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Ivorians reach ‘turning point’ in peace process but challenges persist – Ban Ki-moon

Ivorians reach ‘turning point’ in peace process but challenges persist – Ban Ki-moon

The peace process in Côte d’Ivoire has reached “a unique turning point” after the signing of an agreement between the country’s rival political leaders two months ago, but many of the fundamental issues that led to its prolonged crisis remain unresolved, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns today.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the work of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Mr. Ban says the Ouagadougou agreement reached on 4 March marks the first time “the Ivorian parties have undertaken a dialogue at their own initiative, with a facilitator of their own choice” and then drawn up the framework for resolving the key issues in dispute.

But “the ultimate test for the Ouagadougou agreement” will be its ability to resolve those issues, he writes, citing the reunification of the country, the identification of the population, the disarmament of combatants, and the re-establishment of State authority throughout Côte d’Ivoire.

Failure to effectively deal with these problems could lead to a breakdown of the peace process, with “dire consequences” for the rest of West Africa as well as Côte d’Ivoire itself.

Mr. Ban cautions that the combined political will of the major parties will not be sufficient to sustain the peace process, and he urges the UN and other international partners to play an active rather than passive role in re-developing the capacity of the country’s main national institutions.

The dismantling of militias, the cantonment of former fighting forces, the redeployment of State authority and mobile court hearings, all scheduled to begin last month, have had to be delayed, and the Secretary-General says this underlines the fragility of Ivorian institutions.

But he welcomes the willingness of all sides to seek a way out of their crisis, which has kept Côte d’Ivoire divided between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north since 2002.

The Ouagadougou agreement, struck in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso with the help of that country’s President and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Blaise Compaoré, sets out a series of measures to deal with the political divide.

It calls, among other steps, for: creating a new transitional government; organizing free and fair presidential elections; merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defence and security forces through the establishment of an integrated command centre; dismantling the militias, disarming ex-combatants and enrolling them in civil services programmes; and replacing the so-called zone of confidence separating north and south with a green line to be monitored by UNOCI.

Since the agreement was signed, President Laurent Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro of the Forces Nouvelles reached a separate pact designating Mr. Soro as the new Prime Minister, stipulating he will remain in office until presidential elections are held, and then barring him from running in that election.

An integrated command centre has also been inaugurated and Mr. Gbagbo has issued an amnesty for national security-related crimes – excluding war crimes, crimes against humanity and economic crimes – committed between 17 September 2000 and the signing of the Ouagadougou agreement.

Mr. Ban’s report recommends, based on the advice of a recent technical assessment mission and the views of Ivorian authorities, that UNOCI should not begin to draw down its troop numbers yet, at least until after the zone of confidence has been replaced successfully with a green line. The green line is to be marked by 17 UNOCI observation posts that will be dismantled progressively.