Côte d’Ivoire: UN official meets with detained ex-leaders to foster reconciliation

4 August 2011
Laurent Gbagbo, former President of Côte d’Ivoire.

In an effort to promote reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire, a senior United Nations official is meeting with former president Laurent Gbagbo and other detained members of his regime to ensure that their human rights are respected.

“We are emerging from a crisis and the way officials of the former regime are treated can influence the efforts of everyone in the process of national reconciliation, given their special status,” Guillaume Ngefa, the acting human rights chief in the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), said after two days of meetings with the detainees north of Abidjan, the commercial capital.

“Our mission is part of UNOCI’s mandate to monitor, observe and report on the detention conditions,” he added, noting that such visits would take place every two weeks.

Mr. Gbagbo has been under house arrest since he was captured on 11 April, ending months of violence in the wake of his refusal to step down after he lost the UN-certified presidential run-off election in November last year to Alassane Ouattara, now the country's President.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have requested authorization to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in widespread violence following the election.

Mr. Ngefa already met with Mr. Gbagbo’s wife, Simone Ehivet Gbagbo, in Odienné, 550 miles northwest of Abidjan, on Tuesday and other senior officials on Wednesday in Boundiali, over 400 miles north of Abidjan. He is now scheduled to go to Korhogo, where Mr. Gbagbo is being detained, and to Bouna, where other members of the former regime are being held.

Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and UNOCI head Y. J. Choi met with Mr. Gbagbo and stressed that the UN would play its part to ensure he receives appropriate protection.

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

In his most recent report Mr. Ban said the security situation was still “extremely precarious,” given the fact that civilian communities are “awash with weapons,” and the resurfacing of long-standing ethnic, citizenship and land ownership issues that erupted in the civil war in 2002 and the division of the country into a Government-held south and a rebel-controlled north. The election won by Mr. Ouattara reunited the country again.

“The coming six 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,” he added.

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