United Nations Peace Operations: Year in Review 2004

II. Deploying new missions: elements of the surge

ONUB: UN peacekeeping comes to Burundi

The UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) was established on 1 June following United Nations Security Council resolution 1545 of 21 May 2004. The Mission has a mandate to support and help implement the efforts undertaken by Burundians to restore lasting peace and steer the transition towards national elections, which were scheduled to be held by April 2005.

Burundi has been marked by civil strife for the past 11 years, which was triggered by the assassination of the country’s first democratically-elected president Melchior Ndayaye in 1993. The massacres and revenge killings of those days, if not earlier in Burundian history, are a sharp reminder of the difficult political and security environment in which the next elections will be held.

UN peacekeeper from Nepal on a mission to check the security situation in Isale
UN peacekeeper from Nepal on a mission to check the security situation in Isale, Bujumbura Rural, Burundi, 22 December 2004, ONUB Photo by Martine Perret

ONUB was set up to help Burundians bring the three-year transition period to a successful conclusion, culminating in free, fair and transparent polls and to help bring about national reconciliation, as envisaged in the Arusha Agreement of August 2000. It took over peacekeeping duties from the African Union Mission in Burundi (AMIB), the first ever AU peacekeeping mission, which included 2,870 troops from South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique. AMIB, together with the members of the Regional Initiative for Peace and South Africa, as the “Facilitation,” demonstrated the strong commitment of regional and African Member States to assist the peace process in Burundi.

Since its establishment, in close coordination with the Regional Initiative for Peace and the Facilitation, ONUB has been encouraging the various Burundian parties to reach compromises to pave a path for a smooth conclusion to the transition and the post-transitional architecture that would benefit all Burundians.

Among ONUB’s priorities are: working towards achieving a comprehensive ceasefire, in close coordination with its African partners; assisting the preparation of the election process; facilitating the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme and working with donors on development issues.

The Forces Nationals pour la Liberation (FNL), the only armed group outside of the peace process, operates mainly in Bujumbura Rural.While hopes were raised after the FNL had indicated the possibility of entering into a negotiated settlement earlier in the year, such prospects dimmed quickly following the horrific massacre of 152 Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) refugees in August at the Gatumba transit site near Bujumbura, for which the movement took responsibility. While it is believed that other armed groups may have participated, a UN investigation found no clear evidence of who had organized, carried out and financed the massacre. However, the FNL’s claim of responsibility was supported by witness statements and led UN investigators to believe that the group did, indeed, participate in the attack.

A summit of regional leaders in Dar es Salaam held several days after the massacre declared the FNL a terrorist group, and urged the UN and the African Union to do the same. ONUB suspended contacts with the movement. Afterwards, there was an upsurge of fighting in Bujumbura Rural especially in the area of Kabezi, where the FNL are particularly active. According to human rights observers, abuses have been committed by all sides to the conflict. Organized crime, including armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, torture and murder became increasingly prevalent. ONUB increased its presence in trouble spots and also positioned troops around all the refugee camps in the country to help counter threats of attacks and revenge killings.

The escalation of violence in some parts of the country posed a particular problem for the DDR process as the sides grew less willing to disarm. The Burundi army was reluctant to quarter its soldiers in their barracks. Disarmament finally kicked off in early December when rebel fighters and Government forces started handing over their weapons at three demobilization centres set up in the country.

As a result of ongoing political negotiations on outstanding issues, the National Independent Electoral Commission conceded that the transition, which was supposed to end on 31 October, could not be completed on time. A summit of the Great Lakes Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi held in Nairobi on 15 October endorsed the conclusions of the Commission, that elections could not be held before 1 November 2004, and called for an extension of the transitional institutions and administration.

The regional leaders also agreed that the draft constitution should be considered as the provisional constitution until the referendum was held. A few days later, the draft constitution was signed into law following its approval by the national legislature, thus averting a constitutional crisis. Under the provisional constitution, Burundi’s government institutions would be composed of 60 percent Hutu and 40 percent Tutsi, except for the national defence forces and the Senate where the ratio is to be 50-50.

On 16 October, the National Independent Electoral Commission published a new timetable for the referendum and elections that was endorsed by the Transitional Government. Accordingly, local elections were scheduled for February 2005, with legislative elections in March and the presidential poll in April 2005.

ONUB, meanwhile, has been assisting in a countrywide information campaign to explain electoral procedures to the voters, including the printing and dissemination of the post-transition constitution. In October, it started production of weekly bilingual radio broadcasts on five private and public stations.

