UN Votes to Reduce Ivory Coast Peacekeeping Force
Country headed to the brink of civil war in early 2011 following disputed presidential election
Edith M. Lederer The Associated Press
July 29, 2012
The council extended the U.N. mission until July 31, 2013 and said its priority should remain protecting civilians, with an added focus on supporting government efforts to disarm former combatants and reform the security sector. U.N. peacekeepers have been in Ivory Coast since 2004.
Ivory Coast headed to the brink of civil war in early 2011 when then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat after losing the presidential runoff vote to Alasanne Ouattara. After months of violence, Ouattara took office in May 2011 but tensions remain high between his supporters and Gbagbo loyalists.
Gbagbo faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
In June, more than 13,000 people fled their homes in southwestern Ivory Coast following attacks in which unidentified armed men killed at least 22 people, including seven U.N. peacekeepers. The Ivorian government blamed the attacks on former militia groups or mercenaries loyal to Gbagbo who fled across the porous border into Liberia and its forests.
The Security Council reiterated its condemnation of the attack, stressed that intentionally targeting U.N. peacekeepers can constitute a war crime, and urged that those responsible be brought to justice.
The resolution endorsed a recommendation by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to transfer three armed helicopters deployed with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia to the mission in Ivory Coast. It urged peacekeepers in both missions to step up cooperation to stabilize the border.
The mission's authorized military strength until July 31 is for 9,600 troops. The resolution adopted Thursday accepted a recommendation by the secretary-general to reduce the mission's strength by a battalion _ to 8,645 troops.
Ivory Coast's U.N. Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba welcomed the mission's renewal but said ``it is deplorable that the council did not follow our wish'' to maintain the existing strength.
``Nevertheless, bearing in mind the progress in security in the Abidjan region and other major cities in the country, we are confident that the reconfiguration of the deployment will be done in such a way that the troop reduction will not create a security vacuum,'' he told the council.