|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Encouraged by African Union Action on Côte d’Ivoire, Secretary-General
Spells Out Principles to Guide Future Action
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the High-Level Meeting on Côte d’Ivoire, held in Addis Ababa on 29 January:
Thank you for your participation in this timely and important meeting.
We face a complex and volatile situation. Yet the goals that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and the United Nations share in Côte d’Ivoire are clear. We seek to help bring an end to a decade of crisis and avert a tragic return to civil war. We seek to protect civilians from ongoing violence and ensure respect for the human rights and democratically expressed will of the people.
I am greatly encouraged by yesterday’s action by the African Union Peace and Security Council reaffirming the firm stands taken by ECOWAS and the African Union, and reiterating strong support for the work of the United Nations. I commend the Council for demanding the immediate removal of the siege on the Golf Hotel and an end to all violence and abuses against the civilian population. I welcome the decision to establish a high-level panel to find a political resolution to the crisis.
Let me be very clear about the United Nations role because I have been very much troubled and concerned by misrepresentations of the role of the United Nations.
When then-President [Laurent] Gbagbo’s term in office expired in 2005, the Ivorian parties agreed that elections were central to the process of restoring normality to their country. The framework was essentially provided by the 2005 Pretoria Agreements under the auspices of President [Thabo] Mbeki, and the 2007 Ouagadougou Agreement under the auspices of President [Blaise] Compaoré. With the Ouagadougou Political Agreement and its supplementary texts, the Ivorian parties assumed full ownership of implementation of the peace process.
The certification mandate of the United Nations was created voluntarily by the Ivorians themselves to guarantee the credibility of the elections. Throughout the three-year process, the Ivorian parties set the pace, determined the timelines and devised solutions to numerous obstacles. Nothing was imposed on the parties, not by the United Nations, nor by the African Union, ECOWAS or any other partner. On 5 August 2010, then-President Gbagbo signed a decree setting 31 October 2010 as the election date, indicating his satisfaction with progress made on reunification and security issues.
My Special Representative and his colleagues monitored the electoral process in a meticulous, objective and independent manner. They analysed tally sheets from the more than 20,000 polling stations around the country, and on this basis carefully arrived at the certification determination. Let us remember that the arrangements and certification procedures for the run-off election were identical to those for the first round, which had been praised by then-President Gbagbo.
Our first duty is to the people of Côte d’Ivoire. We have an obligation to remain firm and unified, and to signal to Africa’s peoples that our commitment to our principles is real. We must preserve our unified position, act together, and stand firm against Mr. Gbagbo’s attempt to hang on to power through the use of force.
I am deeply concerned about the hostile actions ordered by Mr. Gbagbo against United Nations peacekeepers. I must stress that the peacekeepers have a clear mandate from the peace agreements signed by then-President Gbagbo himself and other Ivorian leaders to protect President [Alassane] Ouattara and Prime Minister [Guillaume] Soro.
Regrettably, since 16 December, regular and irregular forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo have obstructed movement of our peacekeepers, cut their fuel and other vital life support supplies, used live fire against them and blockaded the Golf Hotel.
I am also deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation. Since mid-December, violence has claimed more than 260 lives. More than 30,000 Ivorians have fled to neighbouring countries, which could result in regional instability, and more than 17,000 have been displaced internally, with more on the move. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other United Nations agencies are doing a lot to help and address humanitarian needs.
Mass graves have also been reported, and United Nations human rights staff have been blocked from accessing these areas. The State broadcasting service is being used as a weapon, disseminating hate messages and inciting violence. We need not look far into the past for lessons about the consequences of such actions. We must heed those lessons.
All those responsible for grave acts against the Ivorian people and United Nations peacekeepers must be brought to justice and held responsible for their crimes. Allow me here to express my profound admiration and support to United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) troops and staff working under extremely difficult and dangerous condition, and my deep gratitude to all those Member States who have contributed troops.
The positions we take today will have an impact not only on our credibility, but also on other democratic transitions and elections in divided societies. The solutions we seek must, therefore, be grounded in principle and promote our shared values. Above all, we must not let the Ivorian people down; we cannot allow their democratically expressed will to be foiled. As we look ahead, I believe there are five principles that must guide our work and your work, including that of the High-Level Panel.
First, the imperative to focus on the future, not on the past. Reopening the results of the election would be a grave injustice and set an unfortunate precedent. Second, a peaceful and honourable exit of Mr. Gbago and urging President Ouattara to form a national unity Government. Third, concrete action to remove the siege on the Golf Hotel and other obstructions to the vital work of the United Nations on the ground.
Fourth, full support for the legitimate Government to effectively address social and economic challenges, promote reconciliation, and uphold human rights and justice. Fifth, in view of the United Nations unique role in Côte d’Ivoire, the Panel should work in close coordination with the United Nations in all aspects and every stage of the process. In this regard, the United Nations is prepared to provide a senior official to work with the team of experts that will support the Panel.
You have my personal commitment that the United Nations will work hand in hand with you in this crucial period and beyond. I look forward to our work together. Thank you for your leadership, commitment and resolve.
* *** *