The head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations arrived in Côte d’Ivoire today and met president-elect Alassane Ouattara, while stressing his department’s support for the UN mission in the West Africa country, which has plunged into political uncertainty following the outgoing leader’s refusal to stand down after losing the election.
“As head of peacekeeping operations, my first objective is to come and support our missions, especially when they face particularly delicate moments as is now the case in Côte d’Ivoire,” Alain Le Roy, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told reporters after the meeting with Mr. Ouattara and his team in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Côte d’Ivoire.
“UNOCI [UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire] is facing a population and political leaders who are partially hostile to its presence,” Mr. Le Roy added. He said UN will continue to provide support to UNOCI to ensure that it fully and firmly fulfils its mandate.
“President Ouattara found that UNOCI was fulfilling its mandate satisfactorily but said, however, that there were still improvements to be made,” Mr. Le Roy said, stressing that the UN mission was not at war with anyone in the country.
“We protect civilians as impartially as possible because we have to protect civilians whoever they are, whatever their political affiliation or ethnic group,” Mr. Le Roy added.
Asked whether he might meet Laurent Gbagbo, the outgoing president who has refused to step down after he was defeated by Mr. Ouattara in the run-off poll held on 28 November, Mr. Le Roy said that he had requested a meeting and was awaiting response.
Mr. Le Roy also met with the African Union’s (AU) representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Ambroise Niyonsaba, and French Ambassador Jean-Marc Simon to discuss the post-election crisis.
“The United Nations, AU, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the entire international community are working together to help Côte d’Ivoire to achieve peace and they are making great efforts in this regard in order to get out of this difficult situation,” Mr. Niyonsaba said after the meeting with Mr. Le Roy.
Mr. Simon appealed for calm and urged all parties to avoid violence. “Everyone has to listen to reason,” he said.
Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa exporter, was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north. UNOCI has been supporting reunification efforts, of which November’s vote, which was delayed for five years, was a crucial step.