What's In Blue

Consultations on Visiting Mission to West Africa

This afternoon (Thursday, 17 May), Council members will have consultations on their forthcoming Council mission to West Africa from 19 to 23 May where they will be visiting Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone. It is likely that they will finalise the terms of reference and the programme for the visit during the meeting. As was done with the Council’s visit to Africa last year, there will be two co-leads for each country: the US and Morocco for the Liberia leg; France and Togo for the Côte d’Ivoire leg; and the UK and South Africa for the Sierra Leone leg. The Council last visited Africa (Addis Ababa for AU consultations, Sudan and a Somalia-focused visit to Nairobi) in May last year.

In Liberia, members of the Council mission are scheduled to meet with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and members of the cabinet. Council members are likely to be interested in assessing the implementation of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) mandate (which expires on 30 September). In addition, the Secretary-General’s 16 April assessment mission report is likely to be on members’ minds as they consider appropriate timing and modalities for a possible drawdown. (Having detailed the risks to Liberia’s fragile peace, the report recommends a very careful adjustment of UNMIL’s security presence over the next three years.)

It seems the programme in Liberia includes visits to the National Police Training Academy, meetings with UNMIL and the UN Police (UNPOL), including an Indian all-female police unit. Council members will also meet with civil society leaders.

Apparently there will also be a visit to a project aimed at helping women learn new skills and possibly to a rubber plantation where the challenges of doing business in Liberia will be highlighted.

The next leg of the visit is to Côte d’Ivoire where Council members are expected to meet with President Alassane Ouattara, Prime Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou and members of the cabinet as well as the President of the National Assembly and parliamentary group members. Other meetings likely to be included in the Council’s programme are with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, opposition and civil society groups.

While in Côte d’Ivoire, Council members will also have a high-level meeting with the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS). (Côte d’Ivoire is currently the chair of ECOWAS.) Although there have been annual consultations with the AU’s Peace and Security Council, this is the first time Council members are meeting with ECOWAS in this way. Possible participants at this meeting include the Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, the ECOWAS Commission Chair, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo and foreign ministers from the region. The main focus of the meeting is likely to be the situation in both Mali and Guinea-Bissau where ECOWAS has played an active role in trying to resolve matters following the coups on 21 March and 12 April, respectively. (Council members are currently negotiating a draft resolution on Guinea-Bissau which is likely to be adopted tomorrow before members leave for Africa.)

It appears that another interesting aspect of the Côte d’Ivoire leg will be a visit to the Côte d’Ivoire-Liberia border. Council members are likely to be interested in cross-border problems and learning more about how UNMIL and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) are working together on these issues. The Secretary-General’s special report on UNOCI expressed concern over the continued presence of armed elements and weapons as well as illicit trafficking across the Côte d’Ivoire-Liberia border. Council members are also aware that a large number of the mercenaries who could be easily mobilised, many Liberian, who fought in Côte d’Ivoire remain at large, and are possibly on the Liberian side of the border. It seems that a visit to a refugee camp has also been scheduled.

The final leg of the mission takes Council members to Sierra Leone where they will meet President Ernest Bai Koroma and other cabinet members. While in Freetown, Council members are likely to be interested in seeing what sort of progress has been made in peacebuilding. Activities related to national reconciliation, promotion of gender equality and discussions about the preparations for national and local elections scheduled for November are likely to be included in the programme. Council members are likely to have interactions with political parties, the National Election Commission and the Office of National Security as well as civil society members and women’s groups while in Freetown.

They are also scheduled to meet the new Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, Jens Toyberg-Frandzen. (The previous Executive Representative, Michael von der Schulenburg, was withdrawn from Sierra Leone on 6 February following a request by the Sierra Leone government.)

A briefing in the Council following the trip is scheduled for 31 May. (This is normally given by the Council member leading the mission, in this case the US.) Following Council missions a written report has also usually been published (although the report for the Council visit to Haiti in February has yet to be published.)

Footnote: The Council itself remains formally at Headquarters in New York and although many of the permanent representatives will be on the mission, their representatives would meet in New York to take a formal decision if required. It is possible for the Council to meet formally to adopt a decision outside New York (Article 28(3) of the Charter and rule 5 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure) but this procedure is complex and rarely used. As was seen from the last Council visit to Africa in May 2011, press statements – which are not formal decisions – are an easier option. (Council members on that trip issued a press statement on Abyei following an attack on an UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) convoy.)

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