DEADLINE FOR CÔTE D’IVOIRE ELECTIONS UNATTAINABLE, AFRICAN UNION PRESIDENCY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL, AS REGIONAL BODY PROPOSES 12-MONTH POSTPONEMENT

13 October 2005
SC/8522

DEADLINE FOR CÔTE D’IVOIRE ELECTIONS UNATTAINABLE, AFRICAN UNION PRESIDENCY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL, AS REGIONAL BODY PROPOSES 12-MONTH POSTPONEMENT

13/10/2005
Security Council
SC/8522
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5278th Meeting (PM)

DEADLINE FOR CÔTE D’IVOIRE ELECTIONS UNATTAINABLE, AFRICAN UNION PRESIDENCY

TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL, AS REGIONAL BODY PROPOSES 12-MONTH POSTPONEMENT

Strengthening of United Nations Mission Requested

As Top United Nations, Regional Officials Detail Practical Difficulties

Notwithstanding progress made, it had become clear that the transition period in Côte d’Ivoire, expected to end on 30 October with the holding of election, was not attainable, Oluyemi Adeniji, Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, told the Security Council this afternoon in explanation of the African Union’s recommendation to postpone the Ivorian elections for 12 months.

Briefing the Council on the situation, the Minister, whose country holds the African Union presidency, said Côte d’Ivoire had been on the Council’s agenda for two years.  It had also been of the highest preoccupation for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and the West African region, the member States of which, by proximity, economic and deep cultural links, were very vulnerable to the effects of developments in Côte d’Ivoire.  That country was witnessing one of the cyclical periods of anxiety that were made potentially explosive by the impossibility of meeting the deadlines for the transition phases envisaged in the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.

He said that after Summit meetings of the African Union Peace and Security Council and ECOWAS, a decision had been submitted to the Security Council, an important aspect of which was a request to the United Nations Security Council to consider a substantial increase in the strength of United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).  That request was particularly germane in a period envisaged to witness increased activities linked to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the disbanding and disarmament of militias and, not least, the conduct of elections.  UNOCI’s current authorized troop level of 7,090 was far too low to meet the expected challenges and to achieve credible disarmament.

Said Djinnit, the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, said that the Peace and Security Council had agreed that arrangements agreed upon in the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement would continue for 12 months from 31 October 2005.  President Laurent Gbagbo would remain Head of State during that period; a new Prime Minister acceptable to all Ivorian parties that were signatories to the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement would be appointed; and the Ivorian parties would be invited to a Forum for National Dialogue in Yamoussoukro.  That Forum, to be co-chaired by Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, would be open to civil society, including traditional leaders and the private sector.

Regarding international support for the peace process, the Peace and Security Council had decided to reaffirm President Mbeki as the African Union Mediator, and to establish an international working group to be chaired by the Nigerian Foreign Minister.  The Peace and Security Council had requested the Security Council to provide UNOCI with all necessary means to enable it to discharge its mandate, and to consider substantially increasing its strength.  In addition, it had decided to send a high-level delegation to Côte d’Ivoire to meet with President Gbagbo and other Ivorian parties with respect to implementing its decision.

Pierre Schori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, said Ivorian leaders had yet to bury their deep-rooted mutual distrust and suspicion, and that several major challenges stood in the way of sustainable peace and stability.  According to UNOCI’s latest human rights report, numerous human rights violations were being committed with increasing frequency by the Government-controlled Defence and Security Forces, military elements of the Forces nouvelles, armed and unarmed militias associated with either side of the Ivorian conflict, as well as criminals.  The perpetrators had so far enjoyed almost total impunity, and UNOCI’s efforts to restore and maintain stability had been severely hindered by recurrent obstruction of the impartial forces’ freedom of movement and operation.

Antonio Monteiro, the Secretary-General’s High Representative for the elections in Côte d’Ivoire, said that after an exploratory mission to that country, he had observed an absence of any real progress in applying the agreements reached, with inevitable delays in implementing the electoral timetable.  That had cast doubt on the possibility of having a credible and presidential ballot on 30 October.  The main objective for the new Independent Electoral Council was to define a road map, including precise benchmarks that must be adhered to in good faith.  Of all the questions to be discussed in that Council, the most delicate was about the identification and criteria for voter eligibility.  The 12-month period recommended by the Peace and Security Council was largely sufficient to allow for the preparation and holding of free, fair and transparent elections.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire said that the decisions of the African Union Summit supported the Ivorian Government’s main positions as reflected in the Constitution.  The main reason that elections could not be held was that the rebels were still under arms and the country was divided.  Arrangements proposed by the African Union would make it possible to get the peace process going again.  The Security Council should endorse the African Union’s decisions and discussions on the Constitution should be completed so that all parties could make preparations to hold free and fair elections.

