The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire has said it is encouraged by the pace of its arms collection exercise that started in June last year, but noted that much remains to be done to take away weapons from civilians and those who may have participated in past conflicts.
“To date 2,000 ex-combatants have voluntarily handed in 1,300 weapons and some 50,000 pieces of ammunition,” Hamadoun Touré, spokesperson for the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), told reporters at the mission’s weekly briefing in Abidjan yesterday.
The arms collection operations are supervised by the mission’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) division in cooperation with the Ivorian National Commission on Small Arms.
In an effort to ensure the safety of the country’s population, UNOCI’s bomb disposal squad is also continuing its activities throughout the country, Mr. Touré said.
“We intend to set up a hotline for the population in the very near future which they can contact to alert us on any unexploded ordnance such as those which recently injured some children who were playing with them,” he said.
On human rights, Mr. Touré said that UNOCI is following up on the cases of people arrested on suspicion of carrying out activities that allegedly endangered the security of the State.
The suspects are being detained in such places as the criminal police headquarters and Côte d’Ivoire’s Directorate of Territorial Surveillance to which human rights officers have no access.
He said cases of female genital mutilation had been reported among girls aged between 7 and 25 in several areas across country. UNOCI’s Human Rights Division is organizing several public awareness activities to sensitize communities about the harmful effects of this practice.