UN answers claims of Ivory Coast bias

 
A vehicle belonging to the United Nations Operations in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) has once again been targeted by followers of Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who has accused UN peacekeepers of supporting his rival for the presidency, Alassane Ouattara. Below, a spokesman for ONUCI responds to the accusations of bias made by several pro-Gbagbo readers on the Observers site.
 
The Ivory Coast has been locked in a deep political crisis since a disputed presidential election on November 28, after which both Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara declared themselves president. But Alassane Ouattara is the only president who gained widespread international recognition after the Independent Electoral Commission declared him the rightful winner with over 54 percent of the votes.
 
On Sunday, the former rebels of the New Forces (FN), who support Alassane Ouattara, took the town of Doké in the country's west. It is the fourth town held by Laurent Gbagbo’s forces to fall into their hands.
 
Abidjan, the country's largest city, has been the scene of violent clashes between pro-Ouattara insurgents and the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) loyal to Gbagbo. Tensions are running particularly high in the district of Abobo, one of the pro-Ouattara outposts in Abidjan. Abobo has been a battlefield for almost two months. Since Sunday, it is believed that the town has been under the control of “the invisible commando”, a heavily armed pro-Ouattara group. The group has been patrolling the neighbourhoods in a pick-up. 
 
As the violence escalated in the economic capital of Ivory Coast, on Saturday a group of pro-Gbagbo militants – described by several witnesses as young patriots – attacked an ONUCI vehicle parked outside a supermarket of Cocody, another Abidjan district. A Ghanaian soldier who was inside the vehicle was assaulted by the militia. He is currently in hospital.
 
We asked ONUCI spokesman Hamadoun Touré to respond to the criticisms and accusations that have been made by a number of readers on the France 24 Observers’s site. His responses follow the comments of one of the site’s users.
 
 
Video posted on YouTube by MaestroJohn1.
 
Contributors

"In Ivory coast, there have always been as many judges as inhabitants; ONUCI has got caught up in this game"

Philippe lives in Cocody, a district of Abidjan.

"I am sorry about this recent act of violence but it doesn’t surprise me. Most of the people I know have the feeling that ONUCI is collaborating with the ‘rebels’. I myself believe that the vast majority of violent acts denounced by ONUCI occur in the zone controlled by Defence and Security Forces (FDS) [loyal to Laurent Gbagbo]. Violent acts which occur in the zone controlled by the New Forces (FN) [pro-Ouattara] are very rare. However, thousands of people are heading for Liberia in an attempt to flee from the violence perpetrated by the FN. In my opinion, the only balanced report is Amnesty International's, which shows that human rights violations are happening on both sides.


Response from Hamadoun Touré, spokesman for ONUCI:

"This accusation is unjustified, our staff cover all of Ivory Coast. Our reports on human rights list violent acts in the northern zone as much as the southern zone."


"Thousands of civilians had to flee the town of Abobo this weekend after a battle broke out between the FDS and 'the invisible commando'. I saw some civilians take refuge in a church several metres from my home. ONUCI has the power to stop this. Why doesn’t it do anything? The problem in Ivory Coast is that there have always been as many judges as there are inhabitants; ONUCI has got caught up in this game.

I also wonder why the rebels [the FN] are still armed when the objective of ONUCI, following its creation in 2004, was to disarm both them and the pro-Gbagbo militias. At the end of the disarmament process, the pro-Gbagbo militias had played by the rules, but the New Forces had not, as we have come to realise today."


Response from Hamadoun Touré, spokesman for ONUCI:

"Our role is not to disarm the combatants. According to the terms of the Ouagadougou agreements, they were supposed to be disarmed two months before the presidential election. When they wanted to organise elections, we warned them that the disarmament process was not yet finished. The military forces on both sides had simply been stationed, which is to say that each side was in its own zone but still armed. Despite our warnings, the different parties decided to go ahead with the elections."
 
Post written with France 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre.


Comments

"Despite our warnings, the different parties decided to go ahead

This last comment of the spokesman of the UN surprises me when we all noticed in the news how much pressure was put on Ivory Coast and its government at the time, to finally hold these elections. If they had been postponed one more time I am sure this same international community (France ahead) would have reacted by saying that the government in place did not want the elections to happen. Did the UN warn anyone about that? If they tried to alert the public opinion, I am not sure the message went through.

Disartmament is a key mission of UNOCI, Parag. 6 of Res. 1528

Extract of Resolution 1528 of February 27th, 2004)

"... Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

1. Decides to establish the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire
(UNOCI) for an initial period of 12 months as from 4 April 2004, and requests the
Secretary-General to transfer authority from MINUCI and the ECOWAS forces to
UNOCI on that date, and decides therefore to renew the mandate of the United
Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI) until 4 April 2004;

2. Decides that UNOCI will comprise, in addition to the appropriate
civilian, judiciary and corrections component, a military strength of a maximum of
6,240 United Nations personnel, including 200 military observers and 120 staff
officers, and up to 350 civilian police officers, as required to perform the mandated
tasks described in the following paragraph 6;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to encourage the United Nations missions
in West Africa to share logistic and administrative support, to the extent possible,
without prejudicing their operational capabilities with respect to their mandates, in
order to maximize effectiveness and minimize the cost of the missions;

4. Requests UNOCI to carry out its mandate in close liaison with the United
Nations missions in Sierra Leone and in Liberia, including especially in the
prevention of movements of arms and combatants across shared borders and the
implementation of disarmament and demobilization programmes;

5. Reaffirms its strong support for the Secretary-General’s Special
Representative and approves his full authority for the coordination and conduct of
all the activities of the United Nations system in Côte d’Ivoire;

6. Decides that the mandate of UNOCI, in coordination with the French
forces authorized in paragraph 16 below, shall be the following:
Monitoring of the ceasefire and movements of armed groups