Today’s meeting, which started at 3:30 p.m., adjourned at 4:25 p.m.

Background

As it considered the situation in the Côte d’Ivoire today, the Security Council had before it the sixth progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in C ôte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which states that the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement and the peace process overall have made little progress, despite the commendable mediation efforts of South African President Thabo Mbeki, supported by the United Nations.

According to the report (document S/2005/604), the African Union Mediation considers that all obstacles to implementation of the peace agreements have been removed and that President Laurent Gbagbo is committed to moving forward.  However, the opposition Forces nouvelles have not followed through on their commitments.  The Mediation is not advising the imposition of sanctions targeting individuals, but rather “actions against those obstructing the implementation of agreements they have signed”.

“Ivorian leaders, like many others before them, must seek to overcome the continuing legacy of mistrust and engage in a genuine sustained dialogue”, the Secretary-General says.  The opposition has expressed strong doubts about the impartiality of the Mediation, disagreeing with its opinion that President Gbagbo has met his commitments, and has declared that it will be impossible to hold elections on 30 October as planned.  “Once again, therefore, Côte d’Ivoire finds itself at a crossroads, with daunting challenges lying ahead”, he says.

Without the constitutionally required October elections, the Secretary-General calls for urgent attention to the period after that, along with the preparation for elections acceptable to all.  For that to occur, the parties will need to agree on a time frame for the electoral process.  The reconstituted Independent Electoral Commission must be established without further delay and urgent steps taken to dismantle and disarm the militia, while continuing preparations for the pre-cantonment of Forces nouvelles combatants.  “The time has come for the Ivorian parties to clearly assume their respective responsibility”, the Secretary-General says, adding that the Council may wish to consider targeted sanctions against those who obstruct key provisions of the Pretoria Agreement.

The report states that on the margins of the 2005 World Summit in New York, the African Union entrusted the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with the task of overcoming the impasse in Côte d’Ivoire.  In the meantime, the Secretary-General urges all Ivorian parities to exercise the utmost restraint and cooperate fully with all key stakeholders.  International parties are urged to remain engaged and support the peace process, humanitarian needs, and long-term development.

Deeply concerned that the Government and the Forces nouvelles have shown little determination to bring human rights abusers to justice, the Secretary-General urges the Government to complete investigations into the events of Duekoue [site of an ethnic massacre] and Anyama and Agboville [where armed groups attacked police stations] and bring the perpetrators to justice.  He also calls on the Council to consider, as a matter of urgency, the report of the international commission on serious violations of human rights in the country.

Statements

OLUYEMI ADENIJI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria and Chairman of the African Union Executive Council, said the issue of Côte d’Ivoire had been on the Council’s agenda for two years.  It had also been of the highest preoccupation to ECOWAS and the African Union, as well as to the West African region, whose member States, by proximity, economic and deep cultural links, were very vulnerable to effects of developments in Côte d’Ivoire.  That country was witnessing one of the cyclical periods of anxiety that were made potentially explosive by the impossibility of meeting deadlines for the phases of transition envisaged in the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.

Paying tribute to President Mbeki of South Africa, who had devoted commendable efforts and remarkable resources to the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire, he said that notwithstanding the progress made, it had become clear that the transition period expected to end with the holding of elections on 30 October was unattainable.  It was, therefore, necessary to consider urgently how to manage post-30 October arrangements.  President Obasanjo of Nigeria, President of the African Union, had, therefore, convened a meeting of the regional body’s Peace and Security Council, at the level of Heads of State and Government, in New York on 14 September.

He said that after its deliberations, during which it had received a report from President Mbeki, the Peace and Security Council had expressed concern that the Ivorian parties did not demonstrate the necessary political will for the full implementation of the agreements reached on outstanding issues, particularly the dismantling and disarmament of the militias, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, and the creation of conditions for holding free, fair and transparent elections.  The Peace and Security Council had underlined the need to review the situation in Côte d’Ivoire before 30 October and requested ECOWAS to convene urgently at the Summit level to assess the situation, consider the matter and decide accordingly.

In view of the urgency of the issue, he said, an extraordinary summit of ECOWAS had been convened in Abuja, Nigeria, on 30 September, to consider the situation and the measures that would have to be put in place after 30 October.  That summit had made far-reaching recommendations which had been submitted to the Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa on 6 October.  The ECOWAS recommendations were the basis for the adoption of the decision that had been submitted to the Council for support.

