While security and political conditions in Côte d’Ivoire have improved in recent months, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has cautioned that these are fragile gains given the slow progress in achieving key benchmarks of last year’s peace agreement, including dismantling militias.
The overall security situation in the country continued to improve, “largely owing to the favourable atmosphere engendered by the Ouagadougou Agreement,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report on the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which covers developments since 1 October 2007.
That agreement, struck in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso in March 2007, sets out a series of measures to deal with the crisis which first divided Côte d’Ivoire between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north in 2002.
They include 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 and disarming ex-combatants; and replacing the so-called zone of confidence separating north and south with a green line to be monitored by UNOCI.
Two supplementary agreements were signed last November to help resolve issues related to the implementation of the 2007 accord.
Contributing to the improved security situation is the fact that the national armed forces and those of the Forces Nouvelles have shown “an increased willingness to collaborate,” Mr. Ban states, adding that the overall risk of a return to hostilities by the two groups is “low.”
However, “systematic factors of instability” continue to pose a potential threat to the future of the peace process, he warns. These include the lack of significant progress in unifying the defence and security forces and the dismantling of militias, as well as a rise in criminal activities linked to the prevalence of weapons in the country.
The Secretary-General notes that achieving the goals set out in the various agreements will require a redoubling of efforts by the parties and their international partners, including the provision of the required resources for a number of key processes, including the identification of the population, voter registration, disarmament and the re-establishment of State authority.
Mr. Ban adds that the holding of credible, free, fair and transparent elections will be crucial for lasting peace in Côte d’Ivoire, as will the fight against impunity.
“While there are indications that human rights conditions have improved, I remain concerned about continued cases of abuse and other violations, and call on the Ivorian parties to protect the civilian population, particularly women and children,” he writes.
In light of the limited progress made in the past three months with regard to the redeployment of State authority and the disarmament of militias, the Secretary-General recommends that the mandate of UNOCI be extended for another year, until 15 January 2009, at its current strength.
Progress in the peace process should, in due course, lead to proposals for a gradual drawdown of the UN presence, he notes.