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West African leaders urge Security Council to help ensure peace in Côte d'Ivoire

West African leaders urge Security Council to help ensure peace in Côte d'Ivoire

UN Security Council in session
As part of its ongoing bid to tackle new challenges to international peace and security and reinforce broad cooperation with regional groups, the United Nations Security Council today met with a high-level delegation from West Africa to discuss ways to ensure genuine peace in Côte d'Ivoire.

After hearing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appeal to the Council for the financial and logistical support needed for a West African peacekeeping force to continue its essential role in promoting reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire, the 15-nation body heard from the Foreign Ministers of Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria, which are part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as that organization's Executive Secretary, Mohammed ibn Chambas.

Leading off the discussion, Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Afufo-Addo of Ghana and current ECOWAS Chairman, said following so many months of turmoil, the hoped-for government of national reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire was finally in place. Now that the country was returning to the path of normalcy and peace, it was essential for the international community to give the maximum measure of support to the process the Ivoirians themselves had initiated.

ECOWAS had decided that it was necessary to expand ECOFORCE from 1,200 to 3,300 soldiers, he said. The mandate of the original force had been a monitoring role, but now it has been transformed to include protection of the Government, patrolling the borders, in particularly the western border, responsibility for the demobilization and disarmament of militias and creating conditions for the new Government to have full control of the territory.

"These expansions have had financial implications," he said, adding that despite efforts to find a homegrown solution, the available means were insufficient. ECOWAS sought backing from the Council for support in financing of the force. He said the delegation had been to Washington, D.C. and would go to Europe tomorrow to press the case for financing. The tour would conclude with a donors' conference in Brussels on 12 May.

Côte d'Ivoire's Foreign Minister, Baba Mamadou, said since the conclusion of the Linas-Marcoussis Accord, the political developments in his country had been relatively satisfactory and though his country was determined to make the march towards peace irreversible, some problems remained.

"It has not been easy to restore confidence among the groups involved in the fighting," he said. Today, there were concerns regarding the situation in the west, where rebels from Liberia and Sierra Leone were present. On the diplomatic level, the Chief of State of Côte d'Ivoire and Head of State of Liberia had just met to consider the border issues between the two countries. A meeting was also to take place today or tomorrow between the chiefs of military staff of Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire. Another important concern was the problem of small arms in the region, and it was necessary to monitor and control the dissemination of such arms.

For his part, Mr. Chambas said a common theme in many recent Council discussions had been the link between instability and deepening poverty. The easy availability of small arms and the link of prolonged crises and readiness of unemployed youth and mercenaries to take part in the conflicts was another important issue. It was necessary to break the cycle of violence and create conditions for peace and stability, and the role of regional organizations was important in that respect.

ECOWAS had taken up that challenge, but was facing a lack of financial resources. The Council should play a lead role in creating the right synergy with ECOWAS in dealing with peace and security. In that regard, it might be prudent for the Council to provide requisite resources.

François Lonseny, Foreign Minister of Guinea, said the ECOWAS mission was to create the best possible conditions for peace and stability in West Africa in order to stimulate development, and he appreciated the Council's support for ECOWAS. ECOWAS must be given the means required to continue to bring about peace and stability in Côte d'Ivoire.

Echoing the sentiments of the other speakers, Foreign Minister Dubem Onyia of Nigeria said he only wished to add that that the Council needed to take the issue of Côte d'Ivoire seriously. "The international community cannot stand by and watch the situation there deteriorate," he said. "To ensure peace and stability in the region, it is necessary to come to the aid of Côte d'Ivoire."