He called attention to one important aspect of the decision:  the request that the Council consider a substantial increase of the strength of UNOCI, saying that it was particularly germane in a period envisaged to witness increased activities linked to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, disbanding of militias and their disarmament and, not least, the conduct of elections.  The current authorized troop level of 7,090 was far too low to meet the expected challenges and achieve a credible disarmament.  Hopefully, a Council resolution would be adopted quickly so that structures could be put in place for the post-30 October period and that the resolution would authorize a considerable increase in troop levels.  The clock was ticking and many steps should be taken on the ground before 30 October.  It was important that the Council demonstrate the same urgency as ECOWAS and the Peace and Security Council had done.

SAID DJINNIT, Commissioner, Peace and Security of the African Union, said the ECOWAS summit had met on 30 September and drawn up recommendations that were then considered by the African Union Peace and Security Council at its meeting of 6 October.  After its deliberations, the Peace and Security Council had agreed that arrangements agreed on in the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement would continue from 31 October 2005 for 12 months; President Gbagbo would remain Head of State during that period; a new Prime Minister, acceptable to all Ivorian signatories to the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, would be appointed, and the Government would be composed of personalities proposed by Ivorian parties to Linas-Marcoussis; and the Ivorian parties would be invited to a Forum for National Dialogue in Yamoussoukro, which would be open to civil society, including traditional leaders and the private sector, and co-chaired by Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki.

Regarding international support for the peace process, he said the Peace and Security Council had decided to reaffirm President Mbeki as African Union Mediator and establish an international working group to be chaired by the Nigerian Foreign Minister.  The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the Special Representative of the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS in Côte d’Ivoire, and the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Union Commission in Côte d’Ivoire would serve as the Secretariat. Day-to-day mediation would be carried out by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the High Representative of the United Nations for elections in Côte d’Ivoire, the Special Envoy of South Africa, the Special Representative of the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, and the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Union Commission in Côte d’Ivoire.

As for the United Nations role in the peace process, he said the Peace and Security Council had affirmed its support for UNOCI, and requested the Security Council to provide it with all necessary means to enable it to discharge its mandate, as well as to consider substantially increasing its strength.  It had also reaffirmed its support for individual measures in paragraphs 9 and 11 of Security Council resolution 1572 (2004), as well as subsequent resolutions relevant to commitments made by the Ivorian parties.  In addition, the Peace and Security Council had decided to send a high-level delegation to Côte d’Ivoire, comprising of Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki, to meet with President Gbagbo and other Ivorian parties with respect to implementing its decision.

He stressed the need for the Ivorian parties and the international community to address all outstanding issues, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the disarmament and dismantling of militias, and the creation of conditions for organizing free, fair and transparent elections.  The Security Council should convey a strong signal to the Ivorian parties of the determination and cohesion of the international community.  Further, the parties should comply strictly with their commitments and obligations, and the international community should show greater determination to exert the necessary pressure and sanctions against defaulting parties.

PIERRE SCHORI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, said that Ivorian leaders had yet to bury their deep-rooted mutual distrust and suspicion, and that several major challenges stood in the way of sustainable peace and stability.  There was too much anxiety and fear in the air and too many Kalashnikovs in the streets.  Rampant insecurity seemed to be the order of the day.  That had resulted from continued violations of human rights, threats to foreigners, intimidation of political opponents, repeated obstruction of the impartial forces’ freedom of movement, stalemate in dismantling the militias, and preparing for the election.

Quoting UNOCI’s latest human rights report, he noted that numerous violations were being committed with increasing frequency by the Government-controlled Defence and Security Forces (FDS), military elements of the Forces nouvelles, armed and unarmed militias associated with either side of the Ivorian conflict, as well as criminals.  The perpetrators had so far enjoyed almost total impunity, protected by military forces and associated militias; and human rights offenders apprehended by the impartial forces in the Zone of Confidence were generally released without further action by the authorities.  Sustained efforts by the international community to achieve lasting peace and promote national reconciliation would prove incomplete unless urgent and decisive action was taken to end impunity for serious human rights violations.  UNOCI’s efforts to restore and maintain stability had been severely hindered by recurrent obstruction of the impartial forces’ freedom of movement and operation, as well as the proliferation of militia groups, especially in view of their close association with political forces.

