The defence expenditure of Côte d'Ivoire is high, the revenue details of cocoa, its main export, lack transparency, and illicit diamond exports could buy banned weapons, according to the latest report on the United Nations arms embargo against the West African country, split in half by fighting between Government and rebel forces.
The Group of Experts on Côte d'Ivoire, set up by the Security Council in February to improve mechanisms for keeping arms from both sides in a country where a UN mission is trying to foster peace, calls upon the Government to submit a comprehensive breakdown of defence expenditure for 2005 as a matter of urgency.
In its report, the Group urges the Council to call upon the Government to commission an audit of cocoa production and exports to be completed by next May, and on the rebels to urgently provide a weapons inventory.
Noting that the export of diamonds is illegal and there is no credible evaluation of current export volumes, the report calls on the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and the Kimberley Process Secretariat, the body that seeks to keep so called "blood diamonds" used to buy illicit arms off the market, to investigate the situation.
"Ivorian diamonds may enter the Kimberley Process supply chains, thus threatening the credibility of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme," the report warns.
The Group notes with pleasure that a number of countries have suspended or blocked the export of military goods and services to Côte d'Ivoire. The authorities of Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, South Africa and Israel were forthcoming with information, but the Government of Guinea failed to provide documents despite repeated requests.
The experts appreciated the openness of the Government's National Armed Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (FANCI) in assisting their enquiry, although the Director General of Customs failed to help despite numerous requests, according to the report. The rebel Forces nouvelles (FN) failed to cooperate adequately and hindered the Group's investigations in the Seguela region.
"The Group recommends that the Security Council call upon the FN to provide UNOCI with a comprehensive inventory of the weapons it has in its possession as a matter of urgency," the report says.
The Group concludes that the Government and FN do not have a strategic need for of the financial ability to procure heavy and light weapons. "Their immediate needs are for transport, such as helicopters and 4x4 vehicles and trucks," the report says.