A political solution to the crisis has yet to be reached as Prime Minister Seydou Diarra continues to negotiate with the Ivorian authorities and rebel groups on the formation of a national reconciliation government, in the spirit of the Marcoussis peace accord, and with the support of the international Monitoring Committee of the accord implementation process. Despite the official cease-fire, fighting has occurred between Government and rebel forces in the west of the country during the reporting period, causing civilian casualties and further displacement of populations. At least one rebel group has declared the cease-fire to be null and void. As the political and military impasse continues, the vulnerability of internally displaced and host populations throughout the country increases, and the social fabric is being further strained. The protection of the most vulnerable, including children, third country nationals and refugees, and the provision of vaccinations and general health care to impede epidemics are the most urgent humanitarian concerns. It is estimated that there are between 600,000 to 800,000 people currently displaced within Côte d'Ivoire, and that close to 400,000 mostly third country nationals have left the country since the crisis began on 19 September, 2002.
Negotiations among the Ivorian government, rebel movements, and Prime Minister Seydou Diarra continue. There are indications that key ministerial portfolios are to be assigned to mutually agreed upon "technocrats" in a national reconciliation government. The Monitoring Committee of the Marcoussis-Kleber accord, presided over by the Special Representative of the UNSG in Côte d'Ivoire Mr. Albert Tevoedjre, has urged all parties to cooperate fully to urgently set up such a government.
President Gbagbo addressed the press on Saturday 2 March denying that the Government is involved in "death squad" activities.
The Ivorian Government and the MPIGO rebel group have accused each other of attacking their positions near the town of Toulepleu on Saturday 2 March. Fighting there reportedly continued over the weekend. MPIGO has reportedly declared that it considers the cease-fire, consequentially, to be over. The Ivorian armed forces assert that a new rebel movement, the Mouvement de Liberation du Grand Ouest (MLGO) [Movement for the Liberation of the Great West - unofficial translation], is now active in the west, bringing the total number of rebel groups to four. They further report that "enemy forces" numbering some 30 elements perpetrated an incursion into the village of Tambly, some 5 kilometers east of Duekoue in government-controlled territory in the west.
Ivorian authorities have unjammed FM broadcasts of RFI, BBC and Africa numero 1 radio broadcasts in Abidjan. The Government had blocked broadcasts due to their concerns over the partiality of the news content of these international radio broadcasters.
The Government of Liberia has accused the Ivorian Government of perpetrating an act of war in an attack on the Liberian border town of Toe over the weekend by elements of the LURD rebel group who it says are fighting on the side of the Ivorian government. The Liberian government has also sent a diplomatic note to the Ivorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs urging it to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and protection of Liberians living in Côte d'Ivoire.
The UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination will meet at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, from 3 to 21 March to review anti-discrimination efforts undertaken by Governments, including that of Côte d'Ivoire, among the 167 States party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION & RESPONSE
UN Inter-agency Mission to Man - Although the situation in west of the country remains highly unstable, a UN inter-agency mission was able to visit the towns of Man, Danané, and Zouan Hounien for the first time since fighting began in the area in late November 2002. The mission took place from 21 - 24 February. Although the towns were not destroyed, widespread looting of private homes, public service infrastructure - including hospitals - and businesses was reported. Markets are open, but hard cash is not circulating and poverty is increasing. Lack of education, health care, and a precarious food security situation remain grave concerns. The protection of civilians and IDPs, including third country nationals, along with the delivery of urgent food aid and medical supplies, will be among priority interventions in a follow-up UN inter-agency mission to be undertaken this week. The establishment of a UN presence in Man is foreseen.
Protection - An advance team of UN human rights and political affairs officials arrived in Abidjan on 28 February, and will remain through 11 March, to assess conditions on the ground for setting up a possible board of inquiry to investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian rights that have occurred during the civil turmoil in Côte d'Ivoire: this following President Laurent Gbagbo's request for an "International Commission of Inquiry" into the matter. UNSG Kofi Annan has sent a letter to President Gbagbo endorsing such a panel of inquiry. Amnesty International has issued a report accusing MPCI rebels of executing civilians in an episode that occurred near Bouake in mid-October. MPCI has denied the allegations.
