Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s report on the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) is due on 5 March. The Council is expected to review progress in the dialogue between Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and the rebel Forces Nouvelles leader Guillaume Soro. A visit by the Council to Côte d’Ivoire may be discussed, but wider action seems unlikely.
The sanctions committee is expected to receive reports from neighbouring countries on compliance with the arms and diamonds embargo in Côte d’Ivoire.
Key Recent Developments
On 10 January, the Council adopted resolution 1739. This extended the mandate of UNOCI and the French Licorne forces until 31 June 2007. UNOCI’s mandate was also updated to reflect the content of resolution 1721 (reinforcing the prime minister’s powers and the role of the international community in the peace process, particularly the roles of the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS], and the African Union.)
There has been no recent progress on the roadmap, especially on the most important issues including a voter-identification process, disarmament and ensuring the impartiality of the official media. The International Working Group (IWG) met on 12 January. Noting the stalemate, it urged the Chairman of ECOWAS, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, to convene a meeting of the parties, following up on a proposal made in December by President Gbagbo to start a direct dialogue with Soro. The IWG also recommended a Council mission to Côte d’Ivoire to secure commitment that the talks remain within the framework of resolution 1721.
Following a 19 January summit in Burkina Faso, ECOWAS issued a situation report on Côte d’Ivoire recognising that there was still a manifest lack of political will to implement resolution 1721. ECOWAS decided that the voter-identification and disarmament programmes had to be launched again. President Gbagbo’s proposal for direct talks was welcomed as long as they remain within the framework of resolution 1721. It also recommended a Council visit. These decisions were endorsed by the African Union on 30 January.
Preliminary talks on the dialogue are currently underway in Ouagadougou under the aegis of President Compaoré. The first meeting was held on 5 February. At the time of writing, the talks appear to be proceeding positively. The flexibility of the format, allowing both parties to present grievances, has seemed to be useful.
On 9 February the Council was briefed by Pierre Schori, the departing Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Côte d’Ivoire. He supported the direct dialogue and expressed enthusiasm for a possible Council mission. He also emphasised that targeted sanctions had been very effective in bringing spoilers back into the peace process and suggested that more names be added to the list if necessary. Following consultations, the Council issued a press statement welcoming the direct dialogue while recalling that it must take place in the framework of resolution 1721.
On 14 February, there were media reports indicating that President Gbagbo had announced his intention to incorporate into the Ivorian army some 4,000 new recruits who were supposed to be disarmed within the framework of the roadmap. It seems that this would contravene previous peace agreements and may have a negative impact on the direct dialogue.
The Council’s options seem to have narrowed. It is increasingly clear that without improved confidence between the main political actors, the prospects for implementation of the roadmap are diminishing. In the short term there seems to be no option but to accept the dialogue process. However, other possibilities may include:
developing terms of reference for a Council visit;
endorsing the monthly IWG communiqué in a presidential statement;
reinforcing pressure on the parties that the dialogue has to remain within the framework of resolution 1721 and that the roadmap should be implemented in parallel; and
expanding targeted sanctions against possible spoilers.
A key concern will be whether the parties have entered the dialogue in good faith and are genuinely willing to negotiate. A related issue is whether President Gbagbo truly wants an agreement to implement the roadmap or whether the dialogue is a strategy to buy time. A second issue arises from the fact that it now seems that neither Gbagbo nor Soro appear interested in holding elections in October. A third is that there is no timeframe for the dialogue.
While the Council does not need to address it in March, the issue that will arise before long is whether the Council can keep pushing for the implementation of resolution 1721 in parallel with the dialogue. (In practice, it seems that progress on the roadmap depends on results of the dialogue.)
A related issue, which cannot be delayed indefinitely, is the timeline for UNOCI and its mandate if elections are not held by 31 October. There are serious concerns that if the current stalemate continues much longer, it would not be possible for elections to be organised on time.
Several Council members, especially the Europeans, are suspicious of President Gbagbo’s intentions and are cautious about the direct dialogue initiative. However, they are also aware that there are few other options in the short-term and that the dialogue may represent a window of opportunity. There is clear consensus within the Council on the necessity to ensure that the dialogue does not replace the peace process but complements it, and that it should take place within the framework of resolution 1721.
Some members of the Non-Aligned Movement, especially new Council members like Indonesia and South Africa, tend to favour increased local ownership of the process and are therefore more comfortable with the dialogue initiative. They believe that there should be fewer outside attempts to influence the dialogue at the outset. They also think that targeted sanctions might have a negative impact at this stage and would support them only as a last resort. However, they are also concerned with the lack of progress toward the organisation of elections and support the 1721 framework as the long-term objective.
There is still significant support for exerting Council pressure on the political actors, particularly through targeted sanctions. Belgium, as chair of the sanctions committee, is playing an active role.
Most Council members agree that, at this stage, it would be better to stop trying to micromanage the peace process. In particular, it seems that France is moving towards a less proactive role. This dynamic also plays out with respect to the proposal for a Council mission.
It seems that a majority of Council members want to see the initial results of the direct dialogue, possibly even a preliminary agreement, before sending a mission. For many, it is premature at this point to agree on a clear message to send to the parties.
As the new chairman of the African Union, Ghana will have a leading role both in the Council and on the ground. It clearly wants to be strongly involved in the peace process.
Despite long-standing allegations that Burkina Faso participated in the conflict by providing help to the rebel forces, President Gbagbo accepted Burkina Faso as the dialogue convener. Engaging this important regional actor (and the current ECOWAS chairman) in the peace process is a positive development.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Latest Secretary-General’s Report on UNOCI|
|Latest Reports by the Sanctions Committee|
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General|
|To be appointed|
|High Representative for the Elections|
|Gérard Stoudmann (Switzerland)|
|Size and Composition of UNOCI|
|1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007 $472.89 million|