Restoring law and order remains priority for Côte d’Ivoire, says UN envoy

18 July 2011

Côte d’Ivoire faces multiple challenges after emerging from its recent post-electoral crisis, but none more critical than restoring law and order throughout the West African nation, the top United Nations envoy there said today.

“There is a need for a rapid restoration of law and order throughout the country as this is the pre-condition for the other tasks to be carried out successfully,” Y. J. Choi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said in his briefing to the Security Council.

Presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Mr. Choi cited the need to develop a “clear vision” related to the establishment of a national security structure. This, he said, would allow the effective deployment of police and gendarmerie elements throughout the country which, in turn, would allow rolling back military elements into their barracks.

In his report, however, Mr. Ban says the security situation is still “extremely precarious” and the destroyed national capacity will take some time to recover.

“The challenges of re-establishing lasting peace and stability are daunting, as the post-elections crisis exacerbated and multiplied old problems, unravelled the progress previously made in the peace process and created new problems,” he writes.

Mr. Ban also voices concern about the “high risk” of a return to armed conflict, stressing the need to assist the Government to address the factors that could reignite fighting, including the fact that civilian communities are “awash with weapons” and the resurfacing of long-standing ethnic, citizenship and land ownership issues.

“The coming 6 to 12 months will be critical in determining whether Côte d’Ivoire will continue on a steady recovery from the crisis or slip back into renewed conflict,” states the Secretary-General. “I am convinced that the continuing threats to the stability of Côte d’Ivoire and the subregion can be mitigated, but the Government will need strong support, including from the United Nations.”

To accompany the Ivorian Government’s efforts, UNOCI – headed by Mr. Choi – is setting up eight new UN military camps in the west of the country, including four in the border area with Liberia, and is planning to rehabilitate and equip a number of police stations in the region.

In addition to the restoration of law and order, Mr. Choi said the other major post-crisis tasks are national reconciliation, the holding of legislative elections, and economic recovery.

To assist with these and other tasks, the Secretary-General has recommended in his report that the Council extend UNOCI’s mandate for one more year. “The crisis has taken a massive toll on Côte d’Ivoire and the country cannot be expected to bounce back swiftly to a level where it is able to contribute significant resources of its own towards addressing the immediate threats and priorities,” he says.

“The country will need our help at this critical time to enable it to get back on its feet.”

Côte d’Ivoire’s political crisis ended when former president Laurent Gbagbo finally surrendered in mid-April, ending months of violence in the wake of his refusal to step down after he lost the UN-certified presidential run-off election to Mr. Ouattara, who was sworn in as president in May.

An estimated 1 million Ivorians were displaced by the violence during the recent crisis, including those who fled to neighbouring countries.

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