6708th Meeting (AM)
Special Representative Says December Legislative Elections Successful, Peaceful; UN Must Continue Supporting Recovery, Security Priorities Identified by Government
The international community must continue supporting the security and recovery priorities already identified by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, as “remarkable progress” was being made towards restoring normalcy since the end of the violent post-election crisis last year, the Secretary-General’s representative told the Security Council this morning.
“The priorities identified by the President and his Government and areas where the United Nations is mandated to provide support remain valid and actual,” said Albert Koenders, who is also the head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), as he introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report on the country (see Background).
“The security situation is stabilizing, those displaced have started to return, the economy is starting to show resilience and the legislative elections were held successfully and — most importantly — in relative peace,” he said, noting however that the final results of the December 2011 polls had yet to be proclaimed and certified.
UNOCI’s support, however, remained essential to help the Government in stabilizing the security situation — which included the reconstitution and reform of security and rule-of-law institutions; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; protection of civilians; facilitating the return of refugees and internally displaced persons; and fostering national reconciliation, early recovery and the promotion and protection of human rights.
In that context, he said, it was also important to address the root causes of the Ivorian crisis, which included access to land and imbalanced development. It was also essential that all those responsible for gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law be held accountable, regardless of the political affiliation or camp.
He said that the legislative elections marked a major step forward in the restoration of constitutional order, more inclusive governance and the completion of a key unfinished aspect of the peace process that ended the civil conflict that had divided the country. UNOCI played an important role across the country in support of national authorities responsible for the organization and conduct of the polls, while also providing technical and logistical support to the Independent Electoral Commission along with the United Nations country team. He emphasized that the Ivorian security agencies worked in concert with UNOCI to provide effective security.
In keeping with his mandate, he said that he would certify the elections only after the national institutions had evaluated the process. The Constitutional Council was currently examining 110 electoral complaints filed by candidates and had already announced its decisions on a number of appeals.
The overall security situation in the country remained relatively calm, despite the threats noted in the report, which included criminal activities in the West and possible cross-border movements of armed groups and weapons. In addition, weapons remained in wide circulation in the capital and throughout the country. The Government had begun to take measures to address those challenges and was discussing with him the support the international community could provide in that regard.
Following Mr. Koenders briefing, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire, Youssoufou Bamba, said that number of deaths that had occurred during the recent political crisis in his country — estimated at 3,000 — would have been higher without the determined intervention of the United Nations. Those actions saved an untold number of human lives, he said, adding that, in hindsight, one could better understand the implications of that intervention.
That intervention had given relevance to the principle of the responsibility to protect, he said, stressing that Côte d’Ivoire had been on the brink of genocide during the post-electoral crisis. In that regard, he saluted the decision of the Secretary-General to instruct his Special Advisor on the responsibility to protect to study the means of efficient uses of Articles VI, VII and VIII of the United Nations Charter, with a view to better operationalizing that principle. His delegation looked forward to the results of that study.
The security situation in Abidjan was manageable, he said, but some challenges remained, as noted in the report of the Secretary-General; the situation in the west of the country was also a source of concern. The optimization of military resources of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was, therefore, a positive development that should be continued.
Reform of the security sector was a key element of the normalization of the overall situation in Côte d’Ivoire, he said; that condition must exist before national ownership could take hold. Indeed, Côte d’Ivoire intended to have national ownership of its reform process, and, to that end, it planned to hold public hearings on the matter. That interactive exchange would help to incorporate the views of the people themselves in the reform process, with the long-term aim of reconciling the army with its population.
Turning to several other aspects of the Secretary-general’s report, the representative said that vetting should be key to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process, and that, with regard to refugees, voluntary returns were both preferred and expected. On the humanitarian front, he said that Côte d’Ivoire was pleased with the recent mission of Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg to Côte d’Ivoire, which had helped to mobilize $173 million in humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable in the country. Progress had been made in its humanitarian situation, he stressed, adding that the situation of women, in particular, was improving.
“Reconciliation is not a short process, but one that takes time,” he said, turning to that issue. Côte d’Ivoire would make an official request for support to the United Nations with regard to upcoming local elections, as well as a formal review of the sanctions regime, with an eye towards a complete lifting of the current embargo. Peace and security were moving forward, albeit slowly, he said.
“Côte d’Ivoire is a country open to the world,” he said, inviting the Council to visit Côte d’Ivoire in March to see for itself the progress made on the ground. Côte d’Ivoire was returning to the international arena and hoped to once again take up its place as a regional hub of stability and growth, he concluded.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 10:36 a.m., at which time Council members were invited to consultations on Cote d’Ivoire, as previously agreed.
The Council had before it a progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (document S/2011/807), which covers major developments since his last report of 24 June 2011, including the holding of Côte d’Ivoire’s legislative elections.
The report states that, during that period, President Alassane Ouattara and his Government took initiatives to consolidate the security situation in the county following the violent crisis that ensued after the presidential run-off election in November 2010. Further steps were taken towards the reconstitution of the security and rule of law institutions, their progressive deployment across the country and the transfer of law and order tasks to the relevant law enforcement agencies.
Nevertheless, the security situation in Abidjan and the western part of the country remained fragile. Large numbers of weapons were still present throughout the country and there were an increasing number of disgruntled ex-combatants. A number of security incidents took place throughout the country, involving armed elements as well as clashes between armed civilians. Areas of special concern included western Côte d’Ivoire, and Abidjan, where a large number of weapons remained in circulation and the majority of the 12,000 prisoners who had escaped from custody during the recent crisis were still at large, contributing to relatively high levels of crime and security incidents.
