Annan warns of dire economic impact of continuing violence in Côte d'Ivoire

Annan warns of dire economic impact of continuing violence in Côte d'Ivoire

Stressing that the economic and social fabric of Côte d’Ivoire is seriously deteriorating because of the continuing violence there, and the conflict is having a spill-over effect on other West African nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging the country’s political leaders to take substantive steps towards peace immediately.

In his quarterly report to the Security Council on the progress of peacebuilding efforts in Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Annan says the economic consequences will be dire if the Ivorian parties do not meet their commitments to the peace process outlined in the so-called Linas-Marcoussis Agreement which was signed in 2003.

"Economic indicators all point to a severe recession," he states, noting that many businesses have closed down or relocated to neighbouring countries. Unemployment and the prices of basic foods are rising.

The percentage of people below the poverty line has jumped to 44 per cent from 38 per cent since the political crisis began in September 2002, according to the report, which also warns there could be a sharp increase in the proportion of people with HIV/AIDS. Côte d'Ivoire already has the highest AIDS rates in its region.

Mr. Annan says the conflict between the government-controlled south and the rebel-dominated north, separated by the forces of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), is hurting the landlocked neighbours of Burkina Faso and Mali.

The two countries have long used the Ivorian city of Abidjan as their gateway port for exports, but the closure of rail links means they have had to turn to ports in Ghana and Mauritania instead. Many Burkinabé and Malian workers are also unable to reach their jobs in Ivorian cocoa and coffee plantations. Mali's Government has estimated it loses $15 million every month because of the situation in Côte d'Ivoire.

The Secretary-General says he is heartened that all parties signed the Accra III Agreement, which outlines how to work towards establishing durable peace, in late July.

However, "the international community looks to President [Laurent] Gbagbo and the Ivorian leadership as a whole, with whom primary responsibility lies for restoring normalcy, to ensure that substantive progress" is made towards achieving that peace.

Mr. Annan also expresses concerns about the human rights situation, saying the perpetrators of recent atrocities must be brought to justice, and adding there have been unacceptable attacks against UN staff and property.