Security Council hears call for expanded UN peacekeeping mandate in Côte dIvoire

Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad was briefing the Council on Côte d’Ivoire’s latest peace accord, the Pretoria Agreement, negotiated and signed earlier this month in the South African capital, with President Thabo Mbeki mediating on behalf of the African Union (AU).Mr. Pahad said the leaders of the West African country wanted an impartial UN unit to aid the Independent Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Commission during the whole period of preparation for the 31 October elections.Such a unit would help to streamline nationality documents and identity cards and help plan the electoral process, he said.Côte d’Ivoire, long the world’s leading cocoa producer, has been split between the north, held by the rebel Forces Nouvelles, and the south, under the control of the Government’s Defence and Security Forces of Côte d’Ivoire, since a coup attempt against President Laurent Gbagbo failed in 2002 and was turned into an insurgency.The area between them is held by peacekeepers of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and UN-authorized French Licorne forces.The Council also needed to consider deploying a special force under UNOCI to guard the cantonments of the disarmed, demobilized Forces Nouvelles combatants while they were waiting to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into either the national army or their communities, Mr. Pahad said.A 600-strong police force would be needed in the north once the Forces Nouvelles moved into the cantonments, so as not to leave a security vacuum, he added.On the sensitive matter of who would be eligible by nationality to run for the presidency, Mr. Pahad said President Laurent Gbagbo, after certain consultations, would allow the constitutional council to accept candidates presented by the parties that had signed the 2003 Linas-Marcoussis peace agreement.Senior members of the Forces Nouvelles who had taken ministerial positions and left them were returning to their offices again, he said, and additional measures were being put in place to allow Forces Nouvelles leader Guillaume Soro to return to the country’s major city, Abidjan.South Africa would train protection forces for all Forces Nouvelles ministers, starting on 2 May, he added, and it hoped UNOCI would complement that effort. read more