Political stakeholders from across the spectrum focused on positioning themselves for the legislative elections. Despite an initial agreement between the Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR) and Parti democratique de Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI) parties to submit candidates under the umbrella of the Rassemblement des houphouétistes pour la paix (RHDP) party, both registered candidates separately in most of the 205 electoral districts. Meanwhile, the Forces nouvelles party fielded most of its candidates under the RDR banner, including Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.
On 10 July, Mamadou Koulibaly resigned as interim president of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), the party of former President Laurent Gbagbo, and created his own party, Liberté et démocratie pour la République (LIDER). A separate party, the Cap Unir pour la démocratie et le developpement (Cap-UDD), was also created. On 23 July, FPI appointed Miaka Ouretto as its new interim president and called on the Government to release former president Gbagbo and his associates from detention as a condition for national reconciliation and for FPI participation in the legislative elections.
President Ouattara appointed 14 out of 31 members of the Independent Electoral Commission in keeping with the formula established under the Pretoria Agreement. On 21 September, however, FPI suspended its participation in the Commission, expressing concern about what they perceived as its imbalanced composition. Ahead of the elections, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire worked actively with the Government and all political stakeholders; he held regular meetings with political parties and independent candidates, including those from the opposition, and urged them to participate in the elections and adhere to the Code of Good Conduct signed in April 2008 under the auspices of the Secretary-General.
The report states that campaigning for the election took place in a generally calm atmosphere from 3 to 9 December. The Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), the police, the gendarmerie, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French Licorne force worked jointly to develop security arrangements for the elections, with some 25,000 personnel deployed across the country to provide security. In addition, under inter-mission cooperation arrangements and with Security Council authorization, some troops from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) were temporarily redeployed to UNOCI.
On 11 December, the elections were held in a generally calm and peaceful manner, states the report. Participation averaged about 37 per cent of registered voters countrywide, although disparities existed between districts. The African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the International Organization of la Francophonie and the Carter Centre fielded international observer missions. UNOCI and the United Nations country team were present, with some 300 monitoring teams throughout the country.
According to provisional results released by the Independent Electoral Commission, the RDR party of President Ouattara obtained 127 seats and the PDCI party received 77 seats. Independent candidates secured 35 seats in total, while the remaining seats went to smaller parties and coalitions. In keeping with resolution 1765 (2007), the Special Representative was expected to certify that all stages of the electoral process provided all the necessary guarantees for the holding of open, free and fair elections in accordance with international standards.
Also during the reporting period, President Ouattara continued to emphasize the importance of national reconciliation to the restoration of lasting peace and stability in the country. He called on refugees as well as members of the FPI and the former Forces de défense et de sécurité (FDS) to return to the country, in the spirit of reconciliation, including during official visits to Ghana in July, September and October.
While the Commission on Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation was officially inaugurated on 28 September, its work had yet to begin in earnest. At the request of its president, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights deployed a team to Côte d’Ivoire from 1 to 6 August to assess the needs of the Commission. UNOCI was supporting the Commission in developing a programme of work, while the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund had allocated $1 million to joint United Nations efforts in support of the Commission.
In addition, 47 representatives of former president Gbagbo’s regime had been indicted for crimes committed since 29 November 2010, and international arrest warrants had been issued against those who had left the country. Former President Gbagbo and his wife were indicted for economic crimes. On 3 October, the International Criminal Court decided to commence an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Côte d’Ivoire since 28 November 2010. On 23 November 2011, the Court issued a sealed arrest warrant for former President Gbagbo for individual criminal responsibility, as an indirect co-perpetrator, for a number of crimes.
With regard to the implementation of UNOCI’s mandate, the report states that the Mission — which currently numbers 9,616 personnel — continued to support the efforts of the national security forces to stabilize the country. Its joint patrols had increased, and, in close collaboration with UNMIL, the Mission had taken measures to address cross-border challenges along the border with Liberia. It had also assisted the Government in collecting weapons through ad hoc disarmament initiatives, targeting those posing the greatest risk to stabilization.
The report states that little progress was made during the reporting period in developing a national framework for security sector reform, in spite of steps taken to initiate the process. The appointment of the new heads of the armed forces, police and gendarmerie were important steps towards reconstituting those institutions. The report also describes specific progress made in the areas of the police and gendarmerie, justice and corrections and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants. Progress in that area had been slow, the report states, although a decree to establish a related national commission was under way. Progress was registered in the deployment of State administration and restoration of State authority throughout the country.
In the area of human rights, the report states that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire remained of concern, as there continued to be reports of human rights violations committed by armed elements, including from the FRCI. Transitional justice mechanisms had been established to fight impunity and promote accountability, and UNOCI had strengthened its monitoring, investigation and reporting capacity and conducted a number of special investigations. The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire visited the country from 14 to 25 November and from 7 to 13 December, and a report on those findings was expected to be submitted to the Human Rights Council in March 2012.
The report also addresses progress made and challenges remaining in the fields of child protection, sexual violence and the humanitarian situation, noting that more than 160,000 Ivorian refugees remained in neighbouring countries, mainly Liberia and Ghana, and some 100,000 remained displaced. It also notes that the economy of Côte d’Ivoire was showing some resilience following the recent crisis, with Government revenues rising and lost revenue largely replaced. The recovery was being further accelerated by higher commodity prices and higher cocoa exports.
The Secretary-General includes a number of observations, emphasizing that progress had been made towards restoring normalcy in Côte d’Ivoire. However, he notes, the country could not yet address its remaining challenges on its own. More time was needed, and more support would be required from all Ivorian stakeholders, as well as from Côte d’Ivoire’s international regional partners. Areas of priority concern included the reform of the security sector; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; national reconciliation; and improving the human rights situation. The Secretary-General also states that his next report, of 31 March 2012, would provide a detailed assessment of the situation on the ground, as well as recommendations on possible adjustments vis-à-vis UNOCI’s strength and structure.