posted on Tue 24 Jun 2014 11:35 AM
UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire Mandate Renewal: Changes and Downsizing

Tomorrow (25 June), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing for a year the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). A first draft was circulated by France on 10 June. The draft text was put under silence on 19 June after two rounds of negotiations, and put into blue on 20 June. The resolution makes some changes to UNOCI’s mandate and reinforces the role of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in supporting political processes underway in Côte d’Ivoire.

The draft resolution recognises progress achieved in Côte d’Ivoire, including the improvement in the security situation. Perhaps reflecting the improved security, the text in blue ends UNOCI’s mandate to support the redeployment of state administration and the extension of state authority throughout the country. The protection of civilians’ mandate has also been amended from protecting the civilian population from “imminent” threat of physical violence to protecting the civilian population from threat of physical violence.

While highlighting progress that has been made, the draft emphasises that more needs to be done in a number of areas: demobilising former combatants within an inclusive process; reforming the security sector; promoting accountability; instituting reforms on nationality and land issues; promoting national reconciliation; and making electoral reforms ahead of the October 2015 presidential elections. The resolution also adds new language on the human rights violations of detainees and calls on political stakeholders to refrain from hate speech.

In view of the upcoming elections, the draft resolution adds a political support role to UNOCI’s mandate. Commending Special Representative of the Secretary-General Aichatou Mindaoudou Souleymane for her good offices efforts, the resolution requests UNOCI to provide political support to Côte d’Ivoire to address root causes of the conflict and to help prepare for the 2015 elections by facilitating dialogue between political stakeholders.

The resolution will also adjust the military component to 5,437 personnel, reducing it by 1,700 troops by 30 June 2015, as envisaged in resolution 2112 of 30 July 2013. The draft resolution also expresses the Council’s intention to consider a further reduction of UNOCI, and its possible termination after the October 2015 presidential elections, depending on the conditions on the ground. It additionally reduces the UNOCI police component from 1,555 to 1,500 and extends the authorisation of the deployment of French forces for a year. (During a visit to Côte d’Ivoire on 10 May, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France announced that France will increase the number of its forces stationed in Côte d’Ivoire from 500 to 800 military personnel as of 1 January 2015. The French forces will be restructured as an advance operational force that will also support the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.)

The resolution also reinforces intermission cooperation between UNOCI and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). It authorises all UNOCI and UNMIL military helicopters to be utilised in both countries. It also calls for the establishment of a quick reaction force (QRF) within UNOCI for an initial period of one year. The QRF will be configured to quickly address security incidents in Côte d’Ivoire. Additionally, while remaining primarily a UNOCI asset, the Secretary-General may deploy the unit to Liberia if there is a serious deterioration in security there.

During the negotiations, there were two main sources of disagreement among Council members: the extent of UNOCI’s downsizing and the modalities surrounding the establishment of the QRF within UNOCI. The draft in blue downsizes the mission more than the Secretary-General, sensitive to the potential uncertainty of the electoral period, recommended in his recent report (S/2014/342). While some elected Council members originally expressed concern at the acceleration of the downsizing, they did not push for a change in the draft during the negotiations on 17 June. It seems the accelerated reduction of troops has been counterbalanced by reconfiguring UNOCI to concentrate on high-risk areas and assume a more mobile posture.

The establishment of the QRF raised more questions among Council members than any other issue during the negotiations, especially regarding its possible deployment to Liberia. It seems that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was looking for a blanket authorisation to be able to deploy the unit to Liberia, if necessary, based on the situation on the ground. The modalities and mandate of the QRF were not clearly defined when Council members first met on the draft, creating some confusion. Some Council members feared a replication of the intervention brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Questions were also raised regarding the QRF’s mandate if deployed to Liberia (i.e.: whether it would support UNMIL’s mandate and operate under its command, or undertake a more limited mandate such as the protection of UN personnel.)

On 17 June, DPKO Operations was invited to answer Council members’ questions on the QRF. Following the meeting with DPKO, and after further negotiations among the members later that day, it seems that Council members agreed on the modalities surrounding the QRF and the role of the Secretary-General in its deployment. In case of a deterioration of the situation in Liberia—and subject to the consent of the troop-contributing countries concerned and the government of Liberia—the Secretary-General can deploy the QRF to Liberia without having to seek authorisation from the Security Council beforehand. The Secretary-General will, however, have to inform the Council immediately of any such deployment and will have to seek Council authorisation for any deployment exceeding 90 days. The draft resolution also clarifies that the unit’s priority is to implement UNOCI’s mandate; however, when in Liberia, the QRF will implement UNMIL’s mandate.

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