Despite staffing constraints and the administrative difficulties still associated with mission start-ups, ONUB is forging ahead to provide the best possible support to Burundi.


UNOCI: Working to uphold the peace agreement in Côte d'Ivoire

The United Nations Security Council, by its resolution 1528 of 27 February 2004, established the United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to supersede the United Nations Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (MINUCI) as of 4 April. The Security Council transferred authority from MINUCI and the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) peacekeeping force, ECOMICI to UNOCI, which acts in collaboration with the French troops (Licorne) and ECOWAS.

With an authorized strength of a maximum of 6,240 United Nations military personnel, including 200 military observers and up to 350 civilian police officers, the UNOCI mandate includes support for the implementation of the peace process linked to the Linas-Marcoussis agreement; help for the Government of National Reconciliation to implement the national programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the combatants (DDR), with special attention to the specific needs of women and children; as well as monitoring of the ceasefire and movements of armed groups.

Upon assuming its peacekeeping responsibilities, UNOCI strengthened its liaison activities with the National Armed Forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FANCI), the Forces Nouvelles and Licorne troops. It deployed to the Zone of Confidence, a buffer zone separating Government forces in the south from Forces Nouvelles who control the northern part of the country. The Mission was active in providing security on both sides of the Zone of Confidence, particularly in Bouaké in the north, as well as protection for some Government ministers.

Arrival of the Bangladesh Battalion in Yamoussoukro
Arrival of the Bangladesh Battalion in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, 19 May 2004, UNOCI Photo by Kadidia Ledron

In 2004, despite some encouraging signs, the peace process encountered considerable difficulties. In January, the Forces Nouvelles Ministers returned to the Government of National Reconciliation and participated in subsequent meetings of the Council of Ministers, which started considering some of the major legal reforms envisaged under the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement. However, the failure of the Government and the legislature to pass fundamental legal reforms soured relations between the Government and the Forces Nouvelles.

In an effort to invigorate the stalled reforms, the two sides engaged in negotiations under the mediation of Secretary- General Kofi Annan and ECOWAS. The talks resulted in the Accra III Agreement of 30 July, which called for changes in the laws on citizenship and eligibility for the Presidency as well as setting specific deadlines for political reforms and disarmament.

But despite efforts by all concerned to get political reforms enacted and disarmament started, little was achieved. As a consequence, disarmament, which was scheduled to start on 15 October, did not take place. On 12 October, President Laurent Gbagbo announced that any amendment to the Constitution would require holding a referendum and that he would submit a draft text to the National Assembly as soon as disarmament commenced. The Forces Nouvelles argued that they could not disarm without political reforms.

With no progress in passing essential legislative and constitutional reforms as stipulated under the Accra III Accord and no sign that the rebels would disarm, the Government launched air strikes against the Forces Nouvelles strongholds in Bouaké on 4 November, in a major breach of the 18- month ceasefire. At the same time, opposition political parties and newspaper premises, as well as the offices of the National Commission for DDR, were ransacked. Two days later, Government fighter planes also attacked a French military base in the same town, which left nine French soldiers dead. In retaliation, Licorne troops destroyed almost the entire airforce of Côte d’Ivoire.

The attack by Licorne forces sparked widespread anti- French demonstrations by pro-government militants on the streets of Abidjan. Some local media exacerbated the situation by airing hate messages against foreigners. Dozens of people were killed and more than 9,000 French and other foreign nationals left Côte d’Ivoire.

UNOCI FM radio station in Abidjan kicks off a campaign to bring impartial news and messages of peace to Côte d'Ivoire
UNOCI FM radio station in Abidjan kicks off a campaign to bring impartial news and messages of peace to Côte d'Ivoire, 9 August 2004, UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe

All through the November crisis, UNOCI’s efforts were devoted to maintaining peace along the Zone of Confidence and protecting civilians threatened by violence. It provided shelter to those who were fleeing from rioters and looters and assisted in evacuating foreign nationals. The Mission also intensified its monitoring and analysis of daily media and launched a public information campaign to counter disinformation and hate media aimed at inciting violence and derailing the peace and reconciliation process. The Mission’s radio station, UNOCI FM, played a key role in this campaign.

