Security Council mission to West Africa - Ambassador Wittig's blog - Day 3: Cote d'Ivoire
Monday 21 May, 2012
What a stark contrast between Monrovia and Abidjan! Cote d’Ivoire used to be the beacon of prosperity in West-Africa and the whole continent. At first sight it has recovered well from the recent crisis, which brought this country - once again - close to the abyss. From the plane we had seen the orderly, lush green cocoa plantations – Cote d’Ivoire is the number one producer and exporter of cocoa in the world.
Today we met the Ivorian leadership. Exactly one year ago President Ouattara took office, after months of violent clashes verging on the border of a fully fledged civil war. The clashes broke out after the elections in November 2010: Ouattara had won - according to the verdict of the UN-mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) – but incumbent President Gbagbo contested the result and refused to leave office. The UN-mission had been given a mandate to certify the elections.
In March 2011, the Security Council adopted resolution 1975, thus mandating UNOCI to take necessary measures to protect civilians in the violent struggle between the two camps (it incidentally also invoked the principle "responsibility to protect"). After months of chaos, the former President Gbagbo was arrested in his palace by forces loyal to the new President Ouattara - thanks to the help of UNOCI and the French elite military force Licorne. This was a textbook case of "robust peacekeeping", which not all members of the Security Council did appreciate at the time! In the meantime Gbagbo was transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he is awaiting a possible trial.
In our meeting with President Ouattara, his prime minister and members of his cabinet we discussed extensively the key challenges Cote d’Ivoire is facing today: a still fragile internal security situation, the need to reform the security sector (military, police, judiciary and corrections institutions), the process of reconciliation, the situation of the refugees, security of borders, economic recovery and the sanctions regime of the Security Council.
We also received a briefing by the new head of the UN-mission in Cote d’Ivoire, Albert Koenders - a dynamic former Dutch Minister of Development. The most burning issue is the reform of the security sector. This is a tall order. The armed forces are a dangerously heterogeneous organisation lacking cohesion, clear "command and control" and discipline. The soldiers of the two camps and various rebel forces have to be integrated. Roughly 40.000 men - most of them recruited during the violent clashes after the 2010 election - are loosely associated with the army. Their future is uncertain. Mr Koenders has declared assistance to the security sector reform the top priority of the UN-mission. Whereas security sector reform remains a project yet to be filled with life, the so-called "DDR" (disarmament, demobilisation of combattants, reintregration) has made some headway under the guidance of the UN-mission. Reconciliation is a big issue in Cote d’Ivoire - as in almost all countries emerging from (internal) conflict. Liberia and Sierra Leone are facing the same challenge. It’s a real conundrum: how to harmonise the principles of reconciliation with justice and ending impunity? South Africa was a model in establishing a "truth and reconciliation commission". Cote d’Ivoire chose the same path and established a similar institution. We spoke to the president of the commission and its members. What has it achieved? Very little, my documents say. "Timid progress", the UN says more politely. Anyway, any reconciliation process takes time. To expect quick results, is not fair.
There is sensational news from the language regime! It was quite normal that I spoke in French in a francophone country - in the amicable spirit "du couple franco-allemand". But the fact that Mark Lyall Grant, my British colleague, spoke in French as well (quite good actually) thrilled our French colleague Gérard Araud enormously. He declared this to be a "major breakthrough" in the unstoppable global ascent of the "francophonie".