|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7102nd Meeting (AM)
Special Representative Highlights Progress on Political Reconciliation
In CÔte d’Ivoire, but Cautions that Situation Remains Fragile
Permanent Representative Touts Economic Growth, Return of Financial Organizations
Important progress had been made in Côte d’Ivoire’s political reconciliation process, but security remained fragile, the head of the United Nations operation in that country told the Security Council today.
While the former ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) still refused to participate in the dialogue framework comprising the Government and 11 opposition parties, said Aïchatou Mindaoudou Souleymane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), it had met with the currently ruling Rally of Republicans (RDR) last December, the first time in a decade.
“The holding of the meeting in a cordial atmosphere generated important momentum,” she said via video link from Abidjan as she briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Côte d’Ivoire (document S/2013/761), dated 24 December 2013. FPI had also resumed direct dialogue with the Government last September, and President Alassane Ouattara had agreed to review its proposal to establish a new forum for dialogue that would include a wider spectrum of civil society.
Today’s briefing, Ms. Mindaoudou’s first since her appointment last July, also highlighted progress in other areas. “The country is firmly on the path to lasting peace and stability,” she said, citing impressive economic growth, an influx of foreign investment and a renewed private sector. In addition, a series of institutional reforms had been launched with the aim of enhancing political inclusiveness, including steps to put in place legislation requested by the political opposition on the financing of political parties.
She went on to note that President Ouattara had made significant conciliatory gestures towards the political opposition, including the provisional release from prison of several high-ranking individuals associated with former President Laurent Gbagbo, and had requested the Justice Minister to consider releasing additional prisoners detained during the 2010 crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. The Government had also taken steps to address the root causes of the crisis by enacting legislation on land-tenure and nationality issues. However, she warned against a recent resurgence of hate speech in some media outlets, saying the international community could neither tolerate nor allow such a trend to take root since it had been one of the triggers of the national crisis.
Turning to security, she said that the Government had sought to advance security sector reform, setting an ambitious target of disarming the full caseload of former combatants by June 2015. However, the security situation remained fragile, with recurrent incidents of intercommunity and inter-ethnic violence, as well as armed robbery and organized crime. They continued to pose a major challenge to stability, particularly in the west, due to the illegal circulation of weapons there, coupled with the activities of networks affiliated with the former regime, former combatants and other criminal elements on the border with Liberia.
On a positive note, she said that, thanks to cooperation between the Governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, with assistance from UNOCI, no major cross-border attacks had been seen in nearly a year. The mission was in the process of reconfiguring its military component and consolidating its presence in the west and other high-risk areas, as requested by the Security Council, she said. National security institutions had already assumed full responsibility for protecting high-ranking members of the Government and other political figures. By the end of June, the drawdown of 1,700 troops would be complete, she said, adding that she would present proposals on the appropriate composition, posture and strength of the mission to the Council in her next report in May, following a strategic review of UNOCI and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) next month.
Annexed to the Secretary-General’s report were ambitious, yet realistic benchmarks for sustainable peace, developed by the United Nations country team and the Government, she continued. An extensive evaluation of UNOCI’s mandate had been conducted to identify tasks that could eventually be handed over to the country team, as well as broad timelines for a possible handover. She also called attention to the resource constraints facing United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, saying they severely limited capacity to assume additional tasks. In fact, many agencies had been compelled to close or limit their operations in Côte d’Ivoire in light of more pressing challenges elsewhere around the world.
Youssoufou Bamba ( Côte d’Ivoire) said the security situation had improved since the President had taken responsibility for national defence, noting that the United Nations security indicator for his country had fallen from 3.8 in 2012 to 1.3 in 2013. That had created propitious conditions for the return of the Japan External Trade Organization, the African Development Bank and other organizations. However, concerns remained over the border with Liberia, given the presence there of mercenaries and illegal arms trafficking, but there had been no attacks in the west for more than a year.
He said the Defence Ministry had reorganized the armed forces, improved the army’s managerial capacity, promoted unity within the ranks and developed a training system. Moreover, 32 per cent of security sector reform goals had been achieved, and as of 31 December 2013, the Government had succeeded in the reintegration of 91 per cent of 30,000 ex-combatants from both sides. Some 47,000 former fighters remained to be reintegrated, a goal that would be reached by the end of 2015. The Defence Ministry had also urged “dozos” — traditional hunters who had participated in post-electoral clashes — to return to their normal activities.
Turning to the political situation, he said the President was working to create a peaceful political climate in which the opposition could express their views. Among other measures, decisions had been taken to unfreeze bank accounts belonging to officials of the former regime, which had improved the overall situation. On 15 January, direct dialogue between the Government and opposition had resumed, and a bill on the status of the opposition had been adopted by the Council of Ministers, soon to be submitted to the National Assembly. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had sent its report to the President in November, recommending the application of the law on rural land, among other measures.
On the economic front, Côte d’Ivoire’s economy had expanded by 8 per cent in 2013 and was forecast to grow at 9 per cent in 2014, he said. The country had produced 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa between 2012 and 2013, while agreements on water, education, health and energy projects had been concluded.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:43 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record