Côte d'Ivoire

Mission report to Côte d'Ivoire, 11-16 Jun 2005

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The purpose of the mission was two-folded: to support the protection network OCHA intends to put in place and to look at the humanitarian aspects of the DDRR/RC project.

Issues encountered during the mission

1. Fiction versus reality: at the outset, we must flag a contradiction between the reassurances about the potential disarmament/re-integration process and the ensuing elections while on the ground there is hardly any hard facts that could substantiate this discourse. Who will take the decision to announce that the process is on halt? Though all different parties to the conflict are not ready for the process, it is not in their interest to announce that the process is not ripe. The basic reason for the lack of results is still linked to the initial reason why the crisis erupted, i.e. the code of nationality.

2. Under these circumstances, what are the ways forward, especially for the humanitarian community. Is the UNCP taking into consideration an immediate response based on UNCT local and pre-positioned resources (for how long and for how many people)? Is a timeline defined in terms of stand-by capacities, which can be activated?

3. DDRR process: Does the revamped national cell provide sufficient transparency and accountability. The humanitarians within the UN are expecting feedback from ONUCI on a couple of issues, still to be addressed. What is the role of OCHA is the JOC (Joint Operational Cell) up and running, even it may be called differently. The initial hiccups in Liberia on DDRR were directly related to the absence of a JOC. Though Liberia and CDI cannot be compared, the capacity of the State in CDI is getting weaker and weaker, as it has been illustrated during the last tragedy on Douekoue, as well as the nosedive in terms of services provided (water, electricity, education).

4. Protection: how is a protection network functioning in CDI? How could a flow of information coming from the field and reaching Abidjan, be analysed and lead to actions taken on a daily or weekly basis. How could this protection network link up with ONUCI on order to let the mission play a deterrent effect in potential acts of violence to come. The protection network, beside its role of information, can also be used as a tool for advocacy, a role that OHCHR within the mission may not play.

5. Impunity: in several UN reports, the issue of impunity is one pattern that remains untouched and catalyses the violence. Now, when Licorne arrests suspects, suspects are handed over to MINUCI who, not knowing what to do, hands them over to FDS or FAFN according to their origin, forces which release the suspects immediately without putting them under arrest. The very same suspects are funnelled back into the process, and partly thanks to the UN, remain unpunished. A more constructive mechanism must be put in place (transfer to Abidjan?), or the UN should stop taking any responsibility in the process.

6. Flashpoints analysis: is it possible to identify potential areas where violence is not unlikely to take place. It seems that some agencies, including inside the UN system, have warned about potentials for violence in Douekoue. Why has this warning not resulted into some movements of troops? In a former incident in Legouale, BANBAT had allegedly taken action (though sources differ), but not in Douekoue. Today, the IDP camp in Gigglo is a potential target with some 7.000 civilians and warning signs have been issued. Flashpoints should not necessarily be defined in terms of geography, but also in terms of potential for frictions, including within the same ethnic groups as it is well known within Guere (in support or opposing the presence of Allogènes), or also between age classes, putting elders more at risk because more moderate.

7. Role of the "Comité de Suivi" now that the South African Presidency is likely to be the higher authority (or is it not?)

8. Future of DMZ, which is actually the heartland of Sam Bokhari, where massacres have taken place in the past. The worse violence did take place, perpetrated by the Lima forces against the "autochtones". How does it impact on the situation now, when Abidjan plays with the idea of reducing the DMZ?

Protection network

9) The working group on protection and displaced persons met on 15 June and was attended by ONUCI, Humanitarian Coordination office, HCR, FAO, WFP, UNFPA, ICRC, IOM, SCF and was chaired by OCHA. A strategic paper was presented by OCHA and discussed. It will be imperative to operationalize this paper, define clearly the network providing the information which will trigger actions in Abidjan, streamline the "who does what" to avoid the transmission of contradictory messages to the various actors. The collection of information will be greatly facilitated by UNOCI and reinforced by humanitarians present on the ground. OCHA Abidjan will have to reinforce its capacity to handle and analyze the information and will make it available to the working group. In terms of deliverables by the working group, the following has been recommended by the undersigned:

  • To establish a trigger mechanism by which ONUCI forces could be required to move to an area of high protection concerns. This would imply the strategic choice of the mission to prioritise areas at the expense of others, at least until ONUCI would be expanded. OHCHR represents ONUCI in the working group and will bring to the attention of the SRSG's office.
  • To collect information on trends of violations perpetrated against civilians in the field, whoever the perpetrators, to constitute a base for a high level intervention. Here the working group functions as an advisory board for the HC/D-SRSG or SRSG for proposed action at Governmental or Forces Nouvelles or others. Procedures should be further discussed to know whether this information would be passed on a monthly basis or ad-hoc. The rationale for this product is different from the HR report and could be transmitted directly to the parties on a more confidential basis, requesting actions to be taken. (OCHA to make sure that it does not duplicate any ongoing actions taken bilaterally by any other humanitarian actor).
  • To use all collected information to define advocacy strategies for the OCHA office in Côte d'Ivoire.
The OCHA office has also developed a useful and interesting project called "Cohésion sociale". Through its working group, the project headed by a national officer has produced interesting data and documents, which the Protection working group may wish to study and include in its data collection. The advantage of the "Cohésion sociale" working group is that it has a broad base civil society link and will provide an important input.

The above-mentioned recommendations have been endorsed by the UNCT on 21 June.

Demobilisation process

10) At the time of the mission, the process was virtually brought to a halt, due to the lack of confidence felt by all those concerned by the demobilisation. The process was to be led by the national commission and the UN was accompanying and potentially guiding the main actors. It is clear today that the process is skewed and expectations deceived. The role of the humanitarian community was not clearly defined but it was clear that the process was designed to function in a well organized and appointed state, contrary to the process initiated in Liberia where the UN had a bigger role. In view of the present situation in Côte d'Ivoire, it is agreed within the UN, even though not officially, that the process, and the election cannot happen. However, it is a delicate statement that nobody wants to take up publicly, even less so the South African presidency, for fearing of being accused of having failed in the whole process. This attitude however leads to an untenable situation where nobody says the truth but everybody knows it. It is even more worrying that this conundrum will most likely be used by the parties to push ahead their own respective agendas at the expense of a constructive solution for all.

11) In our discussion with the D/SRSG, we discussed some DDRR procedures from Liberia, especially those relevant to the assessment mission led by DPKO to which OCHA participated in January 2004. We specifically mentioned the potential for clarity in setting up a joint operational cell (JOC), which constituted a platform on which all main actors were represented, including humanitarians. It was agreed that Abidjan would ask the UNMIL office in Monrovia the relevant documents. The D/SRSG however underlined a serious constraint, which should be further analysed since even within the government in Abidjan, there was no consensus on the way forward. From the donors' perspective, Sweden was particularly worried about the lack of transparency and accountability of the process. At last, FN never looses an opportunity to remind that the main reason why they took up arms in the first place, the issue of nationality, has never been solved by the South African negotiation.

12) At the present juncture, humanitarians may not be required to be in the forefront of the process since overarching political issues should be solved first. However, since all seem to acknowledge that the present project is not on track, a DDRR "plan B" should at some point be designed and discussed.

Daniel Augstburger
Abidjan-Geneva, 28 June 2005

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.