The United Nations Security Council today authorized a full one-year peacekeeping operation for Cote d'Ivoire and mandated nearly 7,000 UN personnel to monitor the comprehensive ceasefire agreement the West African country's warring parties reached last May.
In a brief meeting, the 15-member Council voted unanimously to establish the 6,240-member force, called the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), for an initial period of 12 months starting on 4 April. The mandate of the small existing mission, MINUCI, will end on the same day.
UNOCI will liaise with the former combatants - the National Armed Forces of Côte d'Ivoire and the Forces Nouvelles - and, along with the French force already stationed there, promote "the re-establishment of trust between all the Ivorian forces involved," the Council resolution said.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who recommended the mission's establishment, told the Council that "a strengthened United Nations presence in Côte d'Ivoire will make it easier for the Government of National Reconciliation to implement the DDR [disarmament, demobilization reintegration and repatriation] programme" for ex-combatants, which Prime Minister Seydou Diarra said would begin on 8 March.
The deployment of a UN operation in Côte d'Ivoire would also have a positive impact on efforts to stabilize the West African sub-region, an area where UN offices and missions have already begun to cooperate more closely, he said. In that regard, he voiced his intention to present proposals in March concerning a residual UN presence in Sierra Leone, where the current peacekeeping mission, UNAMSIL, is being reduced.
Mr. Annan commended the Security Council for supporting Côte d'Ivoire peace process. He also lauded Ivoirian President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Diarra, "for taking, together with the Forces Nouvelles, important political initiatives which have opened the way out of the impasse in the peace process."
He warned, however, that "some hard-line elements" among the Ivoirian parties remain determined to undermine the peace process. "They must not be allowed to succeed," he said.
The Secretary-General also appealed to member countries to back the new initiative. "I hope and trust that, guided by a spirit of solidarity, the international community will provide all the necessary resources, including well-equipped and well-trained military and police personnel, for the operation to be fully effective."