The African Union (AU) sought to get the two sides to respect the ceasefire and commit themselves to the Linas- Marcoussis and the Accra III agreements. South African President Thabo Mbeki headed an African Union mission to Côte d’Ivoire aimed at bringing back the Ivorian parties to the negotiating table. On 14 November, at an emergency one-day mini summit held in Abuja, Nigeria, under the auspices of the AU, West African leaders urged both sides to abide by the ceasefire agreements. They also supported the UN Security Council resolution to impose an immediate arms embargo.

On 15 November, the Council imposed with immediate effect a 13-month arms embargo and warned that travel bans and fund freezes would follow.

However, in December, the Council held back the threat of sanctions to give President Mbeki’s mediation efforts a chance to work. After five days of separate talks in Côte d’Ivoire with the South African leader, both sides recommitted themselves to the Accra III and Linas-Marcossis peace agreements. The Security Council welcomed the commitments made by the Ivorian parties, demanded that the parties fully comply with the commitments, and emphasized that it would monitor with vigilance their full implementation.

The fighting in November was a serious setback to the Ivorian peace process. It eroded the confidence of both parties in each other and cast doubt on the chances for an immediate disarmament programme. The hope is that current peace initiatives by President Mbeki on behalf of the African Union, reinforced by the threat of more UN sanctions against individuals who are seen to be obstructing the peace process, will produce positive results.


MINUSTAH: Overcoming growing pains

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established on 1 June 2004 by the Security Council to maintain a secure and stable environment, assist the political process and monitor the human rights situation. The Mission is also expected to assist Haiti's Transitional Government in restructuring and reforming the Haitian National Police as well as in disarming all armed groups.

Haiti's current political crisis emerged in 2000 when former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party claimed victory in a hotly disputed presidential and parliamentary election. A united opposition movement challenged the results, refused to work with the new government, and subsequently called for the President's resignation. In February 2004, facing a mounting revolt by former military officers and rebels, President Aristide resigned under international pressure. Following Aristide's departure, a United States-led multinational force was deployed in Haiti to restore order. MINUSTAH, the UN's fifth peace operation in the island nation that has been wracked by decades of poverty and unrest, took over these responsibilities in June.

Meanwhile, the Transitional Government led by Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, who assumed office in March, started the task of restoring order and the rule of law with MINUSTAH's assistance. The Mission is to help guide the country's transitional period leading up to elections for a new Government at the earliest possible date.

Barely three months after its inception, MINUSTAH had to confront a devastating humanitarian crisis: more than 3,000 people lost their lives, and some 400,000 people were made homeless when deadly floods caused by hurricane Ivan and tropical storm Jeanne submerged much of Haiti's north, including more than 80 per cent of the city of Gonaïves.The catastrophe was worsened by looting and the violent protests against looters that ensued. MINUSTAH - still in the early stages of deployment - was immediately confronted with a political and humanitarian crisis in one of the poorest countries in the world, while at the same time trying to build up its troop strength. The challenges were made more difficult by already massive unemployment in the country, a high illiteracy rate and a shattered infrastructure. To help the humanitarian aid agencies meet the needs of flood victims, MINUSTAH, despite its limited manpower, provided security for distribution points and warehouses and for humanitarian convoys.

Humanitarian aid is unloaded from a United Nations helicopter after tropical storm Jeanne devastates Haiti
Humanitarian aid is unloaded from a United Nations helicopter after tropical storm Jeanne devastates Haiti, Gonaives, Haiti, 21 September 2004, MINUSTAH Photo by Sophia Paris

By the end of the year, MINUSTAH had on the ground some 6,000 of its authorized 6,700 troops and about 1,400 of its 1,622 authorized Civilian Police (CIVPOL), representing some 40 countries. The military force included a composite contingent of about 360 troops from Spain and Morocco. Haiti's regional neighbours have also taken a big interest in the mission, with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General hailing from Chile, the Force Commander from Brazil, the Police Commissioner from Canada and peacekeepers from eight Latin American countries.

With the national army dissolved years ago under President Aristide, the main focus of CIVPOL has been to train and restructure the Haitian National Police (HNP) so it can carry out law and order duties effectively. MINUSTAH has also been working with the Transitional Government to eliminate corruption through improved working conditions and better wages for police personnel. CIVPOL and MINUSTAH engineers from both the military and the civilian side started rebuilding police stations that were destroyed during or after the turmoil of early 2004, and supplying them with computers, desks and chairs.

An ongoing challenge has been the presence of the disbanded but still existing ex-FADH (Forces Armées d'Haiti) units which have posed a threat to efforts to stabilize the country. Their relationship with the Haitian National Police has varied from friendly co-existence, and even joint patrolling, to open hostilities and hatred.

