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Côte d’Ivoire: build on democratic gains, election

Côte d’Ivoire: UN official urges building on democratic gains ahead of October elections

All members of society should build on the political gains achieved in Côte d’Ivoire and work towards polls planned for later this year, the United Nations official responsible for elections in the divided country said today, as he welcomed the inauguration of the Independent Electoral Commission in Abidjan.

Ivorian Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny yesterday declared the Commission operational and asked the members to produce an electoral roll for presidential and parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for October.

Speaking in New York, a UN spokesman said that Antonio Monteiro, the world body’s High Representative for Elections in Côte d’Ivoire, had congratulated the board members and “urged them – and the country – to build on political gains already made towards the holding of the elections.”

The Commission had been due to start work on 17 February but was delayed because of a dispute over its composition and specifically because of disagreements over the validity of last October’s elections of the central bureau.

As defined by the Pretoria peace agreement, the Commission is a provisional institution specially established to assure the democratic nature and sound management of the electoral process and is designed to end the Ivorian crisis.

Côte d’Ivoire was divided into a Government-ruled south and rebel-held north after the failure of an attempted coup against President Laurent Gbagbo in September 2002 triggered a civil war.

Troops from the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the UN-authorized French Licorne forces have been guarding the so-called Zone of Confidence separating the two areas in this nation, once the world’s top cocoa producer. More than 7,500 uniformed UN personnel are present in the country as part of UNOCI’s mission.

Last week, the main political and military leaders of the rival sides held their first meeting on Ivorian soil since the 2002 civil war, a move that UNOCI described as “a significant step on the road to national reconciliation.”

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