The “manifest lack of political will” among main political leaders in Côte d’Ivoire is undermining United Nations efforts to restore stability and to organize elections in the country, which effectively split in half when armed rebellion erupted in 2002, according to Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s latest report issued today.
The report recommends that the current mission be extended for a “last” effort and that if it fails again, the UN – together with the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – should establish a transitional government of eminent local personalities to oversee the process for elections.
“The manifest lack of political will by the main Ivorian political leaders, in particular their inability to transcend narrow personal and political interests, and put the national interest first in addressing the core issue of identification of the population, have created yet another major stalemate,” says the report to the Security Council.
As a result precious little has been accomplished in the critical tasks of helping authorities assert state authority over defence and security forces, dismantle militias, or issue nationality cards, a critical requisite for holding national elections. Progress made earlier this year was undercut by a “negative and disappointing turn over the past three months,” the report notes.
“At every critical turn of the peace process, some of the main political leaders have resorted to calculated obstruction of the peace process, exploiting loopholes in the peace agreements, using legal technicalities, and often inciting violent acts by their followers,” says the report, the 10th in a series on the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI).
It comes as a second, year-long UN effort to restore stability and electoral politics concludes on 31 October but notes that “despite the understandable frustrations, the international community should not abandon the Ivorian people.”
Instead it recommends that the Council make a “last” effort to oversee a transition period leading to national elections by substantially strengthening the Prime Minister’s authority, reasserting the primacy of international directives over national law, and putting Ivorian officials, including those from security forces, on notice that they will be “personally responsible” for obstructing the peace process.
It also calls for offenders to be subject to “targeted sanctions” or prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Two task forces should be established, the report adds, to oversee the critical tasks of restructuring the defence and security forces, and for issuing national identity cards.
The task forces should be made up of “representatives of the Ivorian parties, of the Prime Minster’s office and the impartial forces, as well as other relevant partners.”
The report also says that the UN’s mission needs strengthening with more funding and by ensuring that its mandate conveys on its resident High Representative for the elections the authority for making “binding in determination on all issues pertaining to the electoral process.”
Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny and regional leaders – including those from Nigeria, South African and the Republic of the Congo – were lauded for their perseverance in assisting the peace process, which also welcomed recent recommendation from ECOWAS and the involvement of the African Union.
“The lack of political will on the part of the Ivorian political leaders should not be allowed to impede progress again,” the report added.
“Should they again fail to move towards elections, ECOWAS, the African Union and the Security Council should consider putting in place transitional governance arrangements comprising eminent, non-partisan personalities from civil society, to complete the remaining transition processes and conduct the long overdue elections, and thus address the aspiration of the Ivorians and the States of the region to bring the last stability to the country.”
There are currently more than 8,000 UN peacekeepers and police officers in Côte d’Ivoire which had been a model of stability until an armed rebellion in 2002 split the nation in two, shattering more than three decades of post-independence peace under the first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, whose rule was conspicuous for its religious and ethnic harmony which allowed a well-developed economy.
ECOWAS is a regional organization of 15 west African nations formed in 1975.