|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6329th Meeting* (AM)
Pairing of Reunification, Elections Governing Dynamic of Côte d’Ivoire Politics;
Complex, Delicate Impasse Unfortunate Result, Security Council Told
Special Representative Choi Young-Jin Says Stalemate ‘Hardly Encouraging’;
Report Recommends Mission Be Maintained at Current Strength until End of 2010
After yet another attempt to organize national elections in Côte d’Ivoire had come up short, the main Ivorian political factions were sticking to their “core interests”, the top United Nations official there told the Security Council today, as he warned that competing priorities over the oft-postponed ballot, reunification and citizen identification had left the divided country at a “complex […] delicate impasse”.
Briefing the Council on the situation, Choi Young-Jin, head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), recalled that, during the 15-member body’s last round of consultations on the subject in March, he had reported that, for the immediate future, two issues — reunification and elections — were likely to dominate the Ivorian peace process.
Since then, the pairing of reunification and elections had emerged as the governing dynamic of Ivorian politics. “Unfortunately, it has produced an impasse, which has proven to be as complex [as it is] delicate,” he said, adding that the reason for that stalemate was that the three major protagonists of the Ivorian crisis were now dealing with their core interests.
By way of explanation, Mr. Choi said that the presidential camp wanted reunification before elections; the opposition wanted elections before reunification; and the Forces nouvelles wanted identification before reunification. “And by virtue of their ambiguities, the Ouagadougou Political Agreement provisions allow each of the major protagonists to claim legitimacy in support of their respective positions,” he said, adding finally: “The political stalemate is hardly encouraging.”
Today’s briefing came exactly one week after the Council approved a technical rollover of UNOCI’s mandate and that of the French forces that support it until 30 June (for more information, please see Press Release SC/9938). In his latest report on UNOCI, the Secretary-General expressed disappointment at setbacks in the Ivorian peace process and recommended adjusting the Operation’s current deployment to increase troop concentrations in high-risk areas, ensure better support for peace efforts and, in particular, to give the West African country “a chance to walk the final mile to the elections” with the full support of the United Nations (document SC/2010/245).
Mr. Choi told the Council that, during the eight years since the outbreak of the crisis that split Côte d’Ivoire into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south, perennial delays in implementing the various peace agreements had been a source of deep frustration for the Ivorian people, as well as the international community.
“It is all the more so since the elections appeared to be within our grasp until several months ago,” he said, stressing that full ownership of the peace process by the Ivorian parties, as defined by the Ouagadougou Agreement, came with an obligation to make it work. Yet, the events of February and March 2010 had demonstrated that the continuing failure to hold elections and materialize reunification in the country contributed to heightening tensions and hampered constitutional, political, economic and social normalization.
It was against that backdrop that a technical assessment mission had visited Côte d’Ivoire in April with a view to formulating options for UNOCI’s future, he continued. That mission had come up with four suggestions: strengthening the Operation’s mandate to organize elections; withdrawing UNOCI altogether; maintaining it as is; and rationalizing the Operation’s mandate and configuration.
He said that the option to strengthen the Operation had been strongly recommended by the opposition; the second had been recommended by some observers, claiming that the perennial election delays and reunification no longer justifies UNOCI’s presence in the country.
Further, he said the “status quo” or third option had been recommended by the Forces nouvelles and the Facilitator on the ground, who believed that, despite the failure to produce elections, the Ouagadougou Agreement had made a considerable contribution to stabilizing Côte d’Ivoire and had such significant achievements as the mobile courts operation and the production of the provisional electoral list. As for rationalizing UNOCI’s mandate and configuration, he said that suggestion had been recommended by some informed experts on the country.
Amid that complex and delicate situation, and after much deliberation, it was recommended, as in the Secretary-General’s report, that the Operation maintain the current total overall strength of its military and police components until the end of 2010. Should the Council approve that recommendation, the Secretariat would conduct a review of the Ivorian peace process and submit further recommendations on the future of UNOCI before the end of the year.
In the meantime, he said that UNOCI would maintain three priority objectives for the immediate future; maintaining peace and stability, including the protection of civilians; safeguarding past achievements, in both the elections and reunification domains, and provide continued support towards implementation of those two crucial processes; and helping establish the definitive electoral list as expeditiously as possible, as that list continued to be vital not only for the holding of elections, but also for the completion of the identification operation and subsequent distribution of national identity cards.
In particular on the first point, he said UNOCI and the United Nations Country Team would continue their efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy for the protection of civilians, which would allow UNOCI to fully implement the mandates given it by the Security Council.
The briefing began at 10:54 a.m. and ended at 11:03 a.m.
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