|MAJOR PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS|
Côte d’Ivoire: Peace efforts move on despite a succession of delays
The UN and its partners in the international community continued efforts to move Côte d’Ivoire’s peace process forward, encourage the parties to the conflict to reach a negotiated agreement, avoid violence and end the three-yearold conflict in the West African nation.
A May 2003 ceasefire monitored by the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French Licorne forces, continued to hold, with no major violations of the UN-imposed arms embargo. However, the target dates by which combatants were to be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into society were not met, nor was the deadline for a presidential election, which constitutionally, should have been held by 30 October 2005. The country remained divided. The Forces Nouvelles former rebel movement retained control over the north of the country, while the south remained under governmental control. UN peacekeepers and French forces maintained peace along the Zone of Confidence separating the two sides.
In June, the Security Council authorized an increase in UNOCI’s military strength by 850 troops, bringing the Mission’s military strength to just over 7,000. It also raised the number of UN police officers to 725.
A sign of hope emerged in April when the Ivorian parties, at a meeting convened by South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, the African Union mediator, signed the Pretoria Agreement, which addressed a number of contentious issues on elections and disarmament. Under the accord, the two sides agreed not to veto the presidential candidates put forward by the signatories of the Linas-Marcoussis Accord, of January 2003. The Pretoria Agreement also included a timetable to disarm the former rebels and dismantle pro-government militias.
The Pretoria Agreement breathed new momentum into the peace process, and both former rebel and government forces withdrew heavy weapons from the frontline on each side of the Zone of Confidence. However, the momentum was, short-lived. In June, the Forces Nouvelles announced that it would not disarm until pro-government militias laid down their weapons, thus delaying the peace process. A new timetable for disarmament was set when the two sides met again in Pretoria in June and approved an agreement urging international sanctions against anyone obstructing peace. However, once again the parties failed to implement the provisions of the Pretoria Agreement.
By September, it had become clear that elections could not be held by the end of October 2005 as scheduled. Combatants had not disarmed; the registration of voters had been held up and the country was still divided. As the deadline approached, new disagreements emerged over presidential decrees and the work and composition of the Independent Electoral Commission.
With a missed electoral deadline and the threat of a constitutional vacuum looming, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the AU agreed to extend President Laurent Gbagbo’s term of office for a year. Significant powers would be entrusted to a Prime Minister – acceptable to all parties – who would oversee a power-sharing government and the transition to fresh elections by October 2006. ECOWAS and the AU also created two new bodies, the International Working Group and a Mediation Group to oversee the peace process, with both bodies co-chaired by the UN Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire. The Security Council endorsed these decisions in October.
The International Working Group was established to evaluate and monitor the peace process and to ensure that all Ivorian parties respect their commitments. The group also was to act as a guarantor and impartial arbitrator of the peace and reconciliation process leading to elections before 31 October 2006. In early December, the Chairperson of the African Union, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria; the Chairperson of ECOWAS, President Mamadou Tandja of Niger; and the African Union Mediator, President Mbeki brokered the appointment of Charles Konan Banny, the governor of the Central Bank for West African States, as the new Prime Minister.
The Ivorian crisis has affected the population in many ways: thousands lost their jobs, poverty deepened, political violence spread, and social cohesion has been disrupted. UNOCI documented human rights abuses by armed individuals, groups and forces throughout the country.
Continuing ethnic clashes limited UNOCI’s capacity to help. Violence in government-controlled areas in the villages of Guitrozon and Petit Duékoué led to restrictions on UNOCI’s freedom of movement. Pro-government supporters barred UN peacekeepers and Licorne forces from entering some villages and towns, thus hampering their operations. In July the obstructions spread to the south after unidentified assailants attacked the towns of Agboville and Anyama, sparking fears that the peace process might unravel. The Forces Nouvelles also restricted the movement of peacekeepers in areas under its control.
In the latter months of 2005, a number of senior UN officials visited Côte d’Ivoire, each time highlighting the need to resolve the crisis. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, visited in July and called for an end to the reign of terror, fuelled by impunity, by both sides. During her visit, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Louis Frechette, raised awareness of sexual exploitation and abuse, while the chairman of the UN Sanctions Committee on Côte d’Ivoire, Adamantios Vassilakis, warned leaders that sanctions would be imposed against anyone obstructing the peace process. The Special Adviser of the Secretary-General for the Prevention of Genocide Juan Mendes, also visited Côte d’Ivoire and expressed concern that ongoing tensions could lead to further serious human rights violations.
Despite setbacks in the Ivorian peace process in 2005, optimism remained that Côte d’Ivoire’s new roadmap – drawn up by the International Working Group– would move the country out of the current impasse of no-war-no-peace and result in the disarmament of combatants, dismantlement of militias, restoration of State authority throughout the country, and, ultimately, to the holding of national elections by October 2006.
Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.
© United Nations 2006