WFP report that people continue to leave the southwestern border-town of Grabo due to insecurity, despite it having been retaken by Government forces in mid-February. IDPs continue to mainly transit through the southwestern town of Tabou and the port of San Pedro, receiving limited assistance in IDP reception centers in the towns (there are two in each town) during an average stay of 10 days in San Pedro. The largest groups represented among IDP populations fleeing the area appear to be Baoules from the Bouaké area, and Burkinabes and other third country nationals. Since September 2002, ICRC has throughout the country organized 34 humanitarian convoys across the front lines, provided protection to civilian workers in health and detention centers, and set up a message distribution system to reunite separated children with their families. The Mayor of the Cocody district of Abidjan inaugurated the enlargement of a UNHCR-run transit center on Wednesday 26 February that will now accomodate a total of some 400 mostly Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees.
A 22 February evaluation mission to Toulepleu by the NGO Merlin reported that the city was virtually empty, with no open stores, functioning administration, electricity or any other basic services. The local Red Cross informed the mission that thousands of IDPs have congregated in 9 sites in and around the town.
Access - A WFP assessment mission to San Pedro and Tabou noted 12 military and 14 civilian checkpoints on the route Abidjan-San Pedro. Merlin conducted an assessment mission to Toulepleu on 22 February, reporting numerous checkpoints, but unimpeded access from Daloa to the western border town.
Coordination - An OCHAIDP expert will be conducting a one-day seminar in Abidjan on 6 March, to train UN staff on IDP rights under international law, and to help formulate a targeted humanitarian response for the localization and aiding of vulnerable IDP populations in the country.
Education - WFP and UNICEF report that the local authorities have initiated the reopening of some schools with volunteer teachers in Korhogo. WFP also report the postponement of planned support to a UNICEF-lead educational programme in Bouaké due to political concerns.
Food Security - WFP currently assesses the food security situation to be critical for vulnerable groups throughout the country, including IDPs and host families, and expects a sharp deterioration as household food stocks in rural areas are reportedly running low and food supply lines are undependable. They report that in the western areas near Man and Danané, large numbers of people have moved from urban to rural zones in search of food. Food stocks of IDP host families are expected to be exhausted in many areas of the country by the end of March. Since 19 February 2003, 130 metric tones of various food items have been distributed by WFP in Bouaké through NGO and religious organizations (CARE, ACF, Catholic Mission, St. Camille, CNI, local Monastery) to some 21,900 beneficiaries. WFP is currently present with field offices in the eastern town of Bondoukou, the central town of Bouaké, the northern town of Korhogo, the administrative capital Yamoussoukro, the central town of Daloa and the western town of Guiglo. They plan to establish further field presences in the southwestern port of San Pedro as well as the western town of Man in the near future. WFP reports having lost warehouse stock to rebel groups in both the north and the west, and the insecurity of its warehouses remains high in those areas.
Health - While the free circulation of people has been rendered difficult by the current crisis in Côte d'Ivoire and the sub-region, the free movement of communicable diseases is a constant threat. UNICEF and WHO have reported serious measles outbreaks among children have been reported in western Côte d'Ivoire as well as in the bordering Liberian county of Nimba. UNICEF is preparing immunization campaigns for children 6 months to 14 years of age to stave off the possibility of epidemics. ICRC continues treatment to thousands of people affected by the conflict through mobile clinics, provision of medical supplies, sanitation interventions, and food and non-food item support to extremely vulnerable groups such as the elderly, indigent, or institutionalized.
WFP - US$600,000 confirmed from Government of Japan for EMOP; US$950,000 confirmed from Government of Sweden.
UNHCR - EURO500,000 confirmed from Government of Germany.
OCHA - US$300,000 confirmed from the Government of Sweden.
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