SECRETARY-GENERAL EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER STALEMATE IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE AS WEST AFRICAN OFFICIALS BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL

24 November 2003
SC/7937

SECRETARY-GENERAL EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER STALEMATE IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE AS WEST AFRICAN OFFICIALS BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL

24/11/2003
Press ReleaseSC/7937

Security Council

4873rd Meeting (PM)

SECRETARY-GENERAL EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER STALEMATE IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE

AS WEST AFRICAN OFFICIALS BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL

Militias Must be Disbanded, Disarmed;

Country’s De Facto Partition Must End, He Says

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, addressing the Security Council this afternoon, said he was deeply concerned over the political stalemate in Côte d’Ivoire as the Council heard briefings by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 

He said the stalemate had been created by the withdrawal from Côte d’Ivoire’s Government of National Reconciliation of the Forces Nouvelles, and warned that unless urgent steps were taken to resolve the impasse, the tenuous security situation in the country could deteriorate further. 

Urging the Forces Nouvelles to rejoin the Government of National Reconciliation without delay, he said that all militias must begin to disband immediately and that armed groups must be cantoned and disarmed as soon as possible.  In addition, the de facto partition of Côte d’Ivoire must end at once and the National Assembly must adopt, as soon as possible, the reforms proposed in the Government’s work programme. 

He expressed his intention to send an assessment mission to Côte d’Ivoire to review the situation on the ground in order to prepare recommendations for the Council, including the possible reinforcement of the United Nations presence in the country.

Nana Akufo-Addo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana and Chairman of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, recalled that the regional organization had convened a meeting in Accra on 11 November, where the heads of States of seven member States had concluded that the presence of a robust peacekeeping force would contribute greatly to the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  As ECOWAS did not have the means to raise such a force, however, the Security Council was requested to consider the possibility of establishing a United Nations peacekeeping force in Côte d’Ivoire.  There was virtual unanimity among the principal actors in the Ivorian crisis about the need for such a step and the region was ready to contribute to such a force.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, noted that due to the crisis, Côte d’Ivoire’s economic and social situation, as well as that of its neighbours, continued to deteriorate, including falling gross domestic product in many neighbouring countries.  Moreover, despite considerable efforts by ECOWAS, there were signs that armed groups were crossing beyond the Ivorian borders.  A comprehensive regional approach to the conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia was therefore needed.

The meeting began at 4:35 p.m. and adjourned at 5:05 p.m., when the Council continued to consider the Côte d’Ivoire situation in private.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and to hear briefings by representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  After the briefings, the Council was expected to take up the matter in closed consultations.

The Council took up the situation in Côte d'Ivoire following targeted attacks by rebels on 18 and 19 September in Abidjan, Bouaké and Korhogo.  The Government of Côte d'Ivoire sought to end the crisis through negotiations under the auspices of ECOWAS and with the active participation of the United Nations.  On 17 October, a ceasefire was signed by the Government and three rebel groups, supervised by troops from France.  In December, however, fighting intensified.

On 20 December 2002, in a presidential statement, the Council expressed its full support for the deployment of an Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) force before 31 December, as called for in the final communiqué adopted on 18 December at the extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in Dakar, Senegal.

On 4 February this year, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1464 (2003), calling for the immediate implementation of the peace agreement signed by the Côte d’Ivoire political forces in Linas-Marcoussis, France, from 15 to 23 January, which provided for the establishment of a Government of National Reconciliation.  The Council authorized, for a period of six months, the deployment of ECOWAS forces –- called ECOFORCE -- together with French troops.  That mandate was extended for another six months by resolution 1498 (2002) of 4 August.

On 13 May, the Council, unanimously adopting resolution 1479 (2003), established the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI) for an initial period of six months.  That Mission, consisting of a military liaison group co-located with the field headquarters of the French, ECOWAS, government and rebel forces, was charged with advising the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on military matters; monitoring the military situation, including the security of Liberian refugees; helping build confidence among the armed groups; and providing input on forward planning, disengagement, disarmament and demobilization.

Statement by Secretary-General

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he was deeply concerned by the current political stalemete created by the withdrawal of the Forces Nouvelles from the Government of National Reconciliation on 23 September.  Unless urgent steps were taken to resolve that impasse, the tenuous security situation in Côte d’Ivoire could deteriorate further.  There were already signs that the situation in some parts of the northern provinces controlled by the Forces Nouvelles was degenerating into lawlessness.

