Côte d’Ivoire’s rival armed factions have taken an encouraging first step towards disarmament by starting to assemble their fighters, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative to the divided West African country has said in Abidjan.
The peacekeeping UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI, also known by the French acronym, ONUCI) and the UN-authorized French Licorne soldiers would carry out their mandate to ensure transparency by visiting the assembly sites of the national Defence and Security Forces (FDS) and the Armed Forces of the Forces Nouvelles, the main former rebel group, to see the progress on the ground, Pierre Schori said on Thursday.
Disarming fighters and establishing the nationality of those who claim Ivorian citizenship are among the major tasks that must be accomplished in preparing for elections and implementing the peace process.
Noting that the time is short, Mr. Schori said that in addition to appearing in the seven pilot public forums to apply for recognition as citizens, the claimants’ names would have to be published and complaints would have to be fielded. In this context, he noted that UN teams have gone as witnesses to the seven sites and stressed the importance of establishing freedom of movement throughout the country.
He also called for the accelerated redeployment of the administration and the reunification of the country so that the elections, scheduled for October, can be organized.
Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s top cocoa producer, has been divided since September 2002 when a coup against President Laurent Gbagbo failed and rebels launched a civil conflict and then seized the northern part of the country. The Government rules the southern part and the peacekeepers hold the security zone between them.