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Challenges remain ahead of Côte d'Ivoire's much-delayed polls, says Ban

30 September 2009 – The two months remaining until the much-anticipated presidential polls in Côte d’Ivoire are fraught with major obstacles, including disarmament of militias and reintegration of former rebels, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned in a new report made public today.

These “uncompleted tasks” could “create serious risks for the elections if they are not carefully managed, and, beyond the elections, adversely affect the prevailing stability,” Mr. Ban wrote, calling for the parties to maintain dialogue and compromise in the run-up to the elections.

The long-awaited polls, which were to have been held as far back as 2005, are now scheduled for 29 November.

The registration of more than 6.5 million Ivorians, the report said, is itself a “significant achievement and a major step towards securing lasting peace, considering that the identification of the population was one of the issues at the core of the crisis” that divided the country in 2002 between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north.

National institutions must wrap up the elections process in earnest, it added, and organize transparent polls, which will require the preparation of a final electoral list.

That list’s publication and the resolving of any disputes resulting from it will be a “critical test” of the overall identification and voter registration process,” the Secretary-General wrote.

On 25 August, the Government passed decrees to minimize electoral delays, a move he said showed “commendable determination” of authorities to hold the polls on time.

Also encouraging, Mr. Ban said, is the “positive and calm political and security climate” in which the pre-electoral campaigning activities have been held.

He underscored the importance of the Ivorian parties to continue cooperating following the polls in order to achieve reunification tasks set out in the Ouagadougou Agreement, the 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation in the West African country.

“Successful elections will pave the way for the drawdown and withdrawal” of the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire, known as UNOCI, the Secretary-General said.

The mission was set up in 2004 to help ensure a ceasefire and pave the way for permanent peace and democratic elections after the country’s civil war. Reauthorized repeatedly since then, most recently until 31 January 2010, it currently comprises nearly 8,400 uniformed personnel, as well as 407 international civilian personnel.

The Security Council yesterday also exhorted all sides to ensure that the polls, a major step in restoring stability, take place as scheduled at the end of November.

“The Security Council reiterates that the Ivorian political actors are bound to respect the electoral timeline,” the Council said in a statement read by its President for the month, Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States, noting that further delays in publishing a provisional voters list might endanger the timeline.

The 15-member body said it would review the situation by 15 October and take appropriate action against those who would block the progress of the electoral process.

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