28 April 2006

Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, Briefing Security Council, Appeals for Strengthened Support as Country Prepares for October Elections

Says 25 February Meeting of 4 Main Ivorian Political Leaders Restored Confidence, Gave Fresh Impetus to Peace Process

NEW YORK, 27 April (UN Headquarters) -- With the peace process in Côte d'Ivoire making significant strides, Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny today appealed for continued support from the international community, particularly in ensuring security, as the country prepares for the holding of free and fair elections by 31 October.

Briefing the Security Council on developments in his country, Prime Minister Banny said that, since the adoption of resolution 1633 in October 2005, Côte d'Ivoire was learning to live in a new era. The process for peace and reconciliation had evolved significantly, even if events were not taking place as quickly as hoped. Nevertheless, the general situation was relatively satisfactory. Several organizations, African statesmen and others had given their support to the Ivorian leaders and people, in order to allow the peace process to make tangible process.

He expressed the gratitude of Côte d'Ivoire to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, particularly the Union's mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, for the positive roles they had played. He also appreciated the leading role played by the United Nations Secretary-General and his team, as well as the French forces in Côte d'Ivoire.

Thanks to the efforts of all, in tandem with those of President Laurent Gbagbo, his Government had been able to take several initiatives towards reconciliation and the return of confidence. In that regard, he highlighted two meetings held in Yamoussoukro. The first was a Government seminar held from 9 to 11 February on the road map established by the International Working Group. The second was a meeting of the four main Ivorian political leaders -- Laurent Gbagbo, Henri Konan Bedie, Alassane Ouattara and Guillaume Soro -- on 25 February. He also highlighted the resumption of military dialogue, the organization of examinations in several regions and the opening of the university in Bouaké. The meeting between the four leaders, the first held in Côte d'Ivoire since the outbreak of the crisis, had made it possible for them to tackle the questions whose resolution should give fresh impetus to the peace process. They took decisions that led to the restoration of confidence.

As a result of that meeting, he continued, a new spirit was created among the Ivorian people, which could be seen in the progress in the military, political, administrative and economic areas. The restoration of dialogue among the political leaders had made it possible to bring down the wall of mistrust among them and open the way for the implementation of the measures advocated in resolution 1633 and the road map.

In the military area, the former belligerents had resumed talks and exchanges that had been interrupted for more than a year, in order to implement the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. Regarding administration, it was now possible to redeploy administration in the regions under the control of the Forces Nouvelles in the area of education. Thus, it had been possible to organize school exams in all regions administered by the Forces Nouvelles. The university in Bouaké, a stronghold of the Forces Nouvelles, had reopened its doors on 28 March. The new political climate had also restored hope to those involved in the economic arena, and a forum was held on 31 March, dealing with economic problems. All partners had stressed the need for a secure environment, for which the State was chiefly responsible.

The progress mentioned should be made irreversible, he emphasized. It was necessary to consolidate the climate of confidence that was gradually returning. The process of achieving peace and reconciliation was at a crossroads. The process of coming out of crisis was evolving slowly, but surely in the right direction. The positive developments seen in the peace process should be welcomed. Nevertheless, some resistance still existed, which prevented the process from moving forward faster. Unfortunately, that was happening at a time when the Government was working to resolve fundamental problems created by the crisis, whose resolution should make it possible to enable democratic and transparent elections in October. He welcomed the arrival, in Côte d'Ivoire in April, of the new High Representative for the Elections in Côte d'Ivoire, Gérard Stoudmann, and assured him of the Government's cooperation.

At the current stage, when important decisions must be taken, he called for vigilance and the efforts of all to resolve outstanding problems. In that respect, he welcomed the Secretary-General's report on Côte d'Ivoire, in which he expressed his concern with the delay in the peace process and the consequences deadlocks might lead to, if the deadlines set by resolution 1633 were not adhered to. The political progress made by the Ivorian Government must be consolidated and a real pact of cohesion and political stability achieved. The time had come to transform individual efforts into collective action by the international community.

That was why he endorsed the wish of the Secretary-General to see the human, materiel and financial capabilities of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) strengthened, to ensure that the entire peace process was made secure. The various phases of the process, such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the holding of elections, required a safe environment, which only a more significant and deterrent military presence could ensure. Strengthening security throughout the country was a major concern of all Ivorians and the Government. It was necessary to guarantee security not only in Abidjan, but also in the interior areas, particularly in Bouaké and the western regions. As the western area bordered Liberia, ensuring good security in that part of Côte d'Ivoire would be equivalent to ensuring grater security for Liberia and strengthening the democratic process emerging there.

He welcomed the initiative in the Council to draft a resolution to increase UNOCI's troop strength, and hoped the number of additional "blue helmets" to be made available to the Mission be as close as possible to that requested by the Secretary-General, so that UNOCI could give effective support to the implementation of the road map. He urged the Council to consider the Secretary-General's proposal favourably.

He was convinced that, without the firm will of the main political actors in the process and all Ivorians to bring Côte d'Ivoire out of the crisis, no military presence or international pressure could resolve the crisis. But, without the support of the international community, Ivorians alone would not be able to resolve all the problems of the conflict. He invited all development partners to respect their commitments in accordance with the Linas Marcoussis Agreement, particularly with regard to economic recovery and social cohesion.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.

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