|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6168th Meeting (AM)
IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE, ‘MIXED PICTURE OF WORRYING SIGNS AMID SOLID PROGRESS’, UNITED
NATIONS MISSION CHIEF TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL IN RUN-UP TO NOVEMBER ELECTIONS
Describing a “mixed picture of worrying signs amid solid progress”, the top United Nations envoy in Côte d’Ivoire today informed the Security Council that, even though the long-postponed presidential election in the divided West African country was set for 29 November, the panel organizing the poll was struggling to overcome bureaucratic hurdles, and the linked reunification process was not moving forward as planned.
“Unmistakable worrying signs for probable delays on both the elections and the reunification process notwithstanding, solid and significant achievements have been made in the Ivorian electoral process,” said Choi Young-jin, head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).
Briefing the Security Council on the situation, Mr. Choi cited a host of “very positive steps towards the resolution of the crisis in the country”, including the announcement of the new Ivorian presidential election date, as well as the mobile court operation and the voter registration operation that had signed up more than 6.5 million people. All the major protagonists under the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) appeared to have accepted the end of the voter registration operation on 30 June, which was another step forward.
Emphasizing that those “historic and strategic” achievements had been accomplished without a single major incident, Mr. Choi said: “The prevailing climate of peace and stability attests to the maturity of the political culture and spirit of compromise and non-violence of the Ivorian people, as well as the critical contribution made by the Ouagadougou Political Agreement.”
He pledged that the United Nations mission would “leave no stone unturned” in assisting the electoral process, with a view to minimizing any further delay in that or the reunification process.
All in all, he told the Council, the second half of the year appeared to be “decisive” for the Ivorian peace process. If things went as planned by the OPA protagonists, both the electoral and reunification processes should produce irreversible results by September. Still, those processes could encounter difficulties in September, if the complicated political-security-financial matrix surrounding the peace agreement remained unresolved.
Sounding a note of caution, he said that, given the ownership of the Ivorian peace process by the OPA protagonists, it was incumbent upon them to deliver on their commitment to the 29 November presidential election, as well as on the reunification-related provisions of the Fourth Supplementary Agreement to the OPA, which “increasingly appears to place conditions on the electoral process”.
In terms of the Agreement’s Fourth Supplement, he said four critical reunification-related issues were to be accomplished by September, or at least two months ahead of the election: the transfer of authority from Zone Commanders to Prefects; the centralization of the treasury; the profiling of Forces Nouvelles army elements for army police, gendarmerie and former combatants; and their reintegration, as well as payments.
Numerous efforts had been made to address those issues, but things were not moving as planned, he said, adding that genuine progress had yet to materialize.
Yet, even worries persisted about reunification, the Ivorian elections management body struggled with the more fundamental questions of managing and planning the electoral process, he continued. As it now stood, non-political challenges, such as the bureaucratic, managerial and planning aspects of the elections, were rapidly emerging as the major impediments to meeting the 29 November deadline.
He warned that such non-political obstacles should not be underestimated, as indeed the mission had already seen that the voter registration process -- originally to run only six weeks -- lasted for more than nine months. “A public electoral timeline with detailed stages shall constitute one of the most important remedies to this chronic and pervasive problem,” he added.
Given the mixed picture of worrying signs amid solid progress, and given that the nature of those worrying signs could become more pronounced by September, he tabled the possibility of developing options in the run-up to the next Security Council consultations on Côte d’Ivoire, scheduled for October, with a view to finding a way to reconcile the contradictions currently facing the electoral and reunification processes.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, addressing the Council following Mr. Choi’s briefing, declared: “I wish to reassure you […] that the first round of the presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire will definitely be held on 29 November 2009. Everything is being done politically and logistically and with the much appreciated support of the United Nations, to honour that date.”
He stressed that all the benchmarks and performance indicators for the major areas identified in the Ouagadougou Agreement and its supplementary accords were showing “steady progress in, if not the completion of, the main stages of the process for ending the crisis”. The next meeting of the Evaluation and Monitoring Committee of the OPA, to be held on 9 August, was an opportunity to review the status of the remaining stages of the process.
Yet, he said he was concerned that, at a time when efforts were under way by the Ivorian authorities to ensure the holding of elections and to press on towards concluding the overall process, some were “attacking” the peace process and the institutions of Côte d’Ivoire. “My delegation is referring to the recent statements by French personalities who made unfair and unjustified remarks against the Ivorian authorities and the ongoing process,” he clarified.
He said he would not have drawn the Council’s attention to such remarks had they not “come from a Power which holds a special status in the settlement of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire”. No one could ignore that France had troops supporting United Nations peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire, France was a permanent member of the Security Council, France had initiated draft resolution in Côte d’Ivoire, and was therefore not a non-entity in the country’s peace process.
That heavy responsibility, as well as the influence and the consequences that the attitudes and comments of France could have in Côte d’Ivoire, was reason for greater restraint and responsibility on its part, he said.
France’s representative said the comments by Côte d’Ivoire’s speaker had taken him by surprise. France, like all other Council members, was fully committed to supporting Côte d’Ivoire so that all of the elements of the process aimed at addressing the crisis could be met within agreed time frames.
While France’s involvement in Côte d’Ivoire did include military support, it also provided financial and other support. French authorities were committed to ensuring that Côte d’Ivoire overcame the crisis. France had close ties to the country, and he did not understand what was behind the comments that had just been made. If they could be interpreted to mean that France was removing itself from the terms set by the Council to ensure stability and progress in Côte d’Ivoire, nothing could be further from the truth. He solemnly reaffirmed France’s obligations as a member of the international community, including those obligations aimed at the completion of the overall peace process in Côte d’Ivoire.
The meeting began at 11 a.m. and ended at 11:25 a.m.
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