Côte d'Ivoire is making “good progress” towards lasting peace and stability, but with presidential elections on the horizon, urgent steps need to be taken in security sector reform and national reconciliation, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today.
Briefing from Abidjan by video conference, Aïchatou Mindaoudou, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) told the Council that “it is important to work now to put in place the conditions for an environment conducive to peaceful elections” in 2015.
The West African country's stability and security remain “fragile”, Ms. Mindaoudou said: “Recurrent incidents of intercommunity and ethnic violence, as well as armed robbery and organized crime, continue to pose a major challenge.”
In the west, illegal circulation of weapons, coupled with networks affiliated with the former regime, former combatants and other criminal elements on the border with Liberia, pose serious threats.
On a positive note, the good cooperation between the Governments of Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, as well as UN peacekeeping missions in both countries, are continuing to yield good results and we have not witnessed a major cross-border attack in nearly a year, the UN Special Representative said.
Côte d'Ivoire was shaken by post-election violence following its 2010 presidential polls when Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing to Alassane Ouattara. Those elections, meant to be the culminating point in the peace process between the rebel-held north and Government-controlled south following the 2002 civil war, instead they resulted in months of violence. Mr. Gbagbo finally surrendered the following April.
Since then, UNOCI and UN officials have encouraged all Ivorian political actors to work in support of an inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, as prerequisites to establishing lasting peace and economic development in the country.
“It is essential to that we continue to press upon the Ivorian leaders the importance of preserving the gains made so far, by continuing to engage in dialogue in a spirit of mutual accommodation, particularly in advance of the elections in 2015,” said Ms. Mindaoudou.
She expressed concern about a “recent resurgence of hate speech in some media outlets”, a trigger in the 2010 crisis. The UN official stressed the important role that political, religious and community leaders have in defusing tension and condemning such behaviour.
She also noted the need to promote “a culture of respect for human rights”, in particular bringing to justice perpetrators, irrespective of their status or political affiliation.
“I remain concerned about the lack of progress in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the most heinous attacks committed in 2012,” she said.
The attacks include violence at the Nahibly camp for internally-displaced persons, and the killing of seven United Nations peacekeepers in Para village, near the border town of Tai in the country's south-west.
Overall, Côte d'Ivoire “continues to make good progress, and the country is firmly on the path to lasting peace and stability,” Ms. Mindaoudou said.
She noted that dialogue continues between the Government and the 11opposition parties in the context of the Permanent Dialogue Framework (cadre permanent de dialogue), and has resulted in “important progress in the political reconciliation process.”
The Special Representative also noted that the Government has initiated a series of institutional reforms aimed at enhancing political inclusiveness, and made conciliatory gestures towards the political opposition, notably by provisionally releasing from prison several high-ranking individuals associated with former President Gbagbo.
Ms. Mindaoudou also said that steps have been taking to address the root causes of the Ivorian crisis, including by passing legislation on land tenure issues and nationality.
As a result of these measures, and enhanced political stability and financial support from international partners, the country's economy is on a “fast track recovery” with “impressive” growth rates, she highlighted.
In today's briefing, Ms. Mindaoudou also noted that the work of UNOCI – whose mandate from the Security Council includes the restoration of law and order, national reconciliation, the holding of legislative elections, and economic recovery – is being accomplished despite resource constraints within UNOCI and UN agencies in the country.
UN teams are also working closely with the Government to plan for “residual” peacekeeping tasks to be handed over to national authorities in the future.