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Ahead of polls, Security Council extends UN force in Cte d'Ivoire by six months

30 July 2009 – The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) by another six months, expressing its support for the long-awaited presidential elections now slated for late November.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member Council voted to keep the mission – and that of the French forces supporting it – in place through 31 January next year.

It stressed that “the Ivorian political actors are bound to respect this timeline to demonstrate their political commitment towards the holding of free, fair, open and transparent elections,” originally intended to be held as far back as 2005 but now scheduled for 29 November.

Welcoming the successful registration of all voters, the Council said that postponing the polls “would be inconsistent with a credible process and with the Ouagadougou Political Agreement,” the 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation in the West African country which has been divided since 2002 between the Government-held south and a northern area dominated by the rebel Forces Nouvelles.

It underscored the need for all civil society groups to take part in the electoral process, as well as ensuring the protection and respect for human rights.

In particular, the Council emphasized the importance of “respect for freedom of opinion and expression, and removing obstacles and challenges to women’s participation and full involvement in public life.”

Last week, the top UN envoy to Côte d’Ivoire told the Council that bureaucratic complications involved in planning and running the long-delayed polls “are not to be underestimated,” noting that the identification and registration of more than 6 million voters, intended to wrap up in six weeks, took more than nine months.

Y.J. Choi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNOCI, said that “a public electoral timeline with detailed stages shall constitute one of the most important remedies to this chronic and pervasive problem,” adding that the Ivorian electoral management body seems to be struggling with the operation of the elections.

The month of September, he said, could prove decisive to the overall peace process as that is the deadline for many electoral planning and reunification-related issues – such as reintegrating members of the rebel Forces Nouvelles into the army, police and gendarmerie – to be solved ahead of the presidential polls, which were supposed to be held in 2005 and then 2008.

He warned that, “given this mixed picture of worrying signs amid solid progress,” it may be necessary “to develop options [by October]… with a view to finding a way to reconcile the contradictions currently facing the Ivorian electoral and reunification process.”

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