UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: Annan rebukes Gbagbo for decision on National Assembly
ABIDJAN, 30 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - In a strongly worded statement, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has expressed concern over a decree issued by Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo allowing parliament to remain in office beyond its official mandate.
“The Secretary-General expresses his concern about the unexpected issuance of a presidential decree concerning the National Assembly,” said a statement issued on Sunday.
Gbagbo’s surprise decree was issued a week after his supporters paralysed major towns in government-controlled southern Cote d’Ivoire and laid siege to UN offices for four days, accusing the UN of meddling in Ivorian affairs and demanding that parliament continue to sit although its mandate expired last December.
The riots ended after a flying visit to defuse the crisis on 18 January by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, as well as a call to get off the streets and go home by leaders of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), which dominates the parliament.
The decree signed by Gbagbo prolonging the parliament’s mandate was read on state television by a spokesman late on Friday.
The statement said that Gbagbo had come to this decision on the basis of the talks on 18 January with interim Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny and Obasanjo.
It said that Gbagbo, “concluding from his talks with the prime minister, duly notes that the National Assembly remain in office with all its powers”.
But Annan stated that he was in disagreement with Gbagbo’s conclusions. “This announcement does not appear to be in conformity with the information he received from President Obasanjo and from the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire on the outcome of the visit of the President of Nigeria to Abidjan,” his statement said.
“The Secretary-General underlines the need to avoid all unilateral action,” it went on. “He recalls that all parties must strictly adhere to the provisions of Security Council resolution 1633 and emphasises the importance of the African Union’s decisions.”
Diplomats told IRIN that Gbagbo appeared to be using the issue of the future of the parliament as part of a power struggle with Banny, who was appointed interim head of government by the international community late last year to help steer divided Cote d’Ivoire back to peace after more than three years of conflict.
Gbagbo’s own mandate, which expired last October, was prolonged for 12 months by the international community under a UN peace plan.
Banny has been tasked with applying that blueprint, formulated under Resolution 1633, and is backed by the UN mission in Cote d’Ivoire, whose 7,000 peacekeepers are to assist him in disarming rebels and pro-government militia, and in organising elections before an October 2006 deadline.
The former banker turned prime minister flew to Congo-Brazzaville over the weekend where he met with new AU Chairman and Congolese head of state, Denis Sassou Nguesso, before flying on to South Africa for meetings with President Thabo Mbeki who has also mediated in the Ivorian crisis.
After meeting with Nguesso, Banny told reporters that he was confident that the new AU chief would be able to help advance the Ivorian crisis but made no reference to Gbagbo’s decree.
Meanwhile, the leader of the pro-Gbagbo Young Patriots, Charles Ble Goude, this weekend threatened to “fight” Banny if he does not present a timetable for disarmament within a fortnight.
Ble Goude is believed to be one of several Ivorians facing targeted UN sanctions, such as a travel ban and asset freeze, for blocking peace efforts or inciting violence. His Young Patriots were at the forefront of this month’s anti-UN protests.
Cote d'Ivoire split into a government-run south and a rebel-held north after a failed coup against Gbagbo in September 2002. The buffer zone between the two sides is controlled by a UN and French peacekeeping force of 10,000 troops.
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