posted on Tue 28 Oct 2014 5:21 PM
Briefing and Consultations on Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions

Tomorrow (29 October), Ambassador Cristian Barros (Chile), chair of the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee, will brief the Security Council. Barros will update the Council on the work of the committee since his last briefing on 24 April and provide a summary of the findings of the mid-term report (S/2014/729) of the Group of Experts (GoE), including with respect to the implementation of resolution 2153 (which partially lifted the arms embargo and terminated the diamond embargo) adopted six months ago. (The GoE presented its report and recommendations to the sanctions committee on 10 October.) Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba (Côte d’Ivoire) is also expected to address the Council. The briefing will be followed by consultations.

Although the security situation has improved in Côte d’Ivoire, Council members are aware from the GoE report that mercenary groups in Liberia and militias in Côte d’Ivoire remain active. Some armed attacks appear to be connected to groups linked to ex-president Laurent Gbagbo (such as the attacks on villages of Grabo and Feteh 22-23 February and 14-15 April, which resulted in the deaths of 11 civilians and 3 government soldiers). Regarding the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process, the GoE noted discrepancies in the numbers of ex-combatants demobilised and the number of weapons surrendered, suggesting a large number of arms still in circulation. There are also non-registered ex-combatants who have retained their weapons, often either working as security guards or joining criminal gangs. Council members may be concerned about the views expressed by the GoE on the lack of movement on efforts to combat impunity and signs that former commanders have acquired additional sources of finance that could be used to purchase weapons. They may also enquire if the government’s 30 September report to the committee on progress in DDR and security sector reform, as stipulated by resolution 2153, provides any further information.

Council members are likely to be interested in the outstanding issues identified by the GoE with regard to implementation of the arms embargo, such as access of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to military sites for inspection, modification of non-lethal equipment to lethal materiel in violation of the sanctions regime, and heavy weaponry under the control of sanctioned individuals. On 30 out of 186 occasions between 1 May and 28 July, UNOCI was denied access to military sites for inspection. In terms of the modification of equipment initially imported as non-lethal, mounting heavy machine guns on the back of pick-up trucks by the Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) was a recurring sanctions violation. The GoE was also particularly concerned that Martin Fofié a former Forces nouvelle rebel under UN sanctions, possesses heavy weaponry such as rocket launchers and heavy machine guns that exceed the firepower of the FRCI.

Border control, particularly along the shared border with Liberia, continues to be a problem for Côte d’Ivoire. The GoE noted that customs agents and border patrols lack sufficient equipment and facilities. There is also a shortage of trained staff for customs administration, with no new recruitment having taken place since 2005. On the other hand, the Ebola outbreak in Liberia may have reduced some of the cross-border traffic as Côte d’Ivoire, which has not had any Ebola cases, closed its borders from 23 August to early October to individuals coming from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. As a result of the temporary closing of the border as well as fears of disease the traffic between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia by armed spoilers of the peace processes may have ebbed. Council members may be interested hearing more about this aspect of the situation. Ambassador Bamba may be able to update Council members on steps taken so far toward implementation of resolution 2162, adopted 25 June, which calls on the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia to cooperate on border management.

The GoE also investigated whether natural resource exploitation—i.e. diamonds, gold, cocoa and rubber—was financing activities posing threats to peace and security. There has been progress toward compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), but the absence of formally established rough diamond buying houses has meant that diamonds continue to be sold illegally outside the KPCS framework. The government suspended alluvial gold production in 2013 following several violent incidents, but some illegal operations continue to be linked with former Forces nouvelle commanders. The smuggling of cocoa exports has declined in quantity, partly as a result of domestic reforms ensuring a minimum price paid to farmers. Foreign nationals from Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali growing cocoa in western regions continue to be a source of tension with local communities. Lastly, a rubber plantation in the west, owned by the heirs of UN-sanctioned Désiré Tagro, may be linked with financing a pro-Gbagbo radical wing challenging the government. It seems that one member, requesting more time, has put a hold on some of the chair’s recommendations related to natural resources and it is unclear if this will be lifted before the silence procedure on the recommendations ends at 3 pm tomorrow. (The chair’s recommendations are derived from the recommendations of the GoE and once adopted the Chair will proceed to follow-up with letters urging the various parties to take the actions recommended by the GoE.)

Despite progress made on several fronts, the GoE remains concerned about the security situation in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly within the context of upcoming national elections in October 2015. With these future challenges in mind, Barros will visit Côte d’Ivoire from 2 to 7 November in his capacity as chair of the 1572 sanctions committee. France has also been confirmed as a member of the delegation. It seems that during the consultations, Barros may ask Council members for any messages that they may want him to convey to the government of Côte d’Ivoire.