The United Nations human rights chief today voiced deep concern about reports of politically-motivated violence ahead of Sunday's presidential run-off in Côte d'Ivoire, and called on the candidates and their supporters to renounce such behaviour.
“Political campaigns and some debates on national TV and radio stations have included speeches and statements which incite violence and hostility against the respective candidates,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a news release.
“This has clearly been contributing to the mounting political tension across the country. This is dangerous and reckless behaviour that could have disastrous consequences for the nation.”
Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and former prime minister, Alassane Ouattara, will face each other in the second round, after garnering the highest number of votes in the first round of the election on 31 October.
“I urge the two candidates and their supporters to refrain from all acts of violence and to actively discourage any further incitement to hatred, so that free, fair and peaceful elections can take place on Sunday,” said Ms. Pillay.
The High Commissioner added that UN human rights officers in Côte d'Ivoire were on alert and would continue to closely monitor the situation across the country before, during and after Sunday's vote.
The elections, originally scheduled for as far back as 2005 and repeatedly postponed, are a major step in restoring stability in the country, which was split by civil war into a Government-held south and rebel Forces Nouvelles-controlled north in 2002.
The UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), which has been providing logistical and security assistance for the elections, today invited the two candidates, the parties and Ivorians to respect the verdict of the ballot box and not use any undemocratic means to express their reaction to the election results.
“Anyone who resorts to violence or incites his supporters to violence will lose all credibility with the international community. Such an attitude would also be unacceptable to the Ivorian people,” the mission said in a news release issued in Abidjan.
UNOCI urged everyone in the country to stay calm while awaiting the announcement of the provisional results by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Y. J. Choi, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of UNOCI, today welcomed the decision taken by the IEC to progressively publish the election results, starting on Sunday evening.
In a meeting in Abidjan with the Facilitator of the Inter-Ivorian Dialogue, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, Mr. Choi outlined the measures taken by UNOCI to ensure the smooth conduct of the electoral process, including providing transportation for electoral materials and contributing to the security provisions, which is the primary responsibility of the Ivorian military forces.
The UN has sent extra troops and equipment to the country to reinforce the 8,650-strong UNOCI and assist with security during the election period.