Côte d’Ivoire was making progress towards sustainable peace and economic recovery, but hurdles remained to improve security, reintegrate former soldiers, punish human rights abuses and carry out electoral reform ahead of presidential elections later this year, the head of the United Nations operation in that country told the Security Council today.
“Although we do have grounds to congratulate ourselves, we must still remain vigilant in various areas and determined to ensure that what has been accomplished in terms of advancing stability and prosperity be irreversible,” said Aïchatou Mindaoudou Souleymane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), as she briefed the Council on developments in the West African nation in the last six months and the Secretary-General’s latest progress report on the mission (document S/2014/892), dated 12 December 2014.
Cristián Barros Melet (Chile), Chair of the Council’s 1572 Cote d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee, also briefed the 15-member body regarding his trip to the country from 2 to 7 November 2014.
Citing the Ivorian administration’s steps to strengthen national cohesion and reconciliation, Ms. Mindaoudou said it had released on bail some 300 people detained in connection with the 2010 post-election crisis, lifted the freeze on bank accounts, returned illegally occupied properties to their lawful owners, and reintegrated members of the former regime into public service. Stalled talks with the former ruling party, the Front Populaire Ivoirien, resumed on 29 December 2014. In 2015, $20 million in reparations would be made available to victims of the 2010 post-election crisis.
Moreover, the completion of several essential infrastructure projects, the return to Abidjan of the African Development Bank’s headquarters, and the successful holding of numerous regional and international events were a sign of the international community’s confidence in Côte d’Ivoire’s recovery and potential, she said.
Turning to preparations for the presidential elections in October, she said an independent electoral commission was inaugurated in August and eight people across the political spectrum had announced their intention to run. During a UNOCI-sponsored consultation in December among members of 23 political parties and civil society groups, participants agreed on the need to address the shortfalls of the 2010 ballot. UNOCI would work with all concerned actors to ensure the 2015 elections were conducted transparently, inclusively and peacefully.
The fight against impunity was advancing slowly, she said, stressing the need to bolster efforts to ensure perpetrators of human rights abuses, were prosecuted and brought to justice. In July 2014, a National Committee of Experts on Sexual Violence during Conflict was set up; UNOCI was providing technical support to awareness-raising campaigns of the nation’s armed forces, the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire.
Incomplete security sector reform was a threat to stability, she noted. Despite improvements in that area since her last briefing to the Council, armed robberies and banditry continued throughout the country. On 1 December 2014, 150 allies of former President Laurent Gbagbo detained at the Abidjan correctional facility began a hunger strike over prison conditions and lengthy sentences. They suspended the strike following a visit by Ms. Mindaoudou, who called on Ivorian authorities to expedite judicial proceedings, without prejudice to political party affiliations — an important step, she stressed, in advancing national reconciliation and dialogue, and preserving democratic progress.
While the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was advancing satisfactorily, 14,000 combatants had yet to be incorporated into the programme before it could be declared complete by the authorities’ 15 June deadline, she said.
After more than six months of calm along the Ivorian-Liberian border, two attacks against security force positions last week killed two Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire soldiers and displaced 1,6000 civilians. Moreover, while there were no confirmed cases of Ebola in Côte d’Ivoire, the epidemic in West Africa had prevented the return of refugees and impeded security on the border.
On UNOCI, she said that, in line with Council resolution 2162 (2014), the 6,400-strong force would be reduced by 840 troops starting 1 December 2014, to 5,347 in June 2015. More mobile and visible today due to restructuring, the Operation was better able to respond to the civilian population’s needs. Furthermore, a rapid reaction force of 650 troops within UNOCI would begin operating in May 2015.
Taking the floor, Mr. Barros Melet described his visit to Côte d’Ivoire in November 2014 to better understand the situation and to foster dialogue between the Government and the Committee. The officials he met with were cooperative, explaining to him the security needs for the coming elections that led them to request exemptions from the arms embargo and the eventual lifting of all measures. He explained to them that the regime currently in force was calibrated for the consolidation of stability, following the lifting of the diamond trade ban and a portion of the arms embargo.
He recounted his discussion on the need to move forward disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, as well as reform of the security sector. He explained the process of requesting exemptions to the arms embargo, which had been poorly understood. He witnessed, in addition, how important the lifting of the diamond embargo was and reviewed participation in legal regimes for the diamond trade. He explained the importance of engagement with the group of experts and the authorities pledged to increase cooperation with them.
Following those briefings, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire, Youssoufou Bamba, praised the depiction of his country’s situation in the Secretary-General’s report, adding that Ms. Mindaoudou’s presentation and Mr. Barros Melet’s visit confirmed “remarkable advances” in his country. He affirmed that his Government was working to ensure that the October elections were inclusive, transparent and peaceful, for which purpose national dialogue and the independent electoral commission had been established. The current intense political activities showed the irreversible culture of democracy with which the Ivorian political class was now imbued.
Judicial reform, he said, was also on track after a difficult period following the post-electoral crisis, and the country was now able to guarantee equitable treatment to all under international standards. The process of justice tied to the crisis will allow the country to close that chapter in the history of his country and consolidate reconciliation. In that context, the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission had made great progress in its three-year existence, and presented its final report in December 2014. He outlined the contents of the Commission’s report, which he said received depositions from 72,483 persons, detailed violations and recommended compensation for victims. He requested assistance from international partners for the latter effort.
He said that Abidjan was now as safe as New York or Geneva, while security sector reform was making progress in modernizing the country’s forces. On the reintegration of ex-combatants, he said that his country was making satisfactory progress with more than 46,000, or 62 per cent of those concerned, had been reinserted into the societal fabric. He also described a four-part effort to participate fully in the Kimberly Process for certifying legitimately traded diamonds, avowing that the country was dedicated to creating a transparent diamond sector that would satisfy all provisions of related Council resolutions.
On socioeconomic development, he described priorities as health care, education, employment, women’s empowerment and other areas. Contributions to those countries affected by Ebola showed his country’s solidarity with them. He concluded by affirming that his Government was doing everything it could to ensure that all the positive trends continue in Côte d’Ivoire.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:46 a.m.