During the summit of seven ECOWAS leaders in Accra, President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Seydou Diarra had undertaken to work closely together, he said.  It was indeed essential that the Government be able to carry out the tasks assigned to it under the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement with the necessary means and authority.  All parties must demonstrate genuine political will to honour their commitments and implement the Agreement in good faith.  Implementation of its key provisions must begin without delay.

Urging the Forces Nouvelles to rejoin the Government of National Reconciliation without delay, he said all militias must begin to disband immediately and the armed groups must be cantoned and disarmed as soon as possible.  The de facto partition of the country must end at once and the National Assembly must adopt, as soon as possible, the reforms proposed in the Government’s work programme.

He said he intended to send an assessment mission to Côte d'Ivoire to review the situation on the ground, in order to prepare recommendations for the Council, including possible reinforcement of the United Nations presence in the country.  He appealed to members of the Council and to the international community as a whole to remain engaged in Côte d’Ivoire and to provide the necessary support to enable the ECOWAS force to continue its useful work in that country.

For the full text of the Secretary-General’s statement, see Press Release SG/SM/9032.

Briefings

NANA AKUFO-ADDO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana and Chairman of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, said significant progress had been made towards the restoration of peace in Côte d'Ivoire, including:  the joint declaration of a cessation of hostilities by the National Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire and the Forces Nouvelles and the establishment of a Joint Reunification Committee; formation of a Government of National Reconciliation; promulgation of an amnesty law; progressive re-establishment of state authority in several parts of the country; elaboration of draft laws concerning various issues addressed by the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement; and establishment of a national committee for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

However, he noted, despite the progress made, the peace process had faced difficulties such as:  disagreement over appointments of senior government officials; safety concerns of members of the Government of National Reconciliation; provocative demonstrations and inflammatory statements by various parties; delays in the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process; continued de facto partitioning of the country; and the non-delegation to the consensually chosen Prime Minister of the required executive prerogatives for the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  Those difficulties had resulted in the suspension by the Forces Nouvelles of their participation in the Government of National Reconciliation, the Council of Ministers and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.

He said ECOWAS had convened a meeting in Accra on 11 November, where the heads of State of seven member States had stressed the need to guarantee the security of the members of the Government of National Reconciliation.  They had also stressed the responsibility of the Ivorian political class for media excesses and for contributing to the reinforcement of the national reconciliation process and the need for close relations among West African States to enhance the region’s security.

The heads of State had concluded that the presence of a robust peacekeeping force would contribute greatly to the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, he said.  As ECOWAS did not have the means to raise such a force, it had become necessary for the United Nations to consider the transformation of the ECOWAS force (ECOMICI) into a full-fledged peacekeeping force.  Three days after the meeting, the Ivorian Prime Minister, had met Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore in that country’s capital.  That process of rapprochement had to be warmly welcomed and encouraged, and the imminent return of the Forces Nouvelles to full participation in the Government of National Reconciliation had been anticipated.

He reiterated that insecurity in Côte d'Ivoire remained the real threat to the peace process.  The Security Council was requested to consider the possibility of establishing a United Nations peacekeeping force in Côte d'Ivoire and transforming ECOMICI as part of that peacekeeping force.  There was virtual unanimity among the principal actors in the Ivorian crisis about the need for such a step.  The region was ready to contribute to that peacekeeping force.

MOHAMED IBN CHAMBAS, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, said that due to the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, the economic and social situation of the country and its neighbours continued to deteriorate, with the gross domestic product of many neighbouring countries falling as trade among them remained disrupted.  Côte d’Ivoire itself represented 13 per cent of West Africa’s gross domestic product and dominated regional trade.  It also hosted a substantial number of West African workers and traders.

In that light, he said, the restoration of peace and stability to Côte d’Ivoire was urgent.  However, despite considerable efforts by ECOWAS, there were signs that the situation was deteriorating, with armed groups crossing beyond the Ivorian borders.  A comprehensive regional approach to the conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia was therefore needed.

Political action, he continued, must be backed by the presence of a robust peacekeeping force, in order to create an enabling environment for dialogue, national reconciliation and the speedy and full implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  The ECOWAS would, in addition, appreciate any initiatives that the Council took in order to revive the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire.

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For information media. Not an official record.