He said that preparations to disarm and demobilize combatants had progressed, with construction and rehabilitation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration sites complete in 70 per cent of Force nouvelles-controlled areas and 95 per cent of Government-controlled areas.  However, the process was still held hostage by the Force nouvelles’ demand that identification should first be resolved to allow them to regain their lost national identity.  To break that stalemate, UNOCI had proposed a step-by-step approach, starting with the pre-cantonment of combatants in Bouna and Bondoukou as a prelude to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the dismantling and disarmament of militias.  In parallel, all outstanding political issues, including identification, would be addressed.

As for the outcome of the Addis Ababa Summit of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, he said any post-30 October arrangement would need a realistic time-bound schedule to implement the road map set by the Pretoria Agreement and Declaration, with a clear indication of the sequence of events.  It would also need enhancement by the impartial forces and national authorities of security guarantees to facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, as well as freedom of movement and campaigning throughout the country.  The work of the proposed monitoring and oversight mechanisms should be linked explicitly to the application of targeted sanctions against those obstructing the peace process, inciting hatred and violence and abusing human rights.

In considering the African Union’s report on the Summit, he said, the Council should consider endorsing its conclusions in order to send a strong message on the need to preserve and reinforce the international community’s unity of purpose and action; and encouraging the African Union and all concerned parties urgently to convene the first meeting of the international working group aimed at defining a new timetable with key benchmarks for implementing the remaining provisions of the Pretoria Agreement.  In addition, the Prime Minister and Government should be in place as soon as possible to keep implementation on track; timely recommendations should be made on the role of the National Assembly, given that its mandate would end in December 2005; and Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki should be encouraged to take advantage of their forthcoming visit to Côte d’Ivoire to secure the commitment of all Ivorian leaders to implementing the Addis Ababa decision.

ANTONIO MONTEIRO, High Representative of the Secretary-General for the elections in Côte d’Ivoire, said the mandate for his Office envisioned the holding of free, fair and transparent election on 30 October.  However, an exploratory mission to Côte d’Ivoire from 8 to 18 August had revealed an absence of any real progress in applying the agreements, with inevitable delays in the implementation of the electoral timetable.  That had cast doubt on the possibility of holding a credible presidential ballot on 30 October.

He said his first task had been to try to remove the objections raised by the opposition to presidential decisions regarding the new Independent Electoral Commission and questions of identification and naturalization.  President Mbeki had been asked to intervene, after which a new decree had been issued on 29 August to confirm the Commission’s key role in clarifying questions regarding identification and nationality.  That same day, the Secretary-General of the Forces nouvelles had appointed six representatives to the Commission.

His second task had been to hasten the completion of the nomination of all members of the new Commission, he said, adding that he had always underlined to his interlocutors the necessity to commit truthfully to the electoral process.  Elections must be conducted by the Ivorians themselves, respecting the laws of the country.  After the composition of the Electoral Commission had been finalized, additional time was needed to allow for the application of all legal formalities.  The first meeting of the Commission would take place on 17 October.

He said he also would work closely with the Constitutional Council, whose powers included verification of the eligibility of candidates for the presidential and legislative elections, the resolution of disputes and the announcement of the final results of the presidential elections.  UNOCI’s Electoral Division was already deploying the expected 120 United Nations volunteers, who would serve as Electoral Advisers throughout Côte d’Ivoire.  The path was now open for the organization of elections and the main objective was now for the Electoral Commission to define a road map, including precise benchmarks that must be adhered to in good faith.

Of all the questions to be discussed in the Commission, the most delicate was about the identification and criteria for voter eligibility, he said.  Legislation should be as simple and clear as possible so that all workers could work in an objective manner.  Electoral work could only function in a secure environment with freedom of movement and mind.  That was the responsibility of the military forces that controlled the two parts of the country.  The 12-month period recommended by the African Union Peace and Security Council was largely sufficient to allow for the preparation and holding of free, fair and transparent elections.

PHILIPPE DJANGONE-BI ( Côte d’Ivoire) said the general tone of the Secretary-General’s report suggested that it had not sufficiently considered that his country had been at war for three years.  The northern and western parts were occupied, small arms and light weapons were circulating, people were frustrated and suffering, and the rebels kept delaying in laying down their arms.  The Ivorian Government wished to reiterate its commitment to ensuring the safety of goods and persons, and their right to freedom of movement.

As for the decisions of the African Union Summit, they supported the Government’s main positions, as reflected in the Ivorian Constitution, he said.  The main reason that elections could not be held was that the rebels were still under arms and the country was divided.  Arrangements proposed by the African Union would make it possible to get the peace process going again.  It had been blocked mainly by the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  The Security Council should endorse the decisions of the African Union, and discussions on the Constitution should be completed so that all parties could make preparations to hold free and fair elections.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.