The United Nations peacekeeping chief today urged Côte d’Ivoire’s outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to concede defeat after the recent elections, and his supporters to refrain from acts of provocation against peacekeepers and to stop human rights violations.
“The situation is at a critical stage on the ground,” said Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. “What we see so far is a strategy by the camp of Mr. Gbagbo both to strangle and provoke the UNOCI [UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire].”
He said that Côte d’Ivoire’s national broadcaster, Rediffusion Television Ivoirienne (RTI), was sending out appeals instigating people to violence against UNOCI personnel, and that UNOCI personnel were being pushed out of their homes.
“All our suppliers have been threatened to stop their supplies to UNOCI, so that is a blockade against our people.
“At the same time we hear a lot of provocation again from RTI, and we hear reports of people like the Young Patriots being given lots weapons, AK47s, to try to provoke UNOCI. There are a lot of reports of violations of human rights by forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo. We are very concerned,” Mr. Le Roy told reporter in New York.
He said the UN was aware of Mr. Gbagbo’s latest statement in which he said he wanted peace to prevail in Côte d’Ivoire. The UN expected him to keep his word, Mr. Le Roy said.
“Acts of provocation should stop. Human violations must stop. We have a mandate to fulfil and we will fulfil that mandate,” he added.
Côte d’Ivoire has been plunged into political uncertainty after the incumbent president refused to concede electoral defeat following a presidential run-off poll held on 28 November. The UN has endorsed the victory of opposition leader and President-elect Alassane Ouattara, despite Mr. Gbagbo’s claim that he won.
Clashes between demonstrators and Mr. Gbagbo’s forces have led to numerous casualties with at least 50 people killed, 200 injured, 470 arbitrarily arrested and detained, and many disappearances, according to tentative UN estimates.
At the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of an alarming increase in the use of intimidation by members of the national security forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo against the civilians and in particular against supporters of Mr. Ouattara.
“The tactics include abductions and killings and the propagation of hate speech through the state broadcasting corporation,” Mr. Ban said.
Mercenaries present in the country include freelance former combatants from Liberia, who have been recruited to target certain groups of Côte d’Ivoire’s population, Mr. Ban told the General Assembly.
“Africa and the United Nations stand against this attempt to overturn the democratic process and the will of the Ivorian people.
“The intention of Mr. Gbagbo and the security forces loyal to him is clearly to strangle the United Nations peacekeeping mission and to suffocate the Government of President-elect Ouattara. We cannot allow this,” said the Secretary-General.
He urged Member States, who are able to assist, to support UNOCI so that the mission can continue receiving supplies.
“In the face of this direct and unacceptable challenge to the legitimacy of the United Nations, the world community cannot stand by. The international community must act … and act decisively,” Mr. Ban said.
The Secretary-General added that he had received two communications from Mr. Ouattara with respect to the credentials of the Cote d’Ivoire delegation to the UN, which he has shared with the UN Credentials Committee. One said that the credentials of the country’s former Permanent Representative to the UN were being withdrawn. The other stated that a new Permanent Representative has been appointed.
Earlier today, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is boosting its contingency plans for Côte d’Ivoire in light of the tense political standoff which has already resulted in more than 6,000 people fleeing the country into two neighbouring West African States.
The agency said it airlifted additional relief supplies to Liberia and Guinea from emergency stockpiles in Copenhagen at the weekend. Some 6,000 Ivorians have fled into eastern Liberia, while another 200 have arrived in Guinea.
“We currently stand ready to cope with the needs of up to 30,000 refugees,” said Adrian Edwards, UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva.
Most of the Ivorian refugees seeking protective shelter in Liberia and Guinea are women and children, and only a handful of them have reported actual beatings thus far, Mr. Edwards said.
UNHCR has deployed additional staff to Liberia’s Nimba County, which is hosting most of the refugees, to ensure greater border monitoring, proper registration of the incoming refugees and to distribute relief items.