13 April 2011 The Security Council today encouraged the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, to form an all-inclusive, broad-based Government now that he is assuming his responsibilities as head of State following the surrender of his predecessor, who had until this week refused to cede power after his defeat in last year’s presidential poll.
“The members of the Security Council urge all Ivorians to abstain from any reprisals, revenge or provocation, to exercise maximum restraint and to work together to promote national reconciliation and restore sustainable peace through dialogue and consultation,” Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia, which holds the Council’s rotating monthly presidency, said in a statement read out to the press.
The refusal by former president Laurent Gbagbo to stand down after he lost the United Nations-certified run-off poll in November plunged the West African country into four months of violence, with his troops pitted against forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara, the internationally recognized President. Mr. Gbagbo surrendered on Monday and was taken into custody.
The Council welcomed Mr. Ouattara’s commitment to investigate alleged human rights abuses and reaffirmed that those responsible for the violations must he held accountable for their crimes regardless of their political affiliation. It commended the President’s call for justice and reconciliation, as well as his decision to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
The 15-member body also encouraged the Government to cooperate closely with the Independent Commission of Inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council, and urged the authorities to ensure Mr. Gbagbo’s security and accord him and his entourage fair and just treatment.
It voiced concern over reports of widespread violence and intimidation in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and urged all illegal armed combatants to lay down their arms immediately and hand them in to the relevant authorities.
The Council further encouraged the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire, which is known as UNOCI, to help the Government in the urgent task of disarmament, the establishment of security, public order and rule of law throughout the country and facilitate aid delivery, as well as continue to protect civilians.
In their briefings to the Council, three senior UN officials said the situation in Côte d’Ivoire remains grave despite Mr. Gbagbo’s surrender and stressed the need to restore the rule of law, bring to justice those responsible for the gross human rights violations and respond to the dire humanitarian needs.
Y. J. Choi, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire and head of UNOCI, told delegates that the mission’s immediate priority was to prevent a security vacuum, disarm surrendering soldiers and militiamen, secure vital installations, including air and sea ports, protect civilians, prevent reprisal attacks and gather evidence on human rights abuses.
“The Ivorian people organized one of the most impressive elections; they succeeded largely by themselves in resolving the post-election crisis which allowed for the will of the people to prevail,” Mr. Choi said via video-link from Abidjan. “Now they will march forward towards national reconciliation and reconstruction with the assistance of the international community.”
He said the challenges ahead include the restoration of peace and security, the prevention of further human rights violations, the delivery of humanitarian aid, national reconciliation and reconstruction, including promoting education, youth employment and poverty alleviation. He also cited the need for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes as well as security sector reform.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for “immediate and decisive action” to address the humanitarian crisis in the West African country and to build public confidence in the rule of law to ensure justice.
“Reconciliation will not be accomplished without meaningful accountability, which has been lacking in Côte d’Ivoire over the past decade,” she said in her briefing. “To achieve peace and reconciliation, the cycle of impunity must be stopped, perpetrators must be brought to justice, and victims must be rehabilitated in their rights and dignity.”
She said a mission from her office that spent last week in Côte d’Ivoire found evidence of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence in Abidjan and the rest of the country.
Ms. Pillay also voiced concern over entrenched divisions and distrust between communities engendered by years of discrimination and violence and exacerbated by inflammatory speech and reprisal killings.
“Rebuilding social cohesion and fostering reconciliation between communities will need to be one of the main priorities of the Government and will require the support of the international community,” she said.
Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, stressed the need to boost the delivery of food aid and to provide shelter and medical assistance to the sick and wounded, as well as to those who have been traumatised by the atrocities they have witnessed or endured.
She said that an estimated $300 million is required to respond to the humanitarian crisis inside Côte d’Ivoire and in neighbouring countries where Ivorians have sought refuge. Some $57 million of the required funding has been received, she added.
“We must not let the people of Côte d’Ivoire down,” Ms. Amos, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said, calling on Member States to redouble their efforts and respond to needs in Côte d’Ivoire and the region.
Ms. Amos told reporters after her briefing that an estimated 800,000 people remain displaced and that the security situation throughout the country remained volatile. Over 130,000 Ivorian refugees had also sought safety in Liberia.
She spoke of the need to insist to Mr. Ouattara that his Government must abide by international law and ensure the protection of all civilians. “All armed groups also continue to bear responsibilities in this regard,” said Ms. Amos.
Separately, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss also emphasized that human rights, good governance, transparency and accountability must be the guiding principles of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire.
“I hope that the international community will further assist Côte d’Ivoire as the country now faces the challenge of healing and reconstruction,” Mr. Deiss told reporters at UN Headquarters.
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