The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire ( UNOCI) on Monday welcomed the announcement that the much delayed presidential elections would now be held on 30 November this year.
The publication of the poll date “is one of the greatest achievements in the Ivorian peace process since the outbreak of the crisis more than four years ago,” UNOCI said in a press release issued in Abidjan.
Côte d’Ivoire became divided in 2002 between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north, but last year’s Ouagadougou Peace Agreement paved the way for an end to the conflict and included a provision calling for free and fair elections to be held, a statement from the UN Information Centre in Accra said.
Presidential polls were to be held as far back as 2005, but have been delayed se veral times since then.
In its statement UNOCI encouraged all Ivorian parties “to consolidate the current momentum by demonstrating the same will to move ahead and the same commitment to public interest”.
However, in a mid-term report to the Security Council that was released on Monday, the Côte d’Ivoire Group of Experts said it had gathered credible information that members of the defence and security forces of both the Government and the Forces Nouvelles were being trained in the territories of other UN Member States, a breach of a 2004 Council resolution.
The Group also voiced deep concern that UNOCI had been unable to inspect sites held by the Garde Républicaine to monitor the arms embargo established by the Council, and that Ivorian authorities routinely denied access to such sites, claiming that inspections were outside UNOCI’s mandate.
Turning to the area of customs, the Group said the major weakness of the embargo stemmed from the failure of Ivorian authorities to sensitize customs staff to be vigilant and not allow the export or imports of prohibited goods.
During the reporting period the experts were also informed by Mali that an attempt was made last December to export 31 rough diamonds, purportedly of Malian origin, through Bamako airport.
Exporting rough diamonds from Mali is illegal as the West African country is not a member of the Kimberley Process, the system set up in 2003 to prevent rebel groups and others from profiting from diamond sales.
The Group said the diamonds may be of Ivorian origin and recommended that the Kimberley Process sent a technical working group to Bamako to examine the seized diamonds. Panapress.