), the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council today.
“The overall progress notwithstanding, Côte d’Ivoire continues to face significant threats to its peace and security,” said Edmond Mulet, as he briefed the Council on a multidisciplinary assessment mission he led to the country in February, the results of which were contained in the Secretary-General’s report S/2013/197. The Council also was addressed by the representative of Côte d’Ivoire, Youssoufou Bamba.
While UNOCI’s presence remained necessary, Mr. Mulet said, adjustments to its structure, strengths and priorities were needed to meet the evolving situation on the ground. The Secretary-General had recommended reducing the mission’s authorized military strength through the repatriation of one battalion by 31 July, and further reduction of two additional battalions by mid-2015. He had not recommended a reduction for the UNOCI police component.
He said ongoing discussions with Côte d’Ivoire on the development of benchmarks to measure and track progress in achieving long-term stability were an important opportunity for the Government and the United Nations to identify minimum conditions for UNOCI to begin drawing down. Those benchmarks would be included in the Secretary-General’s next report.
Recent instability along the border with Liberia illustrated the “delicate” nature of the situation, he said, citing one confirmed cross-border attack which had caused deaths, injuries and displacement of peoples. The Secretary-General’s report had taken note of “decisive” direction by President Alassane Ouattara to deal with security challenges, speed economic recovery and begin disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as security sector reform.
To be sure, the security situation near Liberia had significantly improved, he said, noting that on 5 April, a quadripartite meeting in Monrovia brought together the two Governments, as well as UNOCI and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The parties agreed to reinforce coordinated border patrolling, revive the tripartite refugee commission and meet with local communities from both sides of the border. The agreement on such specific deliverables was “very positive” and the Missions would continue to support the Governments in addressing border security challenges.
More broadly, security threats included current political dynamics, he said, as well as the reported presence of mercenaries along the Liberian border, and the uncontrolled circulation of weapons. Also of concern were divisions within and among security agencies, human rights violations by formal and informal security agencies, and the incidence of both sexual and gender-based violence.
Highlighting key areas of progress, Mr. Mulet said that UNOCI was providing limited support to the Independent Electoral Commission, ahead of local elections on 21 April, and logistical assistance to Ivoirian security forces to ensure the peaceful conduct of polls. The electoral campaign, which opened on 6 April, had been carried out “relatively peacefully”. President Ouattara’s Rassemblement des Républicains Party and the former President Aimé Henri Konan Bédié’s Parti Démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire had called on their candidates to respect the Code of Good Conduct. The former ruling Front Populaire Ivoirien Party had chosen not to participate, despite encouragement for it to occupy its legitimate political space.
The Government’s gestures towards the opposition and engagement in direct discussions were also encouraging, he said, noting that agreement reportedly had been reached on the need to return Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire to barracks; disarm unprofessional armed elements associated with them; equip the gendarmerie and police; and end the illegal exploitation of land. Differences persisted, however, over the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission and the Front Populaire Ivoirien Party request for a general amnesty.
As for the complex issue of reconciliation and social cohesion, he said progress remained slow, with the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission struggling to produce results by 30 September when its mandate expired. He had seen “encouraging” steps on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration front with the establishment of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Authority and start of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration operations. More than 4,000 former combatants had been disarmed and demobilized, progress he expected to accelerate. The estimated caseload of former combatants had been revised, from 110,000 to 64,000 from both sides, and militias meeting the eligibility criteria.
Regarding security sector reform, he said the process was still in the “planning stage”, despite the National Security Council’s endorsement last year of the national security sector reform strategy. Reform was essential to ensuring that Côte d’Ivoire had republican national security forces, a police and a gendarmerie that fully assumed their responsibilities. He urged that steps be taken to fully implement the strategy.
In closing, he reaffirmed the need to bring to justice the perpetrators of serious crimes, regardless of their status or political affiliation, to end the vicious cycle of impunity and to build a culture of accountability. Efforts were also needed to promote reconciliation and deal with the deep-seeded causes of conflict.
Following those remarks, Mr. Bamba said his Government was well aware of the “absolute priority” of stabilizing the security situation, as consolidating progress depended on it. Since the President had taken control of the defence sector, there had been better consistency and effectiveness of the security services to respond to threats and attacks, which had significantly diminished. That had also increased the capacity of intelligence services.
Reform of the security sector had led to the establishment of a coordination centre, which had proved its effectiveness in, for example, tracing racketeering and keeping peaceful the situation in Abidjan. He also cited a reorganization of senior military commanders and the drafting of a national security law.
Concerning disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, he said the Government was taking measures to implement a database of some 64,500 former combatants — the first wave was being trained as prison guards and a second wave would be integrated in customs. The training and reintegration programme would be accelerated, thanks to the support of international partners. Additionally, a signing ceremony for the pact between post-crisis assistance and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration would allow financing and awareness-raising to ensure acceptance by the communities and potential employers of the former fighters.
He went on to say that dialogue and national reconciliation were being strengthened, despite concerns about the policy of the Ivorian Popular Front. The enthusiasm for local elections was proof that the democratic culture was firmly rooted in society. National reconciliation was “an obligation, not an option”, he said, and the whole country would dedicate appropriate energy to that pursuit. For its part, the Government was striving to ensure an increasing role by the clan system in preventing conflicts and, among others, settling land disputes. A land reform law was currently being drafted.
As for combating impunity, he said the judicial process was implementing recommendations submitted by the national inquiry commission. He confirmed the President’s commitment to combating impunity, stressing that nobody would be spared, but the process would unfold at the pace of the independent Ivorian justice system. As for refugees, there had been some 350,000 two years ago, whereas today, there were 60,000. Two camps had been closed in Liberia and just five were spread along the border. No new cases of sexual violence had been reported. The ministries in charge of justice, solidarity and women focused on that issue, as did security sector reform efforts.
“The whole country is a work site, in a way,” he declared, noting the construction of bridges, motorways and factories, among other projects. The national development plan for 2012-2015 was an indication of the Government’s commitment, but its implementation required strong and inclusive economic growth, for which investment was a key pillar.
Economic and social infrastructures had been “insufficient for a long time”, but as of last year, much better planning had taken root. Economic growth was at 9.8 per cent — higher than predicted — and so far, this year, the economy was showing a 9 per cent growth rate. Redeployment of the mining sector for diamond production was under way, and the country had acceded to the Kimberley Process.
Addressing adjustments to the structure and troop numbers for UNOCI, he described current troop levels as “good”. If the planned reductions in blue helmets were implemented, however, the drawdown should be accompanied by more resources, such as surveillance drones in the border area with Liberia.
The meeting began at 10:00 a.m. and adjourned at 10:30 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record