Accelerated progress toward elections in Côte d’Ivoire that was sparked by the summit of regional leaders convened by Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier this month has also brought to the fore tensions that ignited recent violence, which need to be eased through dialogue, a UN envoy said today.
“It is because there has been some progress that we have touched some nerves, which were hurting,” Gérard Stoudmann, High Representative for the Elections in Côte d’Ivoire, told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York. He emphasized the need for confidence-building measures to address fears of electoral fraud in the country, which has been divided between north and south since an aborted coup in 2002.
Mr. Stoudmann said there were “completely understandable” fears within President Laurent Gbagbo’s party that a voter-identification scheme would turn foreigners into Ivorians, producing a new electoral list and denying their party any chance of winning at the polls.
The Government must address such fears through dialogue and public information, he said. “There’s a lot of confidence building, there’s a lot of public information which is needed and which has to be done by the Government.”
Unfortunately, he said, Mr. Gbagbo’s party had decided to boycott the initial phase of the identification process, inspiring the Young Patriots youth group, which in January had destroyed UN humanitarian offices during riots in the western part of the country, to take to the streets. Opposition parties had countered them and violence and deaths had resulted.
The fighting had now eased or stopped altogether, but, while the envoy expressed confidence that the peace process would continue, he said there was much at stake and the road ahead would be “bumpy” because the process was not perfect, relying on the interdependent pillars of disarmament, identification and elections.
Mr. Stoudmann was hopeful, however, that elections would take place on time by 30 October. He said a mini-summit would be held at UN Headquarters in mid-September to determine the electoral timetable and other details.