|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6071st Meeting* (AM)
POPULATION IDENTIFICATION, DISARMAMENT, ELECTIONS WILL HAVE DECISIVE IMPACT
ON Côte d’Ivoire, UNITED NATIONS EXIT STRATEGY, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Special Representative Notes Two Recent ‘Milestones’: Decision to Postpone
Elections; Signing of Fourth Supplementary Accord to Ouagadougou Agreement
The current pressing issues of identification of the population, disarmament and the elections would have a decisive impact on the future of Côte d’Ivoire, as well as an eventual strategy for the exit of the United Nations operation there, the United Nations top official in that country told the Security Council this morning.
Briefing the Council, Choi Young-Jin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), referred to two milestone events in relation to those three crucial questions: a recent decision of the Permanent Consultative Framework of 10 November 2008; and the signing on 22 December of the fourth supplementary accord to the Ouagadougou Agreement, commonly known as “Ouaga IV”.
The Consultative Framework’s key decision in November was the postponement of the presidential elections, which had initially been scheduled for 30 November, and the announcement that a new date might be announced in connection with the progress made in the identification of the population, he continued. That decision was both comprehensible and intriguing. It was comprehensible in view of the fact that the issue of “Ivoriness” was not only one of the main socio-political problems of the past two decades, but also lay at the very heart of the Ivorian crisis. Definitive resolution of the issue of national identity would represent a strategic and historic step forward.
The decision of the Consultative Framework was also intriguing, because for the first time since the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement in March 2007, the Ivorian people and the international community had neither a date nor a period planned for the elections. Without that, the process would lose its dynamic, including the electoral timetable, logistical preparations, the financial plan and even assistance by the international community. The decision indicated the possibility of establishing a new elections timetable in January, and President Laurent Gbagbo had demanded that the Independent Electoral Commission set the new electoral period. Members of the Consultative Framework, Henri Konan Bedie and Lassane Dramane Ouattara, also believed that the timetable must be provided to the Ivorian people and the international community. Given that unanimous position, the Independent Electoral Commission must provide an electoral programme without delay, with precise stages.
Turning to the fourth supplementary agreement, he said that it contained two key points: the plan for the completion of disarmament two months before the elections; and restoration of the State authority in the north by 15 January, at the latest, which was now postponed to 2 February. The condition of completion of disarmament before the elections represented a key change from “Ouaga III”, which envisioned control of arms, and not their elimination, prior to elections. The restoration of State authority in the north, including the judiciary, would also be linked, among other things, to the settling of disputes over election lists. It was too soon to take stock of the impact of the agreement, but it could complicate the issue of the election timetable.
Referring to “the sense of frustration we all share” with regard to delays in the holding of the elections, he suggested that things should be put in perspective. For the Ivorian people, the peace process would remain incomplete unless the three questions were resolved. At the United Nations level, it would be impossible to design an exit strategy without addressing those issues, as well. From this perspective, while there was a risk that the election process would be further complicated, “Ouaga IV” could be seen as a mechanism that could resolve those issues.
He also presented an encouraging report regarding the identification process, saying that over 3.5 million people had been identified. That was particularly noteworthy, considering that the aim of achieving a realistic figure might be much higher than the originally anticipated 11 million. It was more significant still that that strategic step had happened without any major incidents. Very soon, millions of Ivorians would receive their national identity cards for the first time in their lives. It was moving to see people lining up outside the identification centres as early as 4 or 5 in the morning.
In view of the peaceful changes, peace and stability had been largely restored in the country, making it possible to consider reducing UNOCI by one battalion in March 2009, he said. The identification should, in principle, be concluded by spring, and he would report on the other crucial questions ‑- disarmament and elections ‑- at that time.
Following the briefing, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire, noting that the report underlined the significant progress made in his country, said implementation of the fourth supplementary agreement to the Ouagadougou Agreement had begun on 15 January, with the return of the financial and judicial administration ‑- supported by the police ‑- to the central, northern and western zones of the country, formerly occupied by the Forces nouvelles.
He said that, at present, more than 3.5 million individuals had been identified in the identification process, about half of the number of people who would be voting. The Permanent Consultative Framework would meet by mid-February to propose dates to the Independent Electoral Commission for the holding of presidential elections between October and December. Although Côte d’Ivoire was a stable country, its finances had dried up. He, therefore, asked for assistance in support of the peacebuilding process.
