Even after the signing of a peace accord in Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the West African country still has much work ahead of it, an official for the world body has said.
“I found a very tangible, very perceptible relaxation of the situation in the country,” Under-Secretary-General Hédi Annabi said in a UN radio interview on Monday at the end of a 12-day visit to the divided nation to evaluate the situation on the ground.
Referring to a peace deal struck by the sides in neighbouring Burkina Faso, he said there was a “very clear willingness on the part of Ivorian leaders to implement the Ouagadougou agreement and try to stick as much as possible to the timeline outlined in the Accord.”
The mission, known as UNOCI, “will continue to help our Ivorian friends in the implementation of the Accord.”
The agreement between President Gbagbo and Forces Nouvelles Secretary-General Guillaume Soro commits both sides to honouring all Security Council resolutions on the issue, including the need to abide by free, fair and transparent elections.
The Accord also tackles disarmament, reform and restructuring of the armed forces as well as the restoration of State authority throughout the country, which has been divided between north and south since 2002. National elections originally slated for last October have been postponed until this year.
Mr. Annabi said that everyone he met with, including President Laurent Gbagbo, stated that they wanted the mission to continue its work to help Ivorians realize the agreement.
The agreement calls for the dismantling of the so-called Zone of Confidence separating the Government-controlled south and rebel-held north, and will be replaced by a green line along which the UN will establish observation points.
As the Accord is fulfilled, Mr. Annabi said that the situation regarding the UN’s mission in the country will be re-evaluated, especially in regards to demobilization of militias.
“After the redeployment of the administration to the north of the country, we will analyze the residual areas we need to accomplish and, based on this analysis, we can envisage a lightening of our resources on the ground and a reduction in manpower,” he noted.
Of the voting scheduled to take place this October, Mr. Annabi stressed that the “organization and management of the elections falls on Ivorian institutions.”
The UN will ensure that they take place “under good conditions.” It will also confirm that the results “proclaimed by Ivorian institutions conform to international norms and that the process takes place under credible, free, democratic and transparent conditions as described in the Accord of Ouagadougou,” he said.
UNOCI has nearly 9,000 total uniformed personnel in the country, including 7,850 troops and almost 1,000 police with a mandate to monitor the cessation of hostilities and movements of armed groups, help in disarmament and dismantling of militias and contribute to the security of the operation of identifying the population and registering voters.