Countries ready to reinforce UN peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire amid tense impasse

18 Feb 2011

Countries ready to reinforce UN peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire amid tense impasse

4 February 2011 – Several countries are ready to provide reinforcements for the 9,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire, where the former president's refusal to step down despite his electoral defeat has led to violence and the displacement of tens of thousands of people, a top UN official said today.

Talking to reporters after briefing the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative and head of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), Y. J. Choi, declined to name the countries but said they were ready to provide troops, police and military equipment.

Last month, in a unanimous resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of force, the Council authorized the immediate deployment of an additional 2,000 troops and three armed helicopters to the West African country, where former president Laurent Gbagbo refuses to step down despite the internationally recognized victory of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara in November's run-off elections.

Mr. Choi has said the reinforcements will provide a "rapid reaction capability" essential for the protection of civilians both in Abidjan, the commercial capital, where Gbagbo loyalists have launched attacks against civilians and UN personnel, and in the country's west, which has seen an outburst of ethnic fighting that has already driven more than 50,000 people from their homes.

UN troops have been protecting Mr. Ouattara and members of his new government in Abidjan's Golf Hotel, which Gbagbo loyalists have laid siege to. Mr. Gbagbo has demanded UNOCI's withdrawal, which the UN has rebuffed.

Mr. Choi told the Council today that the political impasse in Côte d'Ivoire had brought about a degradation of the humanitarian situation, with 20,000 persons internally displaced and 33,000 others fleeing to neighbouring Liberia. More that 270 people have been killed and many others have disappeared or been arbitrarily arrested in the past six weeks, he added.

UN agencies have voiced concerns that if the current trends in refugee influx continue, by mid-February there could be as many as 50,000 refugees in Liberia and 100,000 by the end of April.

Mr. Choi assured the Council that despite the difficulties and surrounding tension, UNOCI continued to implement its mandate, including increased steps to protect civilians through patrols. The 15-member body noted the mission's major role in seeking to resolve the crisis peacefully.