Despite relative calm UN-patrolled separation zone in Côte d’Ivoire reported tense

Despite relative calm UN-patrolled separation zone in Côte d’Ivoire reported tense

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Although the overall situation in Côte D’Ivoire was reported to be relatively calm today, two weeks after fresh fighting in the West African country, the United Nations-patrolled Zone of Confidence (ZOC) separating government and rebel forces remained very tense, with the civilian population there very vulnerable to attacks.

UN peacekeepers continued to patrol sensitive areas in Abidjan, the largest city, to pre-empt any security risks to civilians 10 days after anti-French rioting and ethnic clashes erupted when French troops destroyed the Government's air force in reprisal for the deadly bombing of French peacekeepers in the ZOC.

With looters rampaging though Abidjan in the following days and harassing expatriates, thousands of Ivorians and foreigners, mainly French, have fled the country since 4 November, when government forces unleashed the latest crisis by attacking the northern rebels in violation of a nearly two-year-old ceasefire agreement.

The UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), set up in April to monitor the ceasefire and help implement peace accords signed in January 2003, said today no international radio stations had been allowed to resume broadcasts and no opposition newspapers had reappeared, with the Government holding a monopoly over the media.

The mission reported yesterday that hate broadcasts that had raised the spectre of further ethnic violence had given way to calls for restraint and a return to work, after the UN adviser on the prevention of genocide had warned that the situation could be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Today, UNOCI said that while official reaction to Monday’s Security Council resolution, imposing an immediate arms embargo and giving the parties one month to get the peace process back on track or face a travel ban and a freeze on their assets, has been a resolute desire to comply, these messages are interspersed with calls for the Young Patriot militants to remain mobilized.

UNOCI Radio, meanwhile, is broadcasting peace messages, along with features and interviews on the economic and humanitarian effects of the crisis.

In the rebel-held north, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that all checkpoints in Bouaké, the main city, had been dismantled and that electricity was re-established Monday night.

Prices of basic food items have increased and fuel has skyrocketed by 100 per cent. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed food for about 2,000 people in two orphanages and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has provided fuel to health centres to ensure that the cold chain for vaccines is not affected by the erratic supply of electricity.