Ivorian leader pledges to carry out UN mandate

Côte d’Ivoire’s Prime Minister, Charles Konan Banny, on Wednesday announced the resumption of preparations for long-postponed elections in the divided country under his new United Nations mandate.

“On the basis of work already done, I’m relaunching operations to distribute ... birth certificates and nationality certificates,” Banny told journalists in the West African nation’s political capital, Yamoussoukro.

“I will also quickly relaunch the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration,” he said in his first public speech since the start of a new transitional year on November 1.

“I intend to assume all my responsibilities and fully carry out the mission entrusted to me,” the former banker added, a week after the UN Security Council extended his term in office for a year, along with that of President Laurent Gbagbo, in a bid to break a deadlock in the peace process.

Measures to deliver identity documents were interrupted last year by clashes between Gbagbo supporters in the south and the political opposition allied to New Forces rebels holding the north of the country.

An estimated 3,5-million Ivorians have no identity papers and the issue of Ivorian identity is at the root of the civil conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, which plays host to thousands of migrants working on cocoa plantations.

Presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to have been held by the end of October, but were delayed for a second time since the world’s leading cocoa-producing nation was split in two between the government and the rebels late in 2002.

Banny said he wants the backing of all those “in the administration and elsewhere who have a role to play and sincerely wish that peace will come to our beautiful country”.

“I count from this point, with determination, to pursue and complete the actions to get out of the crisis that have been set out in Resolution 1 721,” Banny said.

The UN Security Council’s Resolution 1 721, which was sponsored by France on the basis of proposals from African mediators, strengthened Banny’s powers and gave him authority over the military and security forces, but critics said it failed to go far enough.

Gbagbo, who is backed by volatile militia movements who regard themselves as “patriots” and are based mainly in the economic capital, Abidjan, is seen by his foes as an obstacle to peace because of his political manoeuvres.

The transitional prime minister, who heads a broad-based government, said the UN resolution “in my eyes constitutes a new and ultimate framework to settle the crisis peacefully. In this context, it seems to me absolutely unnecessary to look for another scheme as a substitute for this resolution.”

Gbagbo has cautiously welcomed the latest UN resolution, warning that he would not implement measures that are out of line with the Constitution.

Banny said he will create a new structure for military dialogue to reorganise and unify the government and rebel forces.
He pledged to complete “as soon as possible” the dismantling of militia groups and to “definitively” withdraw illegally held weapons.

“I will work with determination and without weakness for the reunification of the country and the restoration of state authority across the entire territory ... and to restore to our citizens the freedom of movement, without obstacles and in safety,” said Banny.—Sapa-AFP

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