(a) To observe and monitor the implementation of the comprehensive
ceasefire agreement of 3 May 2003, and investigate violations of the ceasefire,

(b) To liaise with the National Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI) and
the military elements of the Forces Nouvelles in order to promote, in coordination
with the French forces, the re-establishment of trust between all the Ivorian forces
involved, as stated in its resolution 1479 (2003),

(c) To assist the Government of National Reconciliation in monitoring the
borders, with particular attention to the situation of Liberian refugees and to the
movement of combatants,

Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement
(d) To assist the Government of National Reconciliation in undertaking the
regrouping of all the Ivorian forces involved and to ensure the security of their
cantonment sites,

(e) To help the Government of National Reconciliation implement the
national programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the
combatants (DDR), with special attention to the specific needs of women and
children,

(f) To coordinate closely with the United Nations missions in Sierra Leone
and in Liberia in the implementation of a voluntary repatriation and resettlement
programme for foreign ex-combatants, with special attention to the specific needs of
women and children, in support of the efforts of the Government of National
Reconciliation and in cooperation with the Governments concerned, relevant
international financial institutions, international development organizations and
donor nations,

(g) To ensure that the programmes mentioned in paragraphs (e) and (f) take
into account the need for a regional approach,

(h) To guard weapons, ammunition and other military materiel handed over
by the former combatants and to secure, neutralize or destroy such materiel,
Protection of United Nations personnel, institutions and civilians

(i) To protect United Nations personnel, installations and equipment,
provide the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel and,
without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of National
Reconciliation, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence,
within its capabilities and its areas of deployment,

(j) To support, in coordination with the Ivorian authorities, the provision of
security for the ministers of the Government of National Reconciliation,
Support for humanitarian assistance

(k) To facilitate the free flow of people, goods and humanitarian assistance,
inter alia, by helping to establish the necessary security conditions,
Support for the implementation of the peace process

(l) To facilitate, in cooperation with ECOWAS and other international
partners, the re-establishment by the Government of National Reconciliation of the
authority of the State throughout Côte d’Ivoire,

(m) To provide oversight, guidance and technical assistance to the
Government of National Reconciliation, with the assistance of ECOWAS and other
international partners, to prepare for and assist in the conduct of free, fair and
transparent electoral processes linked to the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis
Agreement, in particular the presidential election,
Assistance in the field of human rights

(n) To contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights in Côte
d’Ivoire with special attention to violence committed against women and girls, and
to help investigate human rights violations with a view to help ending impunity,
Public information

(o) To promote understanding of the peace process and the role of UNOCI
among local communities and the parties, through an effective public information
capacity, including the establishment as necessary of a United Nations radio
broadcasting capability,
Law and order

(p) To assist the Government of National Reconciliation in conjunction with
ECOWAS and other international organizations in restoring a civilian policing
presence throughout Côte d’Ivoire, and to advise the Government of National
Reconciliation on the restructuring of the internal security services,

(q) To assist the Government of National Reconciliation in conjunction with
ECOWAS and other international organizations in re-establishing the authority of
the judiciary and the rule of law throughout Côte d’Ivoire,

7. Requests the Secretary-General to give special attention to the gender and
child-protection components within the staff of UNOCI;

8. Authorizes UNOCI to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate,
within its capabilities and its areas of deployment;

9. Requests the Secretary-General and the Government of National
Reconciliation to conclude a status-of-force agreement within 30 days of adoption of
this resolution, taking into consideration General Assembly resolution 58/82 on the
scope of legal protection under the Convention on the safety of United Nations and
associated personnel, and notes that, pending the conclusion of such an agreement,
the model status-of-forces agreement dated 9 October 1990 (A/45/594) shall apply
provisionally;

10. Stresses the importance of the complete and unconditional
implementation of the measures provided for under the Linas-Marcoussis
Agreement, and demands that the parties fulfil their obligations under the Linas-
Marcoussis Agreement so that, in particular, the forthcoming Presidential election
can be held in 2005 in accordance with the constitutional deadlines;

11. Calls upon all parties to cooperate fully in the deployment and
operations of UNOCI, in particular by guaranteeing the safety, security and freedom
of movement of United Nations personnel as well as associated personnel
throughout the territory of Côte d’Ivoire;

12. Reaffirms, in particular, the need for the Government of National
Reconciliation to undertake the complete and immediate implementation of the
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme, including the
disbanding of all armed groups, in particular the militias, the curbing of all kinds of
disruptive street protests, especially of the various youth groups, and the
restructuring of the armed forces and the internal security services;

13. Urges the international community to continue considering how it might
help further economic development in Côte d’Ivoire with a view to achieving longterm
stability in Côte d’Ivoire and the whole subregion;

14. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council regularly informed of
the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis
Agreement and the implementation of the mandate of UNOCI, and to report to it in
this regard every three months, including a review of the troop level with a view to a
phasing down in light of the progress achieved on the ground and the remaining
tasks to be fulfilled;

15. Decides to renew until 4 April 2004 the authorization given to the French
forces and ECOWAS forces through its resolution 1527 (2004);

16. Authorizes for a period of 12 months from 4 April 2004 the French forces
to use all necessary means in order to support UNOCI in accordance with the
agreement to be reached between UNOCI and the French authorities, and in
particular to:
– Contribute to the general security of the area of activity of the international
forces,
– Intervene at the request of UNOCI in support of its elements whose security
may be threatened,
– Intervene against belligerent actions, if the security conditions so require,
outside the areas directly controlled by UNOCI,
– Help to protect civilians, in the deployment areas of their units;

17. Requests France to continue to report to it periodically on all aspects of
its mandate in Côte d’Ivoire;

18. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."

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