UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: UN says elections likely to be postponed
ABIDJAN, 24 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - Presidential elections that have already been delayed for one year will likely be postponed again in Cote d’Ivoire and political leaders in the conflict appear to lack the will to resolve it, according to the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the war-divided country.
“There is a lot of work being done, preparations being done, but the timetable set down, it is now not realistic,” UN mission chief Pierre Schori told Reuters news agency in an interview on Wednesday in Cote d’Ivoire’s main city, Abidjan.
Cote d’Ivoire has been divided since a September 2002 coup failed to topple President Laurent Gbagbo. Some 10,000 UN and French peacekeepers monitor a buffer zone between the rebel-occupied north and government-held south. The conflict has displaced 750,000 people and three million receive humanitarian assistance.
No new date for the presidential and legislative elections has been set. Changes to the election timetable will be addressed at the UN General Assembly meeting in mid-September, UN spokeswoman Margherita Amodeo told IRIN.
"They will look at how things are and how to move things forward," she said.
Western diplomats say the presidential and legislative polls should be postponed by at least six months.
Elections were delayed in October 2005 under a UN-backed peace plan that extended Gbagbo's mandate by up to twelve months. A new prime minister, Charles Konan Banny, was charged with overseeing disarmament and a programme to provide an estimated 3.5 million people with proof of identity ahead of the elections, which are seen as crucial to peace.
Determining who is Ivorian is a key step in the implementation of the peace plan. Officials stopped the identification scheme in most towns in the south after violent protests by Gbagbo supporters. They fear that immigrants will try to obtain Ivorian nationality and the right to vote, thus tilting the balance against Gbagbo in elections.
Disarmament has also suffered delays. The effort to disarm pro-government militia in the south was suspended earlier this month because too few weapons were handed in, and the rebels holding the north refuse to relinquish their weapons.
"There is a lack of political goodwill, but that can still change," Schori said on Ivorian state television on Wednesday.
Gbagbo has already said that he will remain in office until the elections are held. The New Forces rebel movement and the opposition, however, say they will not accept another extension of his mandate.
But New Forces spokesman Sidiki Konate said it was too early to rule out the October elections.
"We'll see in October whether it's possible or not. For now, we would like to hear who is responsible for the delay and what will be done to accelerate the peace process," Konate told IRIN.
The Ivorian government had no immediate response to Schori's comments.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny this week launched peace missions comprised of members of civil society and political parties to travel throughout the country to explain plans to end Cote d’Ivoire’s crisis.
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