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Côte d’Ivoire: UN envoy calls for peaceful polls, warns violence will not be tolerated

Special Representative Bert Koenders.
Special Representative Bert Koenders.

Côte d’Ivoire: UN envoy calls for peaceful polls, warns violence will not be tolerated

With just two days to go before parliamentary polls take place in Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations envoy there called for “a peaceful and calm election,” adding that violence will not be tolerated.

“It is crucial that the elections are held on Sunday in a calm and peaceful environment, and that candidates and voters enjoy complete freedom of movement. Acts of violence and intimidation or obstruction will not be tolerated and will be closely monitored and analyzed,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Bert Koenders.

He said in a statement issued in Abidjan that he had met with various election observers, who will be monitoring Sunday’s polls, during which Ivorians will vote for seats in the 225-member National Assembly. Their presence, he stated, must give confidence to voters and should ensure that the results “reflect the will of all Ivorians.”

“They are the eyes of the world. The eyes of the region and the world are on Côte d’Ivoire and they will help to guarantee that the will of each and every elector is respected, whatever their political choices,” he added.

According to the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNOCI), some 150 observers from various African and European countries as well as the United States will be mobilized to monitor the elections, and will be joined by 3,000 national observers.

Mr. Koenders, who heads UNOCI, has been holding meetings with delegations of election observers, including from members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union. He said that with the exception of violent incidents this week, the security climate has improved in the past few months.

“We are now almost at the end of a short but very active campaign conducted in a security climate that has improved over the past few months. Many candidates were able to campaign throughout the country and sensitize their electors. This is an important conclusion.”

However, he stated that he had received reports of women who had been subjected to intimidation. “This is not acceptable and must stop,” he stressed.

UNOCI is providing logistical support to the Independent Electoral Commission for the polls, which are taking place almost a year after Alassane Ouattara won a disputed presidential run-off election that led to months of deadly violence when the runner-up and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.

Mr. Gbagbo was later captured by security forces and has since been transported to The Hague in the Netherlands to face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the post-election violence.