Calling for Drawdown of United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, Peacekeeping Chief Describes Country as ‘Well on the Right Track’

SC/12319
12 April 2016
7669th Meeting* (PM)

Calling for Drawdown of United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, Peacekeeping Chief Describes Country as ‘Well on the Right Track’

Permanent Representative Stresses Need for Continuing Vigilance as Sanctions Committee Chair Presents Final Report by Expert Panel

Stressing that Côte d’Ivoire was well on the path to peace, stability and economic growth, the head of United Nations peacekeeping today called upon the Security Council to phase out the Organization’s peacekeeping operation in the West African country.

“Côte d’Ivoire is on the right track,” said Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  “It would be prudent, therefore, to draw down our collective involvement through the peacekeeping mission in the country,” he added, while briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s 31 March special report on the strategic review and future of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).

Presenting the report (document S/2016/297), he commended President Alassane Ouattara’s strong leadership in shepherding Côte d’Ivoire through the 2010-2011 post-election period of crisis, consolidating peace and promoting democracy and the rule of law.  The country had enjoyed tangible progress on all fronts, from gains in national reconciliation and strengthening of the judicial system, to double-digit economic growth in recent years, which had led to better living standards.  The humanitarian crisis had eased considerably with the return of refugees and internally displaced people to their homes, he noted, adding that he looked forward to the 15-member Council’s willingness in the near future to view the country’s situation as no longer a threat to regional peace and security.

Since the report’s publication, the Government had continued to pursue political reforms and strengthen national unity and cohesion, he continued.  A draft law adopted last week, on the status of the political opposition, had established that Pascal Affi N’Guessan, leader of the Ivorian Popular Front and the candidate who had come in second during the October 2015 presidential election, would hold the rank of Minister of State, he said, noting that the bill also established public funding for political parties.

Meanwhile, discussions were under way on holding a constitutional referendum by the end of 2016, in order to pave the way for a new constitution that would better reflect the sociopolitical changes of the past decade, he said.  Amendments under consideration pertained to the nationality of presidential-election candidates and the creation of the Office of Vice-President, among others.  The Independent Electoral Commission had established a committee to review redistricting proposals called for by opposition political parties in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections, he said.

While the security situation was largely stable, the Under-Secretary-General went on to cite weaknesses, including intracommunity conflicts in some regions, the military threat in the south-east and areas of tension in the north-eastern region of Boukani.  Additionally, violent clashes between farmers and pastoralists in Bouna had left 30 people dead and displaced more than 2,000, mainly women, children and the elderly.

He said UNOCI had deployed a rapid reaction force in Bouna to supplement civilian-protection efforts and facilitate aid delivery, adding that Aichatou Mindaoudou, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, accompanied by members of the Ivorian Government, had visited the region and called for calm, restraint and dialogue in order peacefully to manage conflicts.  Noting that weak relations between the Ivorian security forces and the population remained a concern, he said that on 28 March, an attack unidentified individuals on a camp manned by Government security forces near Tabou in western Bas-Sassandra District had wounded two soldiers.

He went on to point out that the Government had taken steps to identify and bring to justice those who had carried out the 13 March terrorist attacks in Grand-Bassam, for which the northern Mali-based Al-Mourabitoun, an affiliate of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had claimed responsibility.  Ivorian officials, in close cooperation with their Malian counterparts, had arrested two alleged assailants, he added.  Since the attack, Governments in the West Africa subregion had stepped up efforts against terrorism and violent extremism, he said, recalling that last week, the security ministers of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal had adopted measures to prevent terrorist attacks and coordinate security services.  Four days after the Grand-Bassam attack, UNOCI and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) had met with the Governments of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire to help them strengthen border security.

Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), Chair of the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee, briefed the Council on the main findings of the final report submitted by its Group of Experts (document S/2016/254), describing the situation in Côte d’Ivoire as stable.  There had been only one violation of the arms embargo, involving night vision equipment, between 14 June 2015 and 22 February 2016, but the Ivorian authorities must do more to control unregistered weapons and ammunition, and to improve the functionality of the security forces, he emphasized.  The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process had only been partially successful since 16,500 former combatants still remained to be fully reintegrated.  Former zone commanders, meanwhile, still had access to private assets, financial resources and weapons, he noted.

Having identified material acquired by the Forces Nouvelles following the 2010-2011 crisis, in violation of the arms embargo on Côte d’Ivoire, he said, the Group of Experts was concerned that it could be diverted to such groups as Ansar Dine and Boko Haram.  Large quantities of goods were crossing the border without customs control, while the smuggling of diamonds, artisanal gold, coffee and cocoa continued.  Illegal gold mining near the Mali border could potentially finance terrorism, he warned, pointing out the continuing existence of illegal checkpoints, particularly along secondary roads and in border areas.  With some Security Council members in favour of lifting sanctions, but others concerned about ongoing challenges, the Sanctions Committee was still considering the recommendations contained in the final report, he said.

Claude Stanislas Bouah-Kamon (Côte d’Ivoire) emphasized that his country was determined to keep moving forward.  Putting words into action, the President had undertaken several initiatives, including the appointment of the opposition leader as Minister of State, the provisional release of detainees, the unfreezing of accounts controlled by opposition figures, the voluntary return of exiles from Liberia and the creation of a high authority on rural land ownership.  Particular attention was being paid to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, he said, citing the adoption in March of legislation dealing with the military and interior security forces.

Unfortunately, the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam on 13 March had recalled the need to be vigilant and to remain on guard at all times, he said.  Far from being discouraged, the Government had reinforced security, notably by deploying security forces at all strategic sites and in open public areas.  He reiterated the Government’s call for the lifting of all sanctions imposed on individuals and for an end to the arms embargo, saying that would help to better equip the security forces, reinforce border controls and promote military cooperation with neighbouring countries.  Côte d’Ivoire endorsed the proposal to extend UNOCI’s mandate one last time, he said, adding that the mission should focus on training the security forces.  The commitment of the United Nations to Côte d’Ivoire was seen by many observers as a real success story and an example for the Organization’s peacekeeping operations throughout the world, he said.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended 3:42 p.m.

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*     The 7668th Meeting was closed.

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