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Delays In Côte d’Ivoire’s Polls Could Impede Peace

Delays in Côte d’Ivoire’s polls could threaten peace, warns top UN envoy

27 October 2008 – Increasing delays in the dual identification and electoral processes is imperilling the hard-won peace in Côte d’Ivoire, which is rebuilding after a brutal 14-year civil war, the top United Nations envoy to the West African nation cautioned today.

Nearly six weeks have passed since the launch of the identification and voter registration drive, which was slated to wrap up at the end of this month, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Y. J. Choi told the Security Council in an open meeting.

“Unfortunately, the pace of progress has been painfully slow,” he said. The pace will soon be accelerated, but “the magnitude of delay has taken almost everybody by surprise.”

The elections process has become inseparable from the identification efforts, which are being held up due to both “bureaucratic red tape” and logistical complexity, with many players involved, Mr. Choi pointed out.

“These two crucial and historic events are concomitantly unfolding in the country; 11 million people are expected to be identified with a very sophisticated identification mechanism and 9 million are expected to register as voters.”

Although the delays are “preoccupying,” the Representative stressed the importance of not losing sight of the crucial progress that has been made thus far to consolidate stability.

“Peace has been sufficiently restored so as to allow people to travel freely across the country,” he said, while all sides continue to be committed to the twin identification and electoral processes.

Funding for them has already been secured, with the Government footing most of the $200 million bill, the envoy told the Council.

During a recent visit to the country in what he described as a “heart-warming experience,” he said he stopped at several identification sites and met with people who had been lining up for hours to take part.

The delays will “remain manageable as long as the momentum is kept alive,” since they are not due, for the first time, to political reasons, Mr. Choi noted.

“The window of opportunity remains open. The question of ‘Ivorité’ has been at the heart of the troubled Ivorian politics for the last two decades will be resolved once and for all,” he said, adding that the country’s electoral process is now “irreversible.”

The Representative called for the international community to boost its assistance to the country, and said that the UN peacekeeping operation in the country (known as UNOCI), which he heads, will continue to monitor civil disorder in the run-up to the completion of the identification process and the election results are announced.

Today’s open meeting was followed by consultations on Côte d’Ivoire and on the work of the sanctions committee dealing with the country.

Last week, a group of UN experts wrote in a report that weak political stability and security situation are at risk in Côte d’Ivoire.

The publication by the Côte d’Ivoire Group of Experts warned the Council that security threats persist in the West African country because programmes to disarm combatants and dismantle militia remain largely incomplete.

The Ouagadougou Agreement – signed in neighbouring Burkina Faso 18 months ago between the Government, which controlled the south, and the rebel Forces Nouvelles, which held the north – called for a number of measures to resolve the crisis that first divided the country in 2002.

ENDS

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