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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Remarks to the General Assembly on Côte d'Ivoire: "Standing for Democracy"

by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly, 21 December 2010

Mr. President, Excellencies,

The situation in Côte d'Ivoire has grown increasingly volatile.

There is a real risk of a return civil war.

The people of Côte D'Ivoire need our solidarity and our decisive action.

ECOWAS and the African Union have rejected the attempt by Laurent Gbagbo and his allies to illegally retain power.

The Security Council has affirmed its unequivocal support for the UN mission and its mandate.

I thank the member States for their strong and outspoken support. We will count on it even more in the days ahead.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the past week, there has been an alarming increase in the use of intimidation by elements of the national security forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo against the civilian population, and in particular against supporters of President-elect Ouattara.

The tactics include abductions and killings and the propagation of hate speech through the state broadcasting corporation.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has denounced these actions in the strongest terms.

The UN has also seen an escalation in the type of weapons used by the forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo.

UNOCI has also confirmed that mercenaries, including freelance former combatants from neighboring countrties, have been recruited to target certain groups in the population.

Meanwhile, the state broadcasting corporation Radio Television Ivorienne (RTI) is being used to incite violence against UNOCI and disseminate fabricated and false information against our mission.

We have been accused of violating Côte d'Ivoire's sovereignty and providing support to the Forces Nouvelles, including by distributing arms.

This is wrong.

The United Nations has stood on the side of Africa against this attempt to overturn the democratic process and the will of the Ivoirian people.

The situation escalated on 18 December with armed attacks on our peacekeepers and on the United Nations premises in Abidjan, to which we have responded with force.

Forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo are also obstructing the movement of United Nations personnel and constricting United Nations operations in Côte d'Ivoire.

The intention of Mr. Gbagbo and the security forces loyal to him is clearly to blockade the United Nations peacekeeping mission and to suffocate the Government of President-elect Ouattara.

We cannot allow this.

For example, they have forcibly blocked UNOCI patrols, denied customs clearance of vital supplies at the port and prevented United Nations personnel access to the Golf Hotel to deliver supplies for more than 800 military and police personnel stationed there.

I am concerned that this disruption of life-support supplies for the Mission and the Golf Hotel will put our peacekeepers in a critical situation in the coming few days.

I therefore strongly appeal to Member States -- who are in a position to do so -- to prepare to support the Mission to assist with the continued flow of supplies.

This is a flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions and the UN mandate.

In the face of this direct and unacceptable challenge to the legitimacy of the United Nations, the world community cannot stand by.

The international community must act ... and act decisively.

I emphasize again today what I have said earlier: any attempt to starve the UN mission into submission will not be tolerated.

Any attack on the United Nations and its staff must be considered an attack on the international community.

Those who perpetrate such acts, or who harm civilians, will be held accountable to the fullest extent under national and international human rights law.

Excellencies,

I applaud the decision taken by the Security Council yesterday to extend the mission's mandate to 30 June 2011.

The role of UNOCI is now even more critical for the stability of Côte d'Ivoire and the sub-region.

It is essential that UNOCI receives the full support of all Member States in implementing its mandate effectively.

I have maintained contact with key African leaders to encourage them to assist in bringing the current political stalemate to a peaceful end in a manner that respects the democratically expressed will of the Ivorian people.

In this regard, I would like to commend the leadership of ECOWAS and the African Union, in particular President Jonathan of Nigeria, President Mills of Ghana, President Mutharika of Malawi and AU Commission chairperson Jean Ping for the efforts that they are making.

Finally, let me report that I have received two communications from President-elect Ouattara with respect to the credentials of the Côte d'Ivoire delegation.

One of these stated the credentials of the former Permanent Representative were being withdrawn. The other stated that a new Permanent Representative had been appointed.

These have been shared with the Credentials Committee. The most recent was shared earlier today.

I have asked the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs to provide a brief factual statement on the matter.

I think that it is important that Member States proceed quickly and decisively to address the credentials issue, so that there will be no confusion as to the views of the international community on this question.

I hope the Credentials Committee under the leadership of the Permanent Representative of Singapore, H.E. Vanu Gopola Menon, will conclude its work soon and that the General Assembly will follow suit quickly.

The international community has spoken with one voice concerning the outcome of the recent election in Côte d'Ivoire.

I strongly urge the General Assembly to continue this momentum.

Thank you.