What's In Blue

New UNOCI Resolution

Tomorrow morning (26 July), the Security Council looks set to renew the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) until 31 July 2013. The draft resolution, circulated by France on 20 July, was placed under silence procedure today. As with resolution 2000 (2011) which had last renewed UNOCI, the current draft emphasises the protection of civilians as the key priority of the mission and reiterates the authorisation to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment.

Council members are likely to have been keen to keep the focus on the protection of civilians aspect of UNOCI’s mandate given the recent upsurge in violent attacks against civilians, including in refugee camps and on UN peacekeepers by armed groups. Introducing the Secretary-General’s most recent report on 18 July (S/2012/506), Albert Gerard Koenders, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire and head of UNOCI, emphasised that in view of the deteriorating security situation it was important for the UN to continue to support the government’s efforts to “stabilise the security situation, protect civilians, restore state authority, promote reconciliation as well as undertake post conflict development assistance.”

In addition Koenders noted that the country remains volatile, “especially but not exclusively in the west, at the Côte d’Ivoire-Liberia border”, and attributed this to weak state authorities and the convergence of weapons, armed elements, former combatants, and militias as well as competition over the control of resources. Another area he highlighted that is likely to have worried Council members was the recruitment of former Ivorian and Liberian combatants by groups supportive of former President Laurent Gbagbo and attacks against government security forces which could potentially escalate into larger-scale conflicts, especially if the underlying root causes like land tenure issues are not addressed. Council members are likely to have taken a keen interest in Koenders’ assessment of these dangers, as during their visiting mission to West Africa in May, they heard directly from those affected by some of these issues when they visited the western border of Côte d’Ivoire.

The Secretary-General’s special report on Côte d’Ivoire submitted to the Council on 29 March (S/2012/186) had recommended the reduction of UNOCI’s military component in Abidjan by one battalion (850 troops). The 29 June report does not change this recommendation and provides the explanation that “recent events have not compromised the underlying rationale for this reduction.” However, including language in the draft resolution on reducing the military component by 850 troops by a specific date became a point of contention.

While all Council members accepted the need for a drawdown at some point in the near future, there was concern that setting a definite timeframe would send the wrong message to potential spoilers. To accommodate these concerns, it seems the draft text that is likely to be adopted notes that the reduction would be dictated by events on the ground.

It also appears that at least one Council member was uncomfortable with making reference to the ongoing work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Côte d’Ivoire but in the end this reference was retained. It seems the draft resolution urges the government to ensure that all those responsible for serious abuses of human rights and violations of humanitarian law are brought to justice.

It appears the draft resolution also requests the Secretary-General to provide a midterm report to the Council no later than 31 December 2012 and a final report no later than 30 June 2013 on the situation on the ground and the implementation of the resolution.

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