With a high-level African Union (AU) panel due to visit Côte d'Ivoire soon to try to resolve the political crisis arising from former president Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down despite his electoral defeat, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on all sides to fully cooperate.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Ban voiced concern at the continuing violence and planned demonstrations which could increase tensions, undermining prospects for an early and peaceful end to the crisis.
The West African country has been thrown into turmoil by Mr. Gbagbo’s rejection of the election results and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has been guarding the Golf Hotel, where the clear winner of November’s run-off vote, opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, and his Government are based.
The election, with its results certified by the UN, was meant to be the culminating point in reunifying the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.
In today’s statement, Mr. Ban called for an immediate end to the acts of violence against the civilian population and for restraint in the planned demonstrations, as well as for an end to the obstruction of UNOCI’s operations and lifting of the siege on the Golf Hotel.
Mr. Gbagbo has demanded the withdrawal of the 9,000-strong UNOCI. Not only has the UN refused this but the Security Council last month, in a unanimous resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of force, authorized the immediate deployment of an additional 2,000 troops and three armed helicopters.
UN officials say the reinforcements will provide a “rapid reaction capability” essential for the protection of civilians both in the commercial capital, Abidjan, where Gbagbo loyalists have attacked civilians and UN personnel, and in the country’s west, which has seen an outburst of ethnic fighting that has already driven more than 50,000 people from their homes. More than 300 people have died in the violence.
Three countries, two of them West African, have offered reinforcements, UNOCI spokesman Hamadoun Touré told the weekly news briefing in Abidjan today. He said the helicopters will allow the mission to better carry out its tasks with regard to the peace process, including the protection of civilians in danger.
Giving an update of the human rights situation, Mr. Touré announced that UNOCI had recorded four new cases of people who were summarily killed in Ndotré, Yopougon Niangon and Adjamé Gare Ran. “To date, we have counted at least 300 deaths in connection with the post-electoral violence since mid-December 2010,” he added.
More than 33,000 Ivorians have fled to neighbouring Liberia from western Côte d’Ivoire, where UN officials have warned that ethnic tensions stemming from national, racial and religious affiliation linked to the opposing camps could lead to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. Some 20,000 people have been internally displaced.