From 20 to 22 May, Ambassador Menan of Togo and Ambassador Araud led the Security Council mission to Côte d’Ivoire. This eagerly awaited visit was the first since 2008 and came a year after the end of the post-electoral crisis that led to more than 3,000 deaths.
The Security Council met with all Ivorian political protagonists, President Ouattara, his Prime Minister, some of his other ministers, the Speaker of the National Assembly, parliamentary groups and members of the non-parliamentary opposition. The Council also met with representatives of Ivorian civil society in Abidjan and members of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Council travelled to western Côte d’Ivoire, near the Liberian border — a region that still bears the scars of the post-electoral crisis. In the town of Guiglo, the Council spoke directly with local people and authorities, as well as members of the local awareness and sensitization committee. The Council then took the opportunity to participate in a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abidjan. My delegation conveys its warmest thanks to the Ivorian authorities for their welcome; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Albert Koenders; and all the personnel of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) who organized our logistically complex and eventful visit.
The Council mission’s primary task was to assess the stabilization process in Côte d’Ivoire. Council members were able to note that the country had made very significant progress in scarcely a year, but that several challenges remain regarding border security, reconciliation, the fight against impunity and the deep-rooted causes of the Ivorian conflict, such as land-title disputes.
The Council spoke at length with President Ouattara and his Government on 21 May. They detailed their work to the Council and expressed their confidence that the security situation would gradually improve. They stressed that security sector reform still faced a number of hurdles, including the lack of resources. Members of the Council noted that the process of disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating tens of thousands of ex-combatants remains one of the newest and most complex challenges, given the situation before the elections, and that a lasting solution has yet to be found, with the support of the United Nations.
During the course of the Council’s meetings with associations and opposition members, rifts within society and the political class were in clear evidence, revealing the scope of the task of reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire. In that regard, the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission outlined its goals and working methods for transitional justice. The Government also affirmed its resolve to allay tensions and to restore and promote political dialogue with all political groupings, without jeopardizing the fight against impunity. That point was emphasized by President Ouattara.
The field visit to western Côte d’Ivoire was a turning point. The Council was able to take stock of the new threats to peace and security that justify the enhanced UNOCI presence in that part of the country and strengthened means to protect civilians, including through inter-mission cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Liberia. Those to whom the Council spoke on the ground expressed their serious concerns about the movement of weapons, attacks by combatants based in Liberia, the insecurity caused by the traditional Dozo hunters, problems with the Ivorian security forces, the humanitarian challenges to returns, and the confusion surrounding land ownership.
Lastly, on 21 May, during its visit to Abidjan, the Council was able to meet with representatives of ECOWAS, including its Commission and several ministers from the region. The meeting was chaired by the Foreign Minister of Côte d’Ivoire. The debate was interactive and wide-ranging and focused on the situations in Mali and Guinea-Bissau. With regard to the crisis in Mali, the mediator, Mr. Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé, briefed the members of the Council on the latest developments on the attack on the interim President and on the initiatives undertaken by the mediation. We considered potential approaches for cooperation and agreed to maintain a close dialogue on the matter.
In conclusion, I hope I speak for everyone when I say that this mission to Côte d’Ivoire made it possible for the Council to better understand both the divisions within and the exceptional resources of the country, and consequently the major priorities for efforts to be made by the United Nations still needed by the people of Côte d’Ivoire in order to emerge from many years of conflict.