Noting that the war had ended, he called for an end to imposed sanctions against three individuals ‑- Charles Blé Goudé, Eugène Kouadio Djué and Fofié Kouakou ‑- who were playing a significant role in the peace process.
The meeting was called to order at 10:58 a.m. and adjourned at 11:15 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) (document S/2009/21), which covers major developments in the country since October 2008 and presents the findings of a technical assessment mission that visited Côte d’Ivoire from 10 to 14 December 2008 to review UNOCI’s role in the peace process in the light of the Council’s intention to review by 31 January 2009 the mandates and troop strengths of UNOCI and the French forces.
On the whole, the Secretary-General notes the significant progress achieved in the country, with the parties remaining committed to the implementation of the March 2007 Ouagadougou Agreement, and the people of Côte d’Ivoire continuing to enjoy relative peace and stability. The progress made in the identification of the population, which lies at the heart of the Ivorian crisis, is very encouraging, in particular the high turnout witnessed in Abidjan, where over 2 million people were registered in less than three months. To safeguard the considerable gains achieved, it will be necessary to address accumulated technical and logistical delays that led to the postponement of the presidential elections previously scheduled for 30 November 2008.
According to the report, all Ivorian parties reiterated to the assessment mission their commitment to hold elections as early as possible in 2009, while stressing the need to meet the conditions for a credible and transparent electoral process before setting a new date for the election. The Chairman of the country’s Independent Electoral Commission informed the mission that the prospects for completing the voter registration process by the end of February would depend on the Government’s ability to immediately disburse $15 million, required to deploy the remaining 4,000 identification and registration teams throughout the country.
Once the Commission had produced the final list of voters, it would take two to three months to produce and distribute identification and voter cards. Against that background, additional delays in the elections could not be excluded. Managing the electoral timetable appears even more challenging in light of the fourth supplementary agreement to the Ouagadougou accord, which provides for the completion of the disarmament of formed Forces nouvelles combatants and dismantling of militias two months before elections. The Secretary-General points out that timely implementation of that agreement is critical to avoid any further delays to the elections.
The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, together with other United Nations entities and international partners, will continue to provide expertise and technical assistance to the Ivorian institutions responsible for implementing the Ouagadougou Agreement and will endeavour to mobilize financial support from the donor community to advance the disarmament of former combatants, dismantling of the militias, reunification of the Ivorian defence and security forces, redeployment of State administration and restoration of State authority.
The Secretary-General concludes that, even with increased stability, the delicate electoral process, including the post-electoral period, and the implementation of the remaining tasks of the peace agreement require that UNOCI maintain its core capabilities and a deterrent posture to respond to anticipated risks. UNOCI will also continue to monitor and investigate human rights violations.
To provide support for the implementation of the remaining tasks of the peace agreement, while also maintaining the capability to respond to possible security challenges, the Secretary-General recommends that the mandate of UNOCI be extended for a period of six months, until 31 July 2009. At the same time, UNOCI’s troop level would be reduced by one battalion, and the force’s posture and configuration would be adjusted. As outlined by the assessment mission, the force’s mobility would be enhanced with adequate air capabilities, including additional utility helicopters, taking into the account continued support of the French forces in terms of quick reaction capabilities.
Under the proposed adjustment, UNOCI would be positioned in fewer, but more concentrated, positions, from which sufficient troop numbers could be rapidly deployed as airborne quick-reaction detachments. The military component of the mission will continuously review and adjust its concept of operations to the evolving situation on the ground. It will work closely with the French force to assist the Ivorian parties in the provision of security for the elections; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; dismantling of the militias; the reform of the security sector, in particular the reunification of the defence and security forces of Côte d’Ivoire; and the restoration of State authority.
The Secretary-General further recommends that the Council approve the benchmarks for the further drawdown of the UNOCI force, which were developed by the assessment mission, based on a careful analysis of the situation and an assessment of the preconditions for the restoration of normalcy in Côte d’Ivoire. Those benchmarks include completion of a credible disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and dismantling of militias; successful completion of the elections; commencement of security sector reform, in particular confidence-building measures within a broader framework for democratic governance and oversight of the security sector; reunification of the Army and establishment of functional and republican Ivorian Armed Forces and security services; and restoration of State authority throughout the country.
As described in the report, temporary reinforcement of UNOCI, through inter-mission cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), may be necessary during the period immediately before, during and after the elections, in the form of military and air capability support within the framework of Security Council resolution 1609 (2005).
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