Both sides in Côte d’Ivoire, which has been divided for more than seven years between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north, are violating the arms embargo imposed on the country, according to a new United Nations report.
“Despite the arms embargo, northern and southern Ivorian parties are rearming or re-equipping with related materiel,” the Group of Experts monitoring sanctions on the country said in its latest report to the Security Council.
The Group, set up in 2005, noted that the northern part of the country bears more resemblance to a warlord economy than to a functioning government administration.
Largely independent military ‘zone commanders’ of the Force Nouvelles control and exploit natural resources, providing both motive and means to sustain territorial control in northern Côte d’Ivoire, it stated.
The Government also faces potentially violent political opposition in the south of the country, which has prompted it to begin re-equipping some of its security forces with riot-control equipment and could prompt efforts to import arms and related materiel in the near future.
The Group identified seven separate cases in which the Government and the Forces Nouvelles acquired arms and related materiel in breach of the sanctions regime. It is particularly concerned by the systematic transfer of weapons and ammunition from neighbouring Burkina Faso to the Forces Nouvelles-controlled north of the country, which may be linked to cocoa smuggling.
Military aircraft belonging to the Government of Côte d’Ivoire remain largely inoperable, but the Group remains vigilant to the potential for foreign-assisted rehabilitation or acquisition of air assets.
On diamonds, the Group noted that the absence of effective border controls allows the rough diamond trade in Côte d’Ivoire to extend, almost seamlessly, into Burkina Faso and Mali. There is also concern that Ivorian diamonds may be illegally exported through Guinea and Liberia.
The Government of Côte d’Ivoire has not introduced the necessary regulatory measures to prevent the import or export of items prohibited by the sanctions regime, the Group stated.
In addition, the experts voice concern two of the three individuals subject to assets freezes and travel bans continue to access and accrue revenues despite the sanctions imposed on them.
The country is currently preparing for the holding of the long-awaited and much-delayed presidential elections, one of many reunification tasks set out in the 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation known as the Ouagadougou Agreement.
Over 6.5 million Ivorians have been identified and registered ahead of the polls, originally scheduled for as far back as 2005 and now planned for 29 November.
The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which is providing logistical support for the holding of the elections, has been calling on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to publish the provisional electoral list.
The mission said last week that despite the delay in publishing the list, progress has been made in other areas. Twenty candidatures for the presidential election had been received by the IEC, heavy and sensitive electoral equipment had been positioned in Abidjan and Yamoussoukro, and a joint international observation group had been established.