The long-awaited and much-delayed presidential elections as well as reunification are the key issues for Côte d'Ivoire, the top United Nations envoy there said today, lamenting what he described as a “serious weakening” of the momentum toward holding polls.
Côte d’Ivoire, which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south, was supposed to hold the elections as far back as 2005. The polls have been repeatedly postponed, most recently from 29 November last year to this March. A new date has not yet been set.
“It is quite regrettable to see the elections once again delayed,” Y. J. Choi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Côte d'Ivoire, told the Security Council today.
“Our disappointment is all the more acute as elections which have been prepared for so long appeared within our grasp at the time of the establishment of the provisional electoral list last November, which was highly credible and well balanced.”
The West African nation was making progress last year toward holding the elections, including the publication of the provisional electoral list throughout the country, the launch of the appeals process, and the validation of all major candidates for the presidential election.
Mr. Choi noted that the political impasse that started in early January this year following the production of the second electoral list resulted in “serious weakening of the electoral momentum.”
Political tensions began to mount after voter registration was suspended due to violence and President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in February.
The provisional electoral list published in November by the IEC had about 5.3 million confirmed people and around 1 million people who still need to be confirmed.
“This list is good in principle, and we have to select out those people who are not Ivorians,” Mr. Choi told reporters after the Council meeting, referring to the 1 million people who need to be confirmed. The appeals process, which was due to begin in early March, has yet to start owing to recent political events, he added.
“We will work with all protagonists to produce the definitive electoral list as expeditiously as possible because this is indispensable step towards the presidential election.”
While tensions have eased, the Special Representative warned that “the current election-reunification dynamics may cause additional violent demonstrations and casualties.”
As agreed by the parties in 2008, a de facto reunification is to be completed two months prior to the presidential election.
Mr. Choi said that the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which he heads, has set three objectives for the immediate future: maintaining peace and stability; safeguarding past achievements, including the provisional electoral list; and establishing a definitive electoral list as expeditiously as possible.
Top UN officials have repeatedly called on the Ivorian parties to resolve the challenges related to the delayed elections through dialogue, within the framework of the Ouagadougou Peace Agreements, the 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation forged in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso.
In a statement read out to the press after the meeting by Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet of Gabon, which holds the Council’s presidency for this month, the Council urged the Ivorian stakeholders to bring their full support to the work of the IEC in order to complete the final voters list in the coming weeks.
“The members of the Security Council called upon all Ivorians to refrain from the use of violence and to respect the full rights of their compatriots, including during the electoral process,” the statement added.