The commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Côte d'Ivoire has found no evidence of significant combat operations between Ivorian security forces and alleged assailants in two towns that reportedly came under attack on Saturday, potentially jeopardizing nascent peace prospects in the strife-torn West African country.
There was also no evidence of large-scale killings or illegal detentions of the civilian population, the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), set up last year to help maintain a ceasefire between government and rebel forces, said in a news release today on the reported attacks that occurred barely three months before elections are to be held to end the conflict.
During his visit to Anyama and Agboville, north of Abidjan, the country's major city, Force Commander Maj. Gen. Abdoulaye Fall, accompanied by the Chief of Staff of Côte d'Ivoire's armed forces, Gen. Philippe Mangou, met with local military and civilian authorities, including religious leaders and youth groups. UNOCI has noted a progressive return to calm, the statement said.
Fighting first erupted in Côte d'Ivoire in 2002 when rebels seeking to oust President Laurent Gbagbo seized the north, splitting the world's largest cocoa producer in two. UNOCI has been concerned that this latest reported attack could jeopardize important progress made in the peace process, particularly an agreement establishing a new timeline for disarmament and the elections, now scheduled for October.
Immediately after reports of the attacks came, UNOCI deployed troops to the area, but numerous blockades by the local population prevented them from entering Agboville for 48 hours.