In the run-up to October’s elections in divided Côte d’Ivoire, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has repeated his call that almost 4,000 extra troops and police be sent to the UN mission there, saying they were “crucial” both to shore up the fledgling peace process and to prevent an already precarious security situation from getting worse and spreading to neighbouring Liberia.
In a letter to the Security Council, released today and dated 22 March, Mr. Annan appealed to the 15-member body to approve recommendations contained in his January report on the country requesting four extra battalions, three formed police units and 100 police officers for the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which guards the so-called Zone of Confidence separating the Government-ruled south and rebel-held north.
Mr. Annan outlined several recent developments in Côte d’Ivoire that made the addition of extra UN personnel all the more important, including the fact that the Government of Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny has now taken full ownership of the road map for the peace process, and that the two sides had agreed to “resume immediately to prepare the disarmament process.”
“Subsequently on 7 March, the members of the Independent Electoral Commission were sworn into office, and a framework for conducting the identification and voter registration processes was submitted to the cabinet, thus setting the stage for those crucial aspects of the peace process to begin in earnest,” he wrote in the letter.
Among some of the other positives, Mr. Annan also highlighted the arrival of the head of the Forces Nouvelles armed opposition, Guillaume Soro, in the capital Abidjan on 14 March, to take up his post in the Government of Prime Minister Banny.
“The preceding important developments have set in motion a fledgling process which, if sustained, could put the peace process properly on track. It is, therefore, crucial for UNOCI to be adequately reinforced in a timely manner, to enable it to support fully the implementation of the road map, thus making it feasible to organize the elections by October 2006.”
However, despite the various encouraging developments, the Secretary-General also noted that the “security situation remains precarious and could degenerate quickly, especially in Abidjan and in the western part of Côte d’Ivoire.”
“It is imperative, therefore, to ensure that in the delicate period ahead the credibility of UNOCI or the peace process itself is not challenged. I am concerned that any unravelling of the security situation in Côte d’Ivoire could spill over into Liberia,” he concluded.
The Security Council established UNOCI in May 2003 to assist the Ivorian parties in implementing a peace agreement they signed in January 2003, ending their north-south civil war. The requested increase in personnel would constitute a marked expansion of UNOCI, which currently has a strength of almost 7,600 uniformed personnel.