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Ban urges Ivorians to revive stalled electoral process, resolve outstanding issues

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged all parties in Côte d’Ivoire to resolve the ongoing impasse in the country, revive the stalled electoral process and tackle the root causes of the conflict, warning that further violence remains a real threat.

“It is clear that the country remains a tinderbox that could ignite easily if the root causes of the conflict remain unaddressed,” he writes in his latest report on the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).

Mr. Ban notes that events in the West African nation – which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south – up to the end of 2009 had brought hope that the country was finally on a firm path towards resolving its protracted crisis.

In addition, with the identification and elections-related tasks nearly completed, there was genuine expectation that Côte d’Ivoire was steadily moving forward and that the much anticipated presidential elections, which were supposed to have been held as far back as 2005, would be held early in 2010.

“I was therefore disappointed by the abrupt interruption of the electoral process in January and the resulting violence in February, which constituted a severe setback in the Ivorian peace process,” he states.

The provisional electoral list published in November by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had about 5.3 million confirmed people and around 1 million people who still need to be confirmed.

Political tensions began to mount after voter registration was suspended due to violence and President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the Government and the IEC in February.

Despite the establishment of a new Government and Electoral Commission since then, the electoral process remains stalled as the differences on how to address the issue of fraud and resume the interrupted appeals process on the provisional voters list persists.

The Secretary-General notes that the lack of progress in resolving the ensuing impasse, which has dragged on for almost five months, has led some to start questioning the relevance of the framework of the Ouagadougou Peace Agreements, the 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation forged in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso.

“I would like, at the outset, to appeal to all Ivorian parties to avoid taking any actions that may reverse the significant progress they had made and risk plunging the country into renewed violence and instability,” Mr. Ban writes.

He warns that any unravelling of the Ouagadougou framework would be a cause for serious concern, noting that there is currently no alternative framework to these agreements.

“Any suggestion to set aside the Ouagadougou agreements would be tantamount to moving the goal posts at the last minute and would unnecessarily prolong the crisis and the suffering of the Ivorian people,” he says. “The Ouagadougou agreements should therefore continue to provide the framework for taking Côte d’Ivoire out of the crisis.”

The Secretary-General recommends maintaining UNOCI until the end of the year – with the same current total strength of its military and police components – “in order to give Côte d’Ivoire a chance to walk the final mile to the elections with the full support of the United Nations.”

If the Security Council approves such an extension, Mr. Ban also recommends an adjustment of the mission’s mandate to allow it to focus on helping the parties to implement the remaining priority tasks, including those related to elections, disarmament and all aspects of the reunification of the country.

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