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 Tuesday 30 October 2007
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COTE D'IVOIRE: Government, former rebels thwarting arms inspections, UN says

Photo: IRIN
Gun-waving protesters in Bouake, Cote d'Ivoire
DAKAR, 25 October 2007 (IRIN) - Arms inspections in Côte d’Ivoire are being refused “with increasing frequency” by former rebels and the national army and illegal arms trafficking has become a “worrying phenomenon”, according to a recent report from the panel that monitors the country’s UN arms embargo.

In the report, released publicly on 19 October, the UN panel said several military units routinely refuse inspections by international forces. It expressed particular concern that inspectors have not had access to the presidential guard since the embargo was imposed in 2004.

“Given the persistence of hindrances to embargo inspections, the Group deems it necessary to remind the two parties’ military authorities… that the impartial forces cannot fulfil their monitoring mandate without these authorities’ cooperation. This recommendation applies in particular to Republican Guard units,” the report said.

The government of Cote d’Ivoire is appealing for a partial lifting of the arms embargo – authorities say in order to equip security forces to maintain law and order particularly in the run-up to elections in 2008. President Laurent Gbagbo made the pitch again on 26 September at the UN General Assembly.

The UN panel’s report “acknowledges” the country’s law enforcement needs but expresses doubt about the nature of purportedly protective gear bought in 2006 by the national police.

UN Security Council Resolution 1572 imposed an arms embargo and other sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire in November 2004, one week after the national army attacked French forces in the country. Cote d’Ivoire has been volatile since it was divided into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south by a brief civil war in 2002.

The latest peace accord signed in March 2007 reunited the country but observers warn it is losing steam. The UN panel echoed a recent report by the UN Secretary-General in expressing concern over the lack of concrete steps toward peace, particularly in the area of disarmament.

“[T]he process of emerging from the crisis has not significantly progressed beyond symbolic acts,” the 19 October report said.

According to the panel, at disarmament ceremonies for pro-government militias in the west in May 2007, “only 138 of the 1,027 weapons destroyed were actually serviceable.” And at another disarmament event in Bouake about two months later, “the vast majority [of weapons burned] were old and probably not in working order.”

The report said inspectors saw “an unspecified number” of mortars initially earmarked for destruction, “but UNOCI [the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire] has since lost all trace of them.”


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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