Expected Council Action
By 15 October, the Council is expected to review the mandate of the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French Licorne forces, as well as UNOCI troop levels. A report by the Secretary-General on progress towards implementing the Ouagadougou agreement is expected to be submitted ahead of the Council’s deliberations. Also, the Council is expected to renew the mandates of the current sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts on Côte d’Ivoire, which are both due to expire on 31 October. The Group’s report on the implementation of the sanctions measures is due before 15 October. UNOCI’s mandate expires on 15 January 2008.
Parties to the Ouagadougou agreement, signed in March, worked on mending the rift between the government-controlled south and the Forces Nouvelles-held north, particularly by taking steps to fulfil the requirements of the pact to enable the holding of credible elections.
A major disarmament ceremony was held on 30 July, when a “flame of peace” was lit in the northern town of Bouaké, a stronghold of the former Forces Nouvelles rebel group. President Laurent Gbagbo and the Forces Nouvelles leader, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, officially launched the process by setting fire to stockpiled weapons. President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, the facilitator of the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire, was present along with the heads of state of South Africa, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Benin, and representatives of Angola, Ghana, Niger, Senegal and other international partners. Beyond the symbolic event, however, the pace of actual disarmament is apparently slow.
Following a meeting of the Evaluation and Implementation Committee of the Ouagadougou agreement on 4 September in Ouagadougou, it was announced that the voter-identification process had been scheduled to commence before the end of September. Public identity hearings were later reported to have commenced in the week of 24 September. Also, in line with the Ouagadougou agreement, on 16 September the last international checkpoint in the “zone of confidence” separating belligerents from the northern and southern parts of the country was reported to have been dismantled. It has been replaced by a “green line” to be monitored by UNOCI.
In early September a UN team travelled to Côte d’Ivoire to follow up the international investigation into an attack in Bouaké on 29 June against an aircraft transporting Prime Minister Soro. After the attack, the Ivorian government had asked the Secretary-General to launch an independent investigation.
Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse surfaced in mid July against members of the Moroccan peacekeeping contingent in Bouaké. On 20 July, after an internal investigation by UNOCI, the contingent’s activities were suspended and it was confined to base. The UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services subsequently announced a full investigation. However, a joint UN-Moroccan team is reported to have met with difficulties. Some alleged victims have declined to come forward. The UN’s code of conduct has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, visited Côte d’Ivoire in September. This followed the Secretary-General’s recent report to the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. Among other things, the report notes that a persistent culture of impunity for crimes against children exists and identifies sexual violence as being of particular concern among six categories of grave violations highlighted by the report.
On 16 July the Council adopted resolution 1765. This extended the mandate of UNOCI and endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the role of the UN in the Ivorian peace process and requested a progress report on the implementation of the Ouagadougou agreement by 15 October. (For more details see our 13 July Update Report.)
On 26 September, in his speech to the General Assembly, President Gbagbo called for a partial lifting of the weapons embargo and the current Council sanctions on three Ivorian individuals. He also called for a downward revision of the country’s UN security ratings from phase III since it “no longer reflected the reality” of the prevailing situation.
Gbagbo had requested the Council to convene a meeting on Côte d’Ivoire at which he could speak during his visit. However, the Council did not accede to this request.
One key issue before the Council is the success of the Ouagadougou agreement. Some of its elements, including creation of a new transitional government and replacing the “zone of confidence” separating north and south with a green line to be monitored by UNOCI, are being realised. However, major issues remain. These include dismantling militias, disarming ex-combatants and enrolling them in civil services programmes, merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defence and security forces into an integrated command centre, and organising free and fair presidential elections.
Another important issue is the request for an arms embargo exemption for light weapons for law and order purposes. So far no official request has been received. The nature of such a request and whether it includes lethal or non-lethal equipment is likely to also be an issue.
A final issue is whether the Sanctions Committee will also receive a request to lift individual sanctions as mentioned in the Ouagadougou agreement.
Under resolution 1727 the sanctions imposed under resolutions 1572 and 1643 expire on 31 October. Renewal of the sanctions seems not to be in question. However, modification to respond to the request seems likely to be an issue.
utilising the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s progress report on the implementation of the Ouagadougou agreement in its deliberations and decisions;
issuing a statement reiterating the Council’s support for the Ouagadougou agreement, as well as urging the parties to commit themselves to the terms of the pact; and
renewing the current sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.
The Secretary-General’s report on progress is likely to be influential in shaping the Council’s next line of action. Most members feel that if actual progress on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire is slight there will be no justification to change UNOCI’s mandate or review its troop level. This is likely to be considered substantively during deliberations in January ahead of the expiry of the mandate. By then, ample time would have elapsed between the signing of the agreement and attempts at implementation to give a better sense of developments in the country. France and the African members of the Council are the lead countries on the matter.
Council members appear to have no major reservations about renewing the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts. As indicated in our July 2007 Forecast, interest in a request by the Ouagadougou facilitator for a partial lifting of sanctions on light weapons appears to have waned following consultations with relevant stakeholders during the Council’s recent visit.
The Council has been traditionally cautious about premature lifting of sanctions to avert potential relapse into violent conflict. At press time, no formal request had yet been received from Côte d’Ivoire by the Council on the matter. However, exemption from the arms embargo seems to be a preferred option for Council members rather than lifting the embargo. The sanctions regime currently in place includes an arms embargo, targeted travel ban, assets freeze, as well as a diamond trade restriction.
Questions of citizenship and the status of foreign nationals remain a central flashpoint in the conflict and previously fomented nationalist sentiments. This impeded the registration of voters and led to interethnic violence. Tensions still exist regarding the voter-identification process, and the Ouagadougou agreement is not very clear on which process-identification or disarmament-must be completed first. However, it is unlikely that the rebels will fully disarm without a proper identification programme as this remains one of their key demands and an oft-cited reason for initially taking up arms.
Political actors are also yet to reach a compromise on integrating former rebels into the national army. Security challenges continue to threaten the western part of the country, which borders Liberia. Killings and rapes have increased in the west, and banditry is rife.
Socioeconomic hardships emanating from the civil strife, including deteriorated national institutional structures, lack of basic health care, deficient infrastructure, unemployment, human rights violations and rule of law problems, continue to persist in Côte d’Ivoire.
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| Oumar Dieye Sidi, Niger (customs/Coordinator of the Group)
Grégoire Bafouatika, Congo (aviation)
Lipika Majumdar Roy Choudhury, India (finance)
Abdoul Wahab Diakhaby, Guinea (diamonds)
Claudio Gramizzi, Italy (arms)
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