The Mission has been helping the Haitian police prepare a training programme in accordance with international policing and human rights standards. It developed a "train-thetrainers" course for 54 local police instructors, conducted at the HNP Academy in Port-au-Prince. The Mission also put together a special training team to assess the needs of HNP officers in the regions and develop a training plan for them.

CIVPOL has no policing authority, but nevertheless has been needed to assist the HNP to patrol the streets and to develop "community policing". UN CIVPOL has been working with orphanages and prisons to tackle human rights abuses in different parts of the country. Within the prison system, CIVPOL has been helping to rebuild cells and improve conditions, separate juvenile delinquents from adult offenders and provide food to inmates. Efforts have also been under way to encourage ex-FADHs to disarm in exchange for the pensions they lost, as disarming the rival armed groups or gangs will be the main priority for MINUSTAH in 2005. Peacekeepers and Haitian police officers have also carried out joint raids against the armed groups.

CIVPOL's need to focus mainly on providing operational support to the HNP, due to the increased security threats, has limited its capacity to address police development and training needs.

As a multidimensional peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH's mandate also includes paying attention to gender issues and child protection and raising awareness among the population on the dangers of HIV/AIDS. The Office of the Advisor on HIV/AIDS has also been training and sensitizing MINUSTAH's staff and military contingents, and working towards integrating HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention into the general lives of the population. The Office distributes educational materials, promotes the use and distribution of condoms and provides voluntary testing. By the end of 2004, HIV/AIDS advisors had trained the majority of the CIVPOL, military and civilian staff of the Mission. The Mission's Gender Advisor has focused on promoting the role of women in civil society, for example, by using gender segregated voter registration information to encourage women to run for office and vote in the next elections.

Brazilian peacekeepers guarding a church in Bel-Aire, which opened for the first time in three months
Brazilian peacekeepers guarding a church in Bel-Aire, which opened for the first time in three months, Haiti, 7 November 2004, MINUSTAH Photo by Sophia Paris

In mobilizing resources to promote children's welfare, the Child Protection Unit has had to take into account the deeprooted causes of Haiti's crisis, and help to find remedies to the lack of access to primary education, food, potable water and health services for children. Up to 10 percent of the country's children, the so called Restavecs, live in deplorable conditions, working mostly as unpaid household servants. Child trafficking is rampant, and minors have been lured into armed groups. HIV/AIDS infection among street children has been growing alarmingly.Added to this,Haiti's juvenile justice system is weak, fragmented, under-funded and in need of a major overhaul.

In the coming year, the mission's Child Protection Unit intends to train and raise awareness of the plight of these children and to promote and monitor children's rights by involving peacekeepers, both military and civilian, in regional child protection committees. The unit will also employ some of the contingents' logistics to rehabilitate schools, houses and juvenile courts.

Both natural and man-made disasters posed significant challenges to the Mission's start-up in 2004. Yet MINUSTAH has made rapid progress in a short period of time.


UNAMIS: Sudan - A new mission on the horizon

Following the signing of peace protocols between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the UN Security Council established the United Nations Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) on 11June 2004 to promote peacemaking efforts and to prepare the groundwork for an eventual peace support operation to be set up as soon as a final peace agreement would be signed.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, eventually signed on 9 January 2005 by the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A, marked the end of a civil war that first erupted in 1983, after the breakdown of the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement. The ensuing 21-year conflict devastated a significant part of Africa’s largest country and deprived it of stability and economic development. The Sudanese people have paid a terrible price: more than 2 million people have died; 4 million have been uprooted and some 600,000 have sought shelter beyond Sudan’s borders as refugees. The nature and size of the country’s problems have frequently overflowed into neighbouring countries and brought misery and insecurity to the region.

Prior to the set up of the advance mission, a small group of UN technical experts had been in the Sudan planning the requirements for logistics, locating suitable premises and facilities, and identifying appropriate areas for headquarters and camps for a future, large peace operation. During the year, while peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya, were ongoing, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) convened a working group to conduct mission planning. A UN Headquarters inter-agency task force composed of all parts of the UN system involved with Sudan met weekly to prepare for the future peace, which promised to pose extremely complex challenges in its realization.

