Displaced persons in Côte d’Ivoire need more help, says UN rights expert

Displaced persons in Côte d’Ivoire need more help, says UN rights expert

An independent United Nations human rights expert today called on Côte d’Ivoire’s Government to ensure that the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the divided West African country have the necessary means to make a safe and sustainable return to their home towns and villages.

Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Representative for IDPs, issued a statement after a five-day visit to Côte d’Ivoire in which he also called on the international community and donors to support the programmes in place to help returnees readjust to regular life.

“Without money, there is no programme,” Mr. Kälin said. “Without programmes, there are no lasting solutions and if lasting solutions are not found” [for the IDPs], then the peace is also in jeopardy of not lasting.

He noted that some people have already started returning to the north and west of Côte d’Ivoire, which has been divided between the Government-controlled south and the rebel-held north since 2002, when a UN peacekeeping mission to the country, known as UNOCI, began maintaining a “zone of confidence” between the two sides.

But many of these returnees have few resources and their arrivals are placing a strain on local communities, he added. Female-headed households, young mothers and widows are especially vulnerable.

“Displaced persons, even when they return to their homes, live in an extremely vulnerable situation and they need continuing humanitarian assistance during the transition period.”

Mr. Kälin visited Côte d’Ivoire to assess the IDP situation in the wake of the Ouagadougou agreement, which President Laurent Gbagbo and the rebel Forces Nouvelles leader Guillaume Soro – who has since become Prime Minister – signed in March in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso.

The Ouagadougou accord calls for: creating a new transitional government; organizing free and fair presidential elections; merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defence 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 zone of confidence with a green line to be monitored by UNOCI.