Another delay in the holding of elections in Côte d’Ivoire – the third consecutive one since the signing of the north-south peace pact last year – could have serious repercussions for the West African nation’s entire peace process, the Security Council said today.
Efforts to consolidate peace took a step forward on 15 September when the twin identification and registration processes were launched, but the delays which have occurred since for the polls slated to take place on 30 November “have proven greater than expected,” the Security Council said in a presidential statement.
Last month, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Y. J. Choi cautioned that if the elections are not held on time, they will likely be deferred for several months due to logistical issues.
“Unfortunately, the pace of progress has been painfully slow,” he told the Council on 27 October. The pace will soon be accelerated, but “the magnitude of delay has taken almost everybody by surprise.”
The Ouagadougou Agreement – signed in neighbouring Burkina Faso 18 months ago between the Government, which controlled the south, and the rebel Forces Nouvelles, which held the north – called for a number of measures to resolve the crisis that first divided the country in 2002.
They included creating a new transitional government; organizing free and fair presidential elections; merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defence and security forces; 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 the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).
In today’s statement, read out by Ambassador Jorge Urbina of Costa Rica, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council for November, the Council urged all sides “to demonstrate their political determination to fulfil the commitments taken in the Ouagadougou Agreement and in the framework of its follow-up mechanisms.”
The 15-member body also appealed to the sides to “take immediately and as a priority the concrete steps necessary to complete the identification and registration of voters’ operations in a credible and transparent manner before the end of January 2009.”
It voiced its support for a “credible electoral process” in Côte d’Ivoire, which is rebuilding after a brutal 14-year civil war, on the understanding that presidential elections will be staged before the end of the northern spring next year.
Last week, the Council voted to renew for another year a ban on diamonds and an arms embargo against Côte d’Ivoire, as well as targeted sanctions restricting the travel of individuals.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, it said it would review these measures next October to determine whether progress has been made in putting key aspects of the peace process into place and positive steps made in the long-delayed elections.