COTE D'IVOIRE: UN “deeply concerned” about failing peace effort

Friday, October 12, 2007

The UN Secretary-General is “deeply concerned” by the failure of the government and former rebels in Côte d’Ivoire to achieve steps toward peace.

In his latest report on Côte d’Ivoire, released 10 October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said lagging progress is undermining the Ouagadougou peace accord, which observers have called the last, best hope for the country after several previous agreements crumbled under political wrangling.

“I am deeply concerned that the failure to adhere to the timelines set out in the Agreement has led to a slackening of momentum which, if it continues, could undermine successful implementation.”

The peace accord, signed in March 2007, laid out several deadlines for disarmament and demobilisation, preparations for long-overdue presidential elections and security reforms. Most of the deadlines have slipped and some of the actions have yet to get off the ground, according to the report.

While a buffer zone separating the government-run south and rebel-held north was dismantled in recent months, government workers have yet to resume their posts throughout the rebel territory. Aside from some pro-government militias turning in handfuls of weapons and a ceremonial burning of some defunct guns in a July ceremony, disarmament has not moved forward, observers told IRIN.

No agreement

Throughout the report, Ban blamed lack of progress on the two sides’ failure to agree.

The Secretary-General said on disarmament and security reform the main sticking point is a lack of agreement over what rank some former rebels would hold if they were integrated into the national army.

A process to provide undocumented Ivorians with proper identity papers – which many call indispensable to moving towards stability – got underway on 25 September after several failed starts, only to be suspended for “lack of adequate sensitisation which resulted in low turnout”, the report said.

The Secretary-General commended “international partners” for backing the country’s recovery efforts but said, “The onus is now on the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to do its part to accelerate the implementation process.”

After a flurry of optimism and activity in the initial three months, peace efforts have fallen off, the report said. The process “started losing momentum in June, in particular because of the limited capacity of national institutions charged with the implementation of key tasks.”

No surprise

Observers told IRIN the UN assessment comes as no surprise. “Things are moving extremely slowly,” said one Western diplomat who speaks to the press only on condition of anonymity. “There have been no notable advances in the peace process that allow us even to fix a date for the elections.”

He added, “It’s worrying. In order to emerge from the crisis, the country must organise elections.”

Ban also said continued human rights violations – particularly on the part of government and rebel forces – are “extremely disturbing”.

“The leadership of the [former rebel] New Forces and the command of the defence and security forces of Côte d’Ivoire have an obligation to address those problems and to ensure discipline among their personnel.”

Ban urged the government to dismantle pro-government militia in the west and to bring to justice the leaders and members of “so-called student groups” that intimidate and attack civilians, civil society groups and UN personnel and property.

Source: IRIN