posted on Tue 12 Apr 2016 8:46 AM
Meetings on UNOCI and the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee

This afternoon, the Security Council will hold briefings followed by consultations on both the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee. Briefings are expected from Hervé Ladsous, the Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, on UNOCI, and from Ambassador Elbio Rosselli of Uruguay, current Chair of the 1572 Sanctions Committee, on the Committee’s work.

These meetings will most likely serve as a prelude to the adoption of two resolutions expected by the end of the month, one on the drawdown of UNOCI and one terminating the sanctions regime.

Report on the strategic review and recommendations on the future of UNOCI

Ladsous will brief the Council on the special report of the Secretary-General on the strategic review and future of UNOCI (S/2016/297), which was published on 31 March. The Council requested this report in January, when it adopted resolution 2260, which authorised a further reduction of UNOCI’s military component from 5,437 to 4,000 by the end of March.

In the report, the Secretary-General took note of the continued improvement of the political situation in the country, recently exemplified by the peaceful conduct of the presidential elections in October 2015. The successful organisation and execution of the elections supported the view among Council members that the mission’s drawdown should continue.

The report characterised the security situation in Côte d’Ivoire as generally stable but fragile. Since the last Council meeting in January, several security incidents have been reported, primarily episodes of intercommunal conflict as well as citizens’ protests which in some cases resulted in violence. The most significant act of violence occurred on 13 March, when Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) carried out a terrorist attack in the south-eastern town of Grand Bassam, which killed 22 and injured 33 people. This was the first time AQIM struck Côte d’Ivoire, though the group has been increasingly more active in the Sahel region, orchestrating attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso in previous months. Council members condemned the attack in the strongest terms in a 14 March press statement. Nonetheless, in spite of this and other security incidents, Council members are generally of the view that the security forces are capable of maintaining security in the country.

The Secretary-General called in his report for a reduction of military personnel from 4,000 to 2,000 by the end of August. While Council members overwhelmingly support the drawdown and subsequent withdrawal of the mission, there may be some questions about the pace of the withdrawal, given that some acts of intercommunal violence continue to occur. Some members might have different views on the timeline for the withdrawal that could be expressed in the meeting.

Another security-related matter that Ladsous may discuss is the future of the quick reaction force stationed within UNOCI. The current UNOCI mandate expires on 30 June, and in his report, the Secretary-General recommends a final extension of UNOCI’s mandate until 30 June 2017. When considering final mandate renewal for UNOCI, probably in the coming weeks, the Council is likely to address the future of this unit, which is tasked with rapid reaction to security incidents in Côte d’Ivoire as well as in neighboring Liberia. The Secretary-General seems to consider the presence of the unit as a valuable tool for regional peace and stability and recommends that it be the last to repatriate, while options are being explored for it to remain active, possibly by moving it unit to another mission in the region. However, these options have yet to be fully developed by the Secretariat, let alone considered by the Council.

Looking ahead, the report recommends that the UN continue its presence in Côte d’Ivoire through its country team. The final two months of the mission’s operation (1 May to 30 June 2017) would focus on “the closure of facilities, removal of equipment, final payments and other administrative requirements.” Council members may be interested in preliminary information on the structure and skills of the UN Country Team available during and after the transition.

Other issues that may be raised in today’s meeting on UNOCI are the mission’s role in promoting reconciliation, social cohesion and institutional reforms; facilitating humanitarian assistance; and promoting human rights.

The final report of the Group of Experts

Current sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire—including a partial arms embargo, as well as asset freezes and travel bans on specific individuals—will expire on 30 April, while the mandate of the Group of Experts will expire a month later on 30 May. In his briefing to the Council, Rosselli will present the final report of the Group of Experts (S/2016/254), which was published on 17 March.

He may report how the Group took note of remarkable progress made by Côte d’Ivoire since the post-election crisis in 2011, while hailing the government for successful holding of the presidential elections in October 2015. While some members are cautious in their optimism, there is a general sense that the country is headed in the right direction. It appears that members may be poised to terminate the sanctions regime later this month, given the progress achieved.

In spite of the political, security and economic advances made by the country in recent years, there are still concerns that have been raised by the Group that may be discussed in Rosselli’s briefing. While the Group noted significant improvement in both DDR and SSR processes, Rosselli may relay the Group’s findings that these are still incomplete and will require additional work. According to the report, there are still over 16,000 ex-combatants who have not demobilized, while large amounts of weapons and ammunition remain unaccounted for by the Ivorian authorities. Furthermore, the Group indicated that a number of former commanders still play a role in the Ivorian security apparatus and have access to weapons and financial resources.

In keeping with the Group’s findings, Rosselli may further note that while greater stability exists in the border areas with Ghana and Liberia, there are still risks of weapons exports from Côte d’Ivoire to the region. Many of the weapons acquired following the crisis in 2011 by the Forces nouvelles, then led by Guillaume Soro, are still unaccounted for.

Regarding national reconciliation, the Group seems to be concerned about limited efforts by the government to fight impunity. Though there are various judicial proceedings, in domestic and international courts, against former president Gbagbo’s supporters and associates for their role in post-election crisis in 2011, no supporters of current president Alassane Ouattara have been prosecuted for their role in the 2011 crisis. This has created a perception of victor’s justice that could negatively affect reconciliation processes.

At present, the adoption of the resolution on the sanctions regime is expected in late April. The adoption of a resolution on the UNOCI mandate has yet to be scheduled, but is expected to occur before the end of the month.