(AFP) – Jul 29, 2008
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The Security Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a French-drafted resolution extending for six months the mandate of UN and French peacekeepers in Ivory Coast to support the holding of a long-delayed presidential poll.
Resolution 1826, which was co-sponsored by Burkina Faso and South Africa, extends until January 31 the mandate of the 8,000-strong UN force known as ONUCI and of the 1,800 French troops backing them in the west African country. The mandate expires Wednesday.
Their mission will be "to support the organization of free, open, fair and transparent elections" there, particularly the long-delayed presidential balloting now set for November 30.
The resolution also stressed that the UN special representative to Ivory Coast, South Korean Choi Young-jin, "shall certify that all stages of the electoral process provide all the necessary guarantees for the holding of open, free, fair and transparent presidential and legislative elections."
France's deputy UN ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix immediately welcomed the unanimous adoption of the text by the 15-member council.
"We have a strong signal of the Council expressing both support to the Ivorian process, to the timetable of the Ivorian process and at the same time vigilance since each stage of the electoral process will have to be certified," he told reporters.
Burkina Faso's UN Ambassador Michel Kafando also welcomed the vote.
The envoy, whose country has played a key mediating role in the Ivorian peace process, called it a "sign of confidence of the Security Council and the international community which will give a boost to get to the presidential election scheduled for November 30."
Ivory Coast's UN Ambassador Alcide Djedje expressed satisfaction with developments in his country.
He noted that by holding the presidential election, "we will no longer be on the agenda of the Security Council and will be able to regain our full sovereignty."
Djedje said the major challenge for Ivorians was the lack of funds for organizing the polls.
He underscored the importance of a paragraph in the resolution that "calls upon donors to increase their financial support to the cantonment, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants and militia and to the redeployment of state administration throughout the country."
The resolution stated that "the publication of the electoral list is a crucial step in the electoral process," and it urged the Ivorian parties "to make further concrete progress, in particular in removing the remaining logistical obstacles."
The hurdles impede the identification of the population, the registration of voters, the disarmament and dismantling of militias, the unification and restructuring of defence and security forces and the restoration of state authority throughout the country.
The resolution also proposes to review by next January 31 "the mandates of UNOCI and the French forces which support it, as well as the level of troops of UNOCI, in the light of the progress achieved in the implementation of the key steps of the peace process and of the progress of the electoral process."
Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa grower and a former star French colony, was sliced in half after a September 2002 coup attempt against President Laurent Gbagbo.
After a March 2007 peace accord, partly brokered by Burkinao Faso, a new government was installed earlier this year in Ivory Coast with Gbagbo sharing power with former FN rebel chief Guillaume Soro serving as prime minister.
Under the Ouagadougou deal, Soro's rebel soldiers were either to be demobilised or integrated into the regular army. Many former rebel soldiers complain, however, that the process is taking too long.
The disarmament and integration of the estimated 36,000 former rebel fighters is due to be completed before the November election.
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