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UN: Ivory Coast on right path but threats remain

July 18, 2013

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Ivory Coast is on the right path to recovery from the violent post-election crisis two years ago but threats to the country’s peace and security persist “and should not be underestimated,” the U.N. peacekeeping chief said Thursday.

Herve Ladsous told the U.N. Security Council that President Alassane Ouattara “has demonstrated remarkable resolve to tackle the many challenges the country is facing,” including “the ambitious goal” of demobilizing and reintegrating some 65,000 former combatants.

But he said political divisions between government backers and supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo “run deep” and networks affiliated with the former regime still aim to destabilize the government.

Ladsous also expressed concern at the presence of mercenaries, former combatants and other armed groups in the country, the uncontrolled circulation of weapons, criminal activities and violence between communities.

Ivory Coast headed to the brink of civil war in early 2011 when then-president Gbagbo refused to concede defeat after losing a presidential runoff vote to Ouattara. After months of violence, Ouattara took office in May 2011.

Ladsous said Ouattara and his government have taken “significant steps to stabilize the security situation, accelerate economic recovery and initiate key reforms.”

There have been a number of violent incidents along Ivory Coast’s porous western border with Liberia and Ladsous said the two governments are stepping up cooperation and presence of their security forces on both sides of the border.

An elected legislative assembly is working well and municipal and regional elections were successfully held in April, he said.

Despite the opposition boycott of the elections, Ladsous said, the government has made efforts to engage opposition political parties.

“It is important that such dialogue resumes without further delay to pave the way for political reconciliation, which will be essential as we move towards a new electoral cycle in 2015,” he said.

Ladsous stressed that reconciliation “must go hand in hand with equitable justice,” and he expressed concern at human rights violations including incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.

Ouattara has asked his government to expedite the disarmament and demobilization of 30,000 combatants by the end of 2013 and to complete the demobilization process by the end of 2014, which Ladsous said will require international support.

He stressed that “durable solutions,” especially jobs, must be found for all former combatants.

Otherwise, Ladsous warned, “there is a real risk, based upon lessons learned from the crisis, that ... they could become a threat to human rights and stability in Ivory Coast and the sub-region, as they are more likely to pick up arms again should the opportunity arise.”

He said the U.N. peacekeeping mission remains essential to protect civilians and help with the disarmament and reintegration of former combatants and with security sector reform.

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