UN concerned about failing Ivorian peace effort

The United Nations secretary general is “deeply concerned” by the failure of the government and former rebels in Côte d’Ivoire to achieve steps toward peace.

In his latest report on Côte d’Ivoire, released this week, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says lagging progress is undermining the Ouagadougou peace accord, which observers have called the last, best hope for the country after several previous agreements crumbled under political wrangling.

“I am deeply concerned that the failure to adhere to the timelines set out in the agreement has led to a slackening of momentum which, if it continues, could undermine successful implementation.”

The peace accord, signed in March this year, laid out several deadlines for disarmament and demobilisation, preparations for long-overdue presidential elections and security reforms. Most of the deadlines have slipped and some of the actions have yet to get off the ground, according to the report.

While a buffer zone separating the government-run south and rebel-held north was dismantled in recent months, government workers are yet to resume their posts throughout the rebel territory. Aside from some pro-government militias turning in handfuls of weapons and a ceremonial burning of some defunct guns in a July ceremony, disarmament has not moved forward, observers say.

No agreement

Throughout the report, Ban blames lack of progress on the two sides’ failure to agree.

He says on disarmament and security reform that the main sticking point is a lack of agreement over what rank some former rebels would hold if they were integrated into the national army.

A process to provide undocumented Ivorians with proper identity papers — which many call indispensable to moving towards stability — got under way on September 25 after several failed starts, only to be suspended for “lack of adequate sensitisation which resulted in low turnout”, the report said.

The secretary general commends “international partners” for backing the country’s recovery efforts but says: “The onus is now on the government of Côte d’Ivoire to do its part to accelerate the implementation process.”

After a flurry of optimism and activity in the initial three months, peace efforts have fallen off, the report says. The process “started losing momentum in June, in particular because of the limited capacity of national institutions charged with the implementation of key tasks”.

No surprise

Observers say the UN assessment comes as no surprise. “Things are moving extremely slowly,” says one Western diplomat who speaks to the press only on condition of anonymity. “There have been no notable advances in the peace process that allow us even to fix a date for the elections.”

He adds: “It’s worrying. In order to emerge from the crisis, the country must organise elections.”

Ban also says continued human rights violations — particularly on the part of government and rebel forces — are “extremely disturbing”.

“The leadership of the [former rebel] New Forces and the command of the defence and security forces of Côte d’Ivoire have an obligation to address those problems and to ensure discipline among their personnel.”

Ban urges the government to dismantle pro-government militia in the west and to bring to justice the leaders and members of “so-called student groups” that intimidate and attack civilians, civil society groups and UN personnel and property. — Irin

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