28 January 2003

Ivoirian Leaders of All Parties Must Ensure Respect for Rule of Law, Human Rights, Says Secretary-General

NEW YORK, 27 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the opening of the Conference of Heads of State on Côte d'Ivoire in Paris on 25 January:

We are gathered here today to ratify the agreement ending the conflict which has ravaged Côte d'Ivoire for several months. This agreement reflects the determination of the parties to devote their energies henceforth to the well-being and progress of all Ivoirians.

On this day of hope for the Ivoirian people, I should like to thank all those who contributed to this stage of settlement of the crisis: First, the Ivoirian parties which were able to transcend their differences and focus on dialogue; then the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which facilitated a ceasefire agreement. I also thank the African Union which, along with ECOWAS, managed to maintain contacts among the belligerents, reduce tension and create a momentum for peace. Lastly, France, which has skillfully managed the negotiations that led to this peace agreement. Mr. President, we are grateful to you and to your team for the efforts you have made.

I hope that the spirit of openness and compromise which made it possible to achieve this agreement will continue to prevail, and that the decisions which have been taken will be implemented in good faith. It is now necessary to draw lessons from the conflict in order to lay the foundations for lasting peace and stability.

The Ivoirians must reconnect with the peaceful history of their country so that it may continue to be an engine of integration and progress in West Africa. This requires vision, firm political will and an unflinching determination to work together.

They have shown wisdom in choosing the path of peace. But the process is still fragile and must be consolidated. It is, of course, for the men and women of Côte d'Ivoire to repudiate this dark page of their history. But we can and we must help them to do so. It is for that reason that I call upon the international community, and particularly the donor countries, to provide generous assistance in support of the country's recovery.

To achieve true peace, it is not enough to lay down your arms. The success of this agreement will depend, to a large extent, on the adoption of measures to build trust and confidence between the parties. In order to restore national unity and social cohesion, the leaders will have to renounce the words and speeches which divide them. And they will have to support, by concrete action, the agreement which has just been concluded. In particular, the amnesty granted to the rebels can contribute to national reconciliation.

The stability of Côte d'Ivoire will depend on the emergence and consolidation of national justice, the building of a defence and security apparatus to protect the security of the people and the national territory, and, above all, responsible and unifying governance. The Ivoirian leaders, of all parties and factions, will have to ensure respect for the rule of law and human rights. Impunity must be combated and eliminated, and those who have committed crimes against innocent civilians must be punished. It must be clear that seizing power by force of arms is no longer acceptable.

National reconciliation is not an event but a process. It is essential that the parties should continue their efforts beyond this meeting. We must have a precise timetable for implementing the decisions taken in Paris, and a follow-up committee must be established to ensure that this timetable is respected. The United Nations and the international community have shown that they are ready and willing to support the Ivoirian people in their quest for a brighter future.

Let us resolve not to disappoint the hopes that this peace agreement has engendered.

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