However, when a final peace agreement between the Government and SPLM/A appeared within reach, yet another crisis erupted in the western province of Darfur. Back in February 2003, two Darfurian rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, had taken up arms against the central government, claiming neglect and marginalization in the country’s political and economic life. By early 2004, the rebels were locked in fierce fighting against the Janjaweed, a militia group supported by the Government. The Janjaweed were accused of committing atrocities against civilians, including killings, rape and the destruction of hundreds of villages.

The killings and displacement of thousands of people in Darfur caused outrage around the world. In response, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan traveled to Khartoum in July where he signed an agreement with the Government under which it committed to disarm the Janjaweed militias. The Government also agreed to apprehend and bring to justice Janjaweed leaders and their associates who have incited and carried out atrocities and other human rights and international humanitarian law violations. The Security Council threatened to impose sanctions and requested the Secretary-General to set up a Commission of Inquiry to determine whether genocide had taken place in Darfur. Its report was to be issued in early 2005.

As a result of international pressure, in mid-2004 the Government of Sudan agreed to give international humanitarian agencies greater access to camps for displaced persons and to take stronger measures to protect civilians against violence. The UN stepped up the delivery of humanitarian relief to displaced populations and refugees in neighbouring Chad.

Meanwhile, UNAMIS intensified its efforts to engage the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups in the south and in Darfur to help implement their ceasefire and other agreements to ensure the protection and unhindered provision of humanitarian assistance to the affected population. In response to massive human rights abuses reported throughout the country, the UN has deployed growing numbers of human rights observers. In addition, UNAMIS continued to submit monthly reports to the Security Council on Sudan’s compliance with the Council’s decisions and the situation in the country.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan meets with community leaders at the Zam Zam Internally Displaced Persons Camp, in the Darfur region of Sudan
Secretary-General Kofi Annan meets with community leaders at the Zam Zam Internally Displaced Persons Camp, in the Darfur region of Sudan, 1 July 2004, UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe

UNAMIS has also provided political and logistical assistance to the African Union (AU) which deployed ceasefire monitors in Darfur, with a mandate expanded to include protection of humanitarian operations and civilians under imminent threat. UNAMIS established for that purpose a liaison office with the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Mission was also assisting the North-South talks in Kenya led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the has been supporting AU-led Darfur talks in Abuja, Nigeria, with mediation resource personnel.

The AU expected to have about 3,320 personnel in Darfur by the end of 2004, including 2,341 military personnel, among them 450 observers, and up to 815 civilian police, as well as the appropriate civilian personnel. Sudan’s sheer size — comparable to that of Western Europe — and total lack of infrastructure in the south will require the United Nations to work in the most demanding of circumstances. UNAMIS established an office in Al Fashir, Northern Darfur State, to liaise with the African Union Ceasefire Commission and at the year’s end was in the process of establishing two other offices in Nyala and Al Geneina, the capitals of South and West Darfur States.

At the end of 2004, as world attention was focused on events in Darfur and the AU-supported negotiations for a ceasefire between the Government and Darfur rebel groups, UNAMIS continued to press the Government and the SPLM/A to sign a comprehensive agreement to end the violence in the south. This would then pave the way for full deployment of the UN mission in support of a comprehensive peace process for the whole country. Planning in DPKO was well underway for an operation which could last six and a half years, the duration of the transition period called for by the proposed peace agreement.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement is extremely complex, combining agreements on ceasefire and security arrangements, wealth and power-sharing and future administration for three areas in the centre of the country. It is premised on a vision of promoting stability, rehabilitation and development in all regions of Sudan. At the end of a six-and-one-half year transition period, the people of Sudan will hold a referendum on whether to remain united or divide into entities based on the principle of self-determination.

DPKO has planned for a monitoring and observation operation in the Sudan of 10,000 to 12,000 personnel, which would include political and civil affairs functions; monitoring ceasefire and security agreements; monitoring, coordinating and possibly providing assistance with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants; facilitating development and humanitarian activities; promoting peace and rule of law institutions; ensuring human rights and child protection; coordinating mine action activities; and providing electoral assistance and public information. The Security Council was expected to authorize a multidimensional operation under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, meaning the mission will not be responsible for security (which is to be provided by the parties), nor for enforcing the parties’ commitments.

In welcoming the Sudan Peace Agreement, Secretary- General Kofi Annan noted that “The real challenge now is for all the parties to show the same commitment, determination and courage in fully implementing the Agreement, which will entail equally daunting challenges over a very long period.”

He also expressed hope that the parties in Darfur would be inspired to pursue a wide-ranging political solution to their conflict without any further delay as he said “Peace in Sudan is indivisible.”

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