Côte d'Ivoire

Ivorian stability and security threatened, UN experts warn

Côte d'Ivoire's fragile political stability and security situation are at risk as the country struggles to make progress in reaching benchmarks agreed to in the peace pact signed last year, according to a group of United Nations experts in a report made public today.

In its final report, the Côte d'Ivoire Group of Experts warns the Security Council that security threats persist in the West African country because programmes to disarm combatants and dismantle militia remain largely incomplete.

The Ouagadougou Agreement - signed in neighbouring Burkina Faso 18 months ago between the Government, which controlled the south, and the rebel Forces Nouvelles, which held the north - called for a number of measures to resolve the crisis that first divided the country in 2002.

The measures included creating a new transitional government; organizing free and fair presidential elections; merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defence and security forces; dismantling the militias and disarming ex-combatants; and replacing the so-called zone of confidence separating north and south with a green line to be monitored by the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI).

The report states that since May some 9,895 Force Nouvelles ex-combatants have taken part in the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) process, with around half opting for reintegration into civil activities and the other half applying for the new national army.

However, during the various stages of cantonment and demobilization only 18 electronic detonators, 18 grenades, 117 small-calibre rounds of ammunition, 83 magazines, 76 unserviceable small-calibre and 10 serviceable small-calibre weapons were collected.

The Group also voiced concern that attempts by the Government to restore its authority over all troops and into territories under the administrative control of the Forces Nouvelles have been unsuccessful, as demonstrated by an ineffective presence of the Ivorian customs on the northern border with Burkina Faso.

A limited deployment of 13 Ivorian customs officers has been admitted to a key border crossing with Burkina Faso with the agreement of the Forces Nouvelles alongside the same number of their own personnel, who are untrained and unqualified for the job.

At the same time the staff of the Forces Nouvelles' Resource Management Centre, who were previously posted at the border area, remained there and continued to exercise authority.

The report noted that the situation was tenuous and that no cooperation existed between the Ivorian customs and the staff of the Resources Management Centre, who prevented the customs officials from performing their duties, including inspection and examination.

"Any undesirable and potentially destabilizing elements to the peace process can enter the territories under the administrative control of the Forces Nouvelles with the knowledge, detection or interdiction of the Ivorian customs," stated the Group of Experts report.

"Ivorian customs has been unable to conduct any investigation into smuggling in the areas under the administrative control of the Forces Nouvelles."

"The redeployment exercise is symbolic, without any real hope of success unless tangible progress is demonstrated," the experts added.

The report concluded with recommendations that UNOCI introduce a significant number of international customs officers with sanctions experience to strengthen monitoring efforts, as well as introduce comprehensive procedures for securing military equipment and ensuring the equipment remains in secure custody.