Côte d'Ivoire

Humanitarian Envoy for Côte d'Ivoire urges authorities to restore peace

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NEW YORK, 27 January (OCHA) - On the morning of Saturday, 25 January, the Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy for the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, Carolyn McAskie, visited the Abidjan shantytown of Washington, following reports that residents there had been beaten and threatened by armed men during the previous night. Since her arrival in Abidjan, Ms. McAskie has registered her concern for the residents of Abidjan's shantytowns, several of which had been destroyed in the wake of a September 2002 coup attempt. After threats had been made early last week to residents of a shantytown, Ms. McAskie asked Côte d'Ivoire's President, Laurent Gbagbo, to ensure that his 8 October declaration that no more shantytowns would be destroyed was respected.

Saturday, when Ms. McAskie arrived in the Washington shantytown, dozens of members of the sprawling community, made up of Ivoirians and a large number of migrants from Burkina Faso and other West African nationals, gathered to listen as witnesses and victims stepped forth one by one to tell her their stories of beatings and harassment. The wounded showed their bruised bodies as evidence. Ms. McAskie thanked those that came forward for their courage. "The acts committed here last night are against the laws of Côte d'Ivoire", she said. "The peace accord specifies that all those who have broken national and international laws, including humanitarian and human rights laws, must answer for their actions. The police and the gendarmes are not above the law. They are the law. If they do not respect the law, there is only lawlessness. I, therefore, ask them to remember their responsibilities to restore peace to the country, and to assure that all communities can live in harmony."

Ms. McAskie urged the United Nations non-governmental partners to assist in meeting humanitarian needs. "I would like to make a call to the international NGOs who are our usual partners to come to Ivory Coast and to help us to provide the humanitarian assistance necessary here. We need the international human resources to support the tremendous energy that exists in the volunteer community and the public service community here in Ivory Coast."

The Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy also appealed to donors for added support to Côte d'Ivoire's vulnerable populations. "In terms of money, we're not asking for very much. Twenty million dollars would go a long way. [That's] twenty million dollars compared to the close to one billion dollars that we have collected for Afghanistan. Could we have twenty million dollars for Côte d'Ivoire? Surely we can."

Meanwhile, Abidjan remains tense after a weekend filled with violent demonstrations against a peace accord signed in Paris late last week. United Nations staff are keeping a low profile until the security situation improves.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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