Peacekeeping Operation to Leave Côte d’Ivoire after 14 Years, Mission Chief Tells Security Council, Citing Peaceful Polls, Referendum Success

SC/12711
8 February 2017
7880th Meeting (PM)

Peacekeeping Operation to Leave Côte d’Ivoire after 14 Years, Mission Chief Tells Security Council, Citing Peaceful Polls, Referendum Success

Country’s Definitive Return to Peace Irreversible, Says Permanent Representative

With transparent constitutional referendum, credible legislative elections in December 2016 and improved security paving the way for a successful transition to sustainable peace in Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country was on track to leave after 14 years, its chief told the Security Council this afternoon.

“UNOCI will definitely depart Côte d’Ivoire in four months,” Aichatou Mindaoudou, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Cote d’Ivoire and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), told the 15-member Council.  By mid-February most of the Mission’s uniformed personnel would leave, and by the end of April, only 159 personnel would remain as priority functions were transferred to the Government and the United Nations country team.

She appealed to the Ivoirian Government to support implementation of the transition plan by financing efforts to advance national reconciliation and transitional justice, fully reform the security sector, reintegrate former combatants and improve the socioeconomic and cultural rights of Ivorians.  “It is only under this condition that the United Nations intervention in Côte d’Ivoire, through the peacekeeping Mission, will be a real success story,” she said.

The national police, gendarmerie and armed forces had efficiently safeguarded the 30 October 2016 referendum and the 18 December 2016 legislative elections despite challenges, she said.  Efforts were under way to organize a professional army and address grievances over pay, promotions and poor living standards that had led to a mutiny by some armed forces members in January.

The new Constitution — which provided ample ground for raising the bar on women’s empowerment and gender equality — coupled with an inclusive legislature presented the opportunity to fully consolidate long-term stability, she said.  Although national reconciliation still lagged behind reconstruction and economic recovery, the public release of the report on the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as requested by Security Council resolution 2226 (2015), was another step forward.  “As the new Government settles in and the new Senate will soon be established, there is every reason to hope that national reconciliation will progress in a positive trajectory,” she said.

Moreover, she said, the security situation remained stable and reports of human rights violations were declining.  The Government’s overtures continued, with compensation for victims of past crises, the further unfreezing of assets and return of occupied properties.  In his New Year’s address, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara granted pardons to 2,942 prisoners and detainees, including those held in relation to the post-electoral crisis.

Despite concern over the slow prosecution of alleged perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence and support for victims, she said the National Human Rights Commission for Côte d’Ivoire was poised to take over monitoring and implementation of a joint Ivorian Air Force-UNOCI mechanism to address allegations of human rights abuse by soldiers.

After the Special Representative’s briefing, Luis Bermúdez (Uruguay) noted that Côte d’Ivoire continued to make significant progress in strengthening its institutions, a fundamental task in holding the peace.  Its progress in the promotion and protection of human rights and cross-border cooperation to combat terror was also commendable.  The Government had acted responsibly in recent years, he added, urging it to continue on the right path of peace and rule of law.

Yoshifumi Okamura (Japan) said that whereas most peacekeeping operations were deployed in the aftermath of a crisis, UNOCI had experienced escalated violence and faced the risk of relapse into civil war during its deployment.  It had overcome challenges of implementing a peace agreement, supporting an electoral process, and dealing with a sitting President who refused to accept his electoral loss, all of which offered lessons for the future.  It also had pioneered inter-mission cooperation with the United Nations in Liberia and Sierra Leone.  Commending the Special Representative and UNOCI, he highlighted the “immeasurable” role of Ivoirians, particularly women, in the peace process.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) hailed efforts by the Government and people of Côte d’Ivoire, stressing that the final extension of UNOCI’s mandate until June was a sign of the progress towards unity.  The time had come for Ivoirians to resolve their challenges within the framework of strengthening national unity and democratic institutions.

Marcel Amon-Tanoh (Côte d’Ivoire) said his country’s “definitive return” to peace and development was now irreversible.  Since the Council’s last meeting, conditions that had led to the lifting of sanctions had been further consolidated.  Côte d’Ivoire had adopted a new Constitution establishing the Third Republic, strengthening national cohesion, and providing the country with solid democratic institutions — gains that had been made possible by the return of independent political parties to Parliament.  The army and security forces also had been professionalized through the appointment of new leaders at all levels and the President was working to resolve challenges every day.

Indeed, Côte d’Ivoire was riding a wave of optimism, he said.  The economy had grown by 9 per cent annually in the last five years and the Government was now focused on redistributing the fruits of that economic boom to all its citizens, particularly the poorest.  Closing UNOCI would present an opportunity for Côte d’Ivoire to work with international and regional actors to combat terrorism in West Africa and beyond, he said, noting that last year’s terrorist attack had demonstrated its response capabilities.  “I have faith in our ability to go even further to protect ourselves from terrorism,” he stressed.

With that, he reiterated his country’s desire to take a more active role in United Nations peacekeeping missions and called on the Council to support its candidacy for a non-permanent seat for 2018-2019.  UNOCI would be remembered as a tremendous success story that had left behind the strongest French-speaking economy in West Africa.

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

For information media. Not an official record.