Ivorians have ‘historic chance’ to resolve differences, says outgoing UN envoy

Ivorians have ‘historic chance’ to resolve differences, says outgoing UN envoy

Pierre Schori briefs journalists
The people of Côte d’Ivoire now have “an historic chance” of ending the long stalemate in its peace process, the outgoing United Nations envoy to the divided country said today.

Pierre Schori, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told journalists that the current dialogue being organized by the African Union (AU) and mediated by Blaise Compaore, President of neighbouring Burkina Faso, offered the Ivorian Government and the rebel Forces Nouvelles an opportunity to resolve their differences.

“Don’t blow it this time,” Mr. Schori said, pointing out that the peace process is Côte d’Ivoire is “still at square one” despite 22 resolutions and 20 presidential statements on the subject from the Security Council in the past four years.

Mr. Schori, who is ending a two-year stint as Special Representative and head of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), briefed the Security Council today on the latest efforts to find peace in a country that has been divided between the Government-controlled south and the rebel-held north since 2002.

Commending Mr. Schori on his work, the Council later issued a presidential statement welcoming recent pledges by President Laurent Gbagbo and Forces Nouvelles Secretary-General Guillaume Soro to participate in the talks with Mr. Compaore, which it stressed must take place within the framework of earlier Council resolutions.

Last month in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a one-day summit to try to find ways to revive the peace process.

National elections originally scheduled for last October had to be postponed for a year because of the tensions, which have been exacerbated by partisan media outlets. One of the key disputes has been over the identification of citizens, which will help determine voter lists.

Today’s Council statement, read out Ambassador Peter Burian of Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency this month, said that “neutral and impartial official media” as well as the disarmament of armed groups and a programme of citizen identification “are necessary to create the conditions for the organization of free, fair and credible elections” by 31 October this year.

Mr. Schori said an estimated 3 to 4 million people who live or work in Côte d’Ivoire have been artificially excluded from access to some forms of political life because of a lack of identification papers.

Reflecting on his term in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Schori said that while it had been rewarding, he had also felt frustrated by some elements of the UN and the mission itself, such as the presence of an “old-boys network,” a lack of awareness about gender issues and an excessive reliance on hierarchical structures.

He found “some lack of sense of urgency and crisis awareness. This is a mission under Chapter VII [of the UN Charter], dealing with peace and security, life and death. Then you can also work on Saturday mornings, for instance. That was not appreciated by all,” he said.

Mr. Schori added that it was “a difficult but a noble cause to be sent out to work for peace and development and democracy, and it’s not like in ordinary jobs.”