Expressing concern at the killing, raping, trafficking and other abuses committed against children in divided Côte d’Ivoire, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on all parties involved in the conflict to put aside their differences to help curb such crimes.
“I am deeply concerned by the grave violations being committed with impunity against children in Côte d’Ivoire, and I call upon all parties to the conflict to abide by the applicable international obligations for the protection of children,” Mr. Annan said in a report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict in the country.
“I call upon all parties to the conflict to encourage social cohesion among ethnic groups and communities; the ongoing conflict among them is taking a tremendous toll on the lives and well-being of children and preventing the voluntary return of internally displaced persons to their homes.”
The report, covering the period from January 2005 to September 2006, welcomes the recent signing of various action plans to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers by several pro-Government groups and also the commitment by the Forces Nouvelles armed opposition, however it says more must be done.
“I am deeply disturbed by the prevailing culture of impunity for grave violations against children, especially sexual violence against girls. I urge the Government and the Forces Nouvelles to ensure the rigorous and timely investigation of incidents and the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against children.
“I call upon the international community and the Security Council to take concrete and targeted measures against parties and individuals who systematically commit such grave violations against children,” Mr. Annan states, while also urging donor support for programmes aimed at rehabilitating and reintegrating former child soldiers.
The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), with nearly 9,000 uniformed personnel, is mandated to monitor the cessation of hostilities between Government and rebel forces which split the country in two in 2002, and support the organization of open, free, fair and transparent elections. These have yet to take place.