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Alarming upsurge in reported rape of girls in Côte d’Ivoire, UN reports

Alarming upsurge in reported rape of girls in Côte d’Ivoire, UN reports

The most basic rights of children are violated in Côte d’Ivoire, the West African country split between the Government-controlled south and the Forces nouvelles-held north since 2002, and there is “an alarming degree of violence against children at the community level,” according to a new United Nations report.

“I remain deeply concerned about the prevailing culture of impunity for violations against children,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, covering the period from October 2006 to September 2007.

“I call upon the relevant authorities to undertake and demonstrate concrete measures to address this concern, including rigorous and timely investigation of incidents and the prosecution of perpetrators,” he adds.

Mr. Ban also voices deep concern at the prevalence of sexual violence, especially against girls, and urges the Government “as a matter of urgent priority” to prepare a national action plan to address the issue.

“During the reporting period there was an upsurge in the number of reported cases of rape, while reported killings and abductions have declined,” he writes. “Although the majority of the most serious incidents of sexual violence occurred during the clashes of 2002 and 2004, rape and other grave sexual violence against children, especially girls, take place with alarming frequency. These violations happen throughout the country.”

He welcomes measures taken by Forces nouvelles and the militia groups to cooperate with the UN and the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme to end the association of children with their forces, and notes “significant progress” made “both in dialogue with the parties to the conflict and in the implementation of action plans by them” to end the practice.

Noting that abduction of children is often associated with trafficking and forced prostitution, Mr. Ban says perpetrators often go unpunished due to prevailing insecurity and particularly the absence of a justice system in the north. “It is critical that the Government of Côte d’Ivoire implement the multilateral agreement against trafficking in children,” he says.

He also welcomes the accord between the parties, reached in March in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, to heal the country’s split and calls on all sides when carrying out the pact to ensure that issues concerning children are taken into full consideration.

Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, who is currently visiting the country, issued a press release today voicing optimism that the problems of young Ivorians can be addressed. She cited plans by the Government to set up of an inter-ministerial structure on the issue as well as a national action plan to end sexual violence to be developed with UN assistance.

“For one year now, there is no case of child recruitment has been detected in Cote d’Ivoire and the execution of the Action Plan seems to be on the right track. We now need to ensure reintegration and proper follow-up on children in their communities,” Ms Coomaraswamy said, calling in the international community to support the reintegration programme established by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners.

“The situation is moving in the right direction and Cote d’Ivoire can continue to count on the support of the United Nations family,” she pledged.