6001st Meeting (AM)
Mission Head Says 'Ivorian Electoral Process Now Seems Irreversible'; Warns 'Painfully Slow' Registration Process Needs Financial, Logistical Support
The two most crucial issues currently faced by Côte d'Ivoire -- the identification process and the elections -- would have a decisive and direct bearing on the country's future, as well as on the exit strategy of the United Nations Operation there, Choi Young-jin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d'Ivoire told the Security Council this morning.
Briefing the Council on the Secretary-General's latest report (document S/2008/645), Mr. Choi, who is also the Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), said that accumulating delays in the identification process and the elections might put the entire Ivorian peace process at risk. The process, however, had now reached important milestones, such as the successful arrangement of financing and the launching of the identification process.
The identification and voter registration process had been launched on 15 September with a view to completing it on 30 October, he said. The pace of progress, however, had been "painfully" slow. The main reason for the delays was the logistical complexity involving the identification process. Eleven million people were expected to be identified with a "very sophisticated identification mechanism", and nine million people to register as voters.
He said the identification process was carried out by a dual operator system constituted by SAGEM, a private French company, and the Ivorian National Institute of Statistics, which was responsible for the process. The overall supervisory and implementing role had been confided to the Independent Electoral Commission, which had a quadripartite composition including the two main opposition parties and the Forces Nouvelles. "This mosaic composition is certainly enough cause for delay."
Delays notwithstanding, he said, solid progress had been made. Peace had been sufficiently restored so as to allow people to travel freely across the country. All financial arrangements for both the identification process and elections had been secured and the long identification process had been launched with the enthusiastic participation of the population. Delays due to bureaucratic red tape and logistical difficulties would remain manageable as long as momentum was kept alive. For the first time in the Ivorian crisis, delays were not due to political reasons. The question of "Ivoirité" that had been at the heart of the troubled Ivorian politics for the last two decades would be resolved once and for all. "The Ivorian electoral process now seems irreversible."
The international community, he said, must redouble its efforts to bring timely financial, technical and logistical assistance to the Ivorian identification and electoral process. As donors were providing around $50 million out of the $80 million needed, UNOCI was being creative -- bringing in the first batch of electoral material from Europe on its own aircraft in July and providing equipment to the identification sites, when needed.
UNOCI was also devising an overall transportation assistance scheme, making available its cars and drivers to all 34 regional electoral commissioners in the critical cities of Abidjan and Bouaké. Military and police units were planning transportation of identification agents and material throughout the country and private transportation companies had been contacted to provide vehicles to the 1,000 identification sites in the two main cities. Perhaps most importantly, UNOCI was providing advice and assistance through its certification mandate and its Electoral Assistance Division.
Turning to security, he said that, by virtue of the Ouagadougou Agreement, all the Ivorian political actors had joined the political mainstream of the elections. In addition, due to the credibility of Licorne (the French security force) and UNOCI, virtually no one in Côte d'Ivoire deemed plausible a military provocation or disorder during the elections. Curbing civil disorders, such as the recent sporadic ones experienced at identification sites, would remain UNOCI's focus during and after the elections.
The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 10:20 a.m.
As the Security Council considered the situation in Côte d'Ivoire, it had before it the eighteenth progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (document S/2008/645), which covers major developments, including preparations for elections, since the Secretary-General's last report of 10 July (document S/2008/451). The report was prepared pursuant to resolution 1826 of 29 July, which renewed the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French Licorne force until 31 January 2009 and allowed the mission to support the November elections. (See Press Release SC/9409)
According to the report, the political atmosphere in the country remained positive. The Special Representative continued to meet with Ivorian political leaders to discuss the electoral process for the presidential elections set for 3 November and UNOCI support for the implementation of the 2007 Ouagadougou Agreement. The peace process Facilitator, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, convened two meetings of that Agreement's Evaluation and Monitoring Committee.
The report states that the overall security situation remained generally stable, although attacks by unidentified highway robbers, coupled with violence and rape, creates an atmosphere of insecurity in the western part of the country and in parts of the former "zone of confidence". UNOCI has prepared a comprehensive assessment of the security situation in the period leading up to and immediately after the elections, in consultation with the leadership of the Defence and Security Forces and the Forces nouvelles. The humanitarian situation continued to improve due to the positive developments in the peace process, as well as ongoing resettlement of internally displaced persons.
Real gross domestic product is expected to increase by 2.5 per cent in 2008, supported by a recovery in the oil sector and the "peace dividend", the report notes. The Government boosted its revenue performance in 2007, which helped to reduce the fiscal deficit to 1.1 per cent of gross domestic product.
As of 1 October, over 11,000 Forces nouvelles personnel had been cantoned, out of a declared strength of nearly 35,000 combatants. The National Programme for Reinsertion and Community Rehabilitation, supposed to absorb 7,000 ex-combatants, continues to face considerable financial problems. The Peacebuilding Support Office has approved $4 million to fund 1,000 microprojects for the short-term insertion of over 5,000 combatants, pending their absorption into the long-term reintegration programme.
Turning to the upcoming elections, the report notes that the Independent Electoral Commission and other institutions tasked to implement key election-related tasks continue to face serious challenges in establishing and executing a comprehensive logistical plan of the elections, covering the period from the identification and voter registration to the distribution and collection of electoral materials. Since the launch of the identification and voter registrations processes on 15 September, the delays due to technical and logistical challenges have proven greater than expected. A meeting of the Permanent Consultative Framework of the Ouagadougou Agreement to address the issue is scheduled for the end of October.
The Secretary-General observes that Côte d'Ivoire has experienced sustained peace and stability for the past 18 months, and that the peace process has crossed a critical milestone with the launching of the voter registration on 15 September. As the country moves to the next critical stage of the peace process, the presidential election, it is essential to preserve and fully exploit the effective partnership between the Ivorian parties, the Facilitator and the international stakeholders. Many of the uncompleted electoral tasks could pose serious risks to the elections and to the entire peace process, if they are not carefully managed. The stalled process of dismantling and disarming militias, as well as the existence of youth groups that resort to politically motivated violence, also pose risks for a secure electoral climate.
The Secretary-General expresses concern about the lack of genuine progress in the redeployment of State authority in the north, especially with regard to the centralization of the treasury, as that has prevented complete restoration of State authority throughout the territory following the lifting of the zone of confidence. He urges the parties and the Facilitator to persevere in addressing those crucial issues, including through agreements on reunifying the armed and security forces and the implementation of an effective reintegration programme for ex-combatants.
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