- By its resolution 2284 (2016), the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) for a final period, until 30 June 2017, and requested me to provide, by 31 January 2017, an update on the implementation of the mandate of UNOCI and its phased drawdown, including the continued transition of its security responsibilities to the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. The present report contains major developments since my special report of 31 March 2016 (S/2016/297) and an update on the ongoing drawdown and transition of UNOCI, with a view to completing its mandate as provided for in resolution 2284 (2016).
II. Major developments
Preparations for and the conduct of the constitutional referendum on 30 October and the legislative election on 18 December were the key developments in Côte d’Ivoire. Dialogue between the Government and the opposition advanced, leading to the introduction, on 6 April, by the Government of a bill in the National Assembly on the status of a “Leader of the opposition”. In the bill, it was stipulated that the position should be given to the candidate or the leader of the party that finishes second in a presidential election. On the basis of the results of the presidential election of 2015, the position would therefore be given to the president of the Front populaire ivoirien (FPI) opposition party, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who came in second in that election. Other opposition leaders agreed in principle to the creation of such a position, but rejected the proposed criteria and modalities of appointment. The National Assembly began consideration of the bill on 4 July; however, as the opposition became increasingly hostile towards the constitutional reform process, five parliamentary caucuses affiliated with the Rassemblement des républicains (RDR) and the Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) asked to suspend consideration of the bill, which is pending approval in the Assembly.
The period leading up to the constitutional referendum was dominated by antagonism between the ruling majority party supporting the constitutional reform initiative of the President, Alassane Ouattara, and the opposition, which rejected it. Some media outlets disseminated inflammatory rhetoric, hate speech and incitement to violence and called for a boycott of the referendum. On 30 May, the President established a committee of experts tasked with elaborating a new constitution. From 7 to 13 June, the President and the committee consulted separately with opposition political parties of the Cadre permanent de dialogue, followed by traditional chiefs, religious leaders and civil society organizations, and concluding with the ruling coalition, the Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP). The draft new constitution developed by the committee, which contains important new provisions addressing the root causes of the past civil war, including land tenure, nationality and identity, was officially presented to the President on 24 September and endorsed by the Government on 28 September and by the National Assembly on 5 October.
The political opposition, including FPI, challenged the legitimacy of the committee of experts. On 30 June, a group of 23 small opposition political parties led by Mr. N’Guessan, under the banner of the Collectif des partis de l’opposition démocratique, issued a statement rejecting the constitutional review process as “undemocratic and unilateral”. From August to 30 October, the opposition’s protests against that process consolidated around two groups, the “Coalition du non” and the “Front du refus”, both comprised of FPI dissidents. The latter group was led by Aboudramane Sangaré and included hardline elements of FPI and other smaller opposition parties and politicians, including the president of the Liberté et démocratie pour la république (LIDER) party, Mamadou Koulibaly, and a former presidential candidate, Konan Bertin. They argued that the referendum was neither legal nor legitimate and that Côte d’Ivoire had first to make progress towards national reconciliation before embarking on institutional reforms. They also criticized the process for not being sufficiently participatory. Nevertheless, they indicated that, once all conditions were met, Ivorians might meet to discuss issues facing the nation through an expanded national dialogue, including all segments of society. RHDP rejected the proposal.
A nationwide voter registration exercise conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission from 25 June to 24 July registered 375,352 new voters, increasing the total number of eligible voters to 6,439,876, of whom 49 per cent were women. Upon the publication of the final electoral roll on 12 October, the umbrella civil society organization Plateforme des organizations de la société civile pour l’observation des élections en Côte d’Ivoire observed that the transparent voter registration process had been transparent but criticized the low rate of young people registered. From 15 to 27 October, the Commission shared the electoral roll with all political parties and distributed voter cards and related materials for the referendum and legislative election.
With a view to encouraging the opposition and the Government to resume dialogue, my Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire and Head of UNOCI met the FPI-led Alliance des forces démocratiques on 1 September and the Minister-incharge of Political Dialogue on 5 September. This led to the Government initiating conciliatory gestures, including unfreezing 12 bank accounts and releasing nine more detainees, both of which had been major demands of the opposition. As a result, dialogue between the Government and FPI resumed on 8 September. FPI also discussed the proposed constitutional reform with the committee of experts. My Special Representative also met representatives of the Plateforme des organizations de la société civile pour l’observation des élections en Côte d’Ivoire and the civil society organization the West African Network for Peacebuilding — Côte d’Ivoire, given their concerns about inclusivity and the participation of civil society in public awareness-raising activities on the constitutional reform. On 17 September, however, the opposition launched a campaign against the reform and called for a constitutional commission to decide whether the Constitution should be amended. Similarly, a group of 18 civil society organizations called upon the Government to undertake a “more inclusive and transparent” process. Furthermore, on 13 October, the president of FPI called for a boycott of the forthcoming referendum and, on 20 October, the Front du refus organized a march to protest against the reform. Police used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, and a few opposition leaders were detained briefly.