UN Chief backs extension of UN force in Cote d’Ivoire

UN Chief backs extension of UN force in Cote d’IvoireTo safeguard the gains made in Cote d’Ivoire in the two years since the Ouagadougou peace agreement was signed, a new report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommends extending the United Nations peacekeeping force there, known as UNOCI, for another six-month period.

“While the country currently enjoys increased stability, the delicate electoral process, including the post-electoral period, and the implementation of the remaining tasks of the peace agreement require that UNOCI maintain its core capabilities,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report on the West African country, which has been divided since 2002 between the Government-held south and a northern area dominated by the rebel Forces Nouvelles.

Among other critical remaining tasks, he lists the disarmament of the former combatants, the dismantling of the militias, the reunification of Ivorian security forces and the redeployment of State administration throughout the country.

Mr. Ban points in particular to the need to address the problems that led to the repeated postponement of elections last scheduled for 30 November 2008, and he urges the Independent Electoral Commission to make public as soon as possible a new and realistic electoral timeline.

“Once it has been endorsed by the parties and the Facilitator, this new timeline should be strictly adhered to, so as to ensure that no further extension of the electoral process is required,” he stresses.

In general, Mr. Ban writes in the report, the Ivorian parties remain committed to implementing the Ouagadougou pact and there had been significant progress in some areas such as the identification of the population, which is crucial for voter registration and which he says “lies at the core of the Ivorian crisis.”

He also encourages the parties to abide by a supplementary agreement to the Ouagadougou accord that aims to resolve differences that had impeded the disarmament of ex-combatants and the dissolution of militias, which the parties also view as critical for holding elections.

As of 15 December, the military strength of UNOCI – which was set up in 2004 to support the organization of free and fair elections and help stabilize the world’s largest cocoa exporter – stood at 8,020 personnel, in addition to 1,137 police personnel, according to the report.

In Côte d’Ivoire today, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for the country, Y. J. Choi, met with the President of the Independent Electoral Commission, Robert Beugre Mambe, to discuss how UNOCI could help on the ground to advance the electoral and identification processes.

Mr. Choi said it was urgent to help end the suffering of the Ivorian people by completing the two related processes, and offered UNOCI’s logistical support including land, air and see transport.

Regarding the election timeline, Mr. Mambe said that since it had already been subject to changes, its realization required effective mechanisms to ensure that it would not encounter further problems.

He added that Prime Minister Guillaume Soro was currently working on the question.

Source: UN Information Service