Côte d'Ivoire faces new challenges as UN mission ends
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The United Nations wrapped up its peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire on Friday after more than 13 years. The force is credited with restoring stability to the west African nation after years of turmoil but rights groups urge the government to tackle impunity to ensure peace lasts.
"Peace is restored and for lasting peace we will still have to work," Aichatou Mindaoudou, the UN secretary-general’s special representative and head of the peacekeeping mission, UNOCI, told RFI.
Mindaoudou acknowledged that challenges remain, not least the ongoing mutinies within the army.
"The recent mutinies that we've seen since November 2014 are of course unpardonable. But they've never called into question state instutions. They were motivated by money," she says.
Disgruntled soldiers staged mutinies in Côte d’Ivoire’s two biggest cities earlier this year, most recently in May, in a long running dispute over pay.
"It is correct that some of these mutinies are tied to the ineffectiveness of security sector reform," Alex Vines, head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, told RFI.
"But I doubt UNOCI's continued presence would necessarily help this situation, that's an issue Ivorians have to deal with themselves."
War and elections
Côte d’Ivoire’s government now bears sole responsibility for the country with the UN peacekeeping mission now over as of Friday 30 June.
But it is in a better place now than when the UN first arrived.
In February 2004 the country was still reeling from a bloody civil war that had split it down the middle, with rebels in the north and the government in the south.
"It was always obvious that the moment of tension would be an election and elections kept getting postponed," says Vines.
When they eventually did take place in 2010, they degenerated into violence and at least 3,000 people were killed.
Despite the unrest, Vines argues that UNOCI's role was largely positive.
"What is unique and which will really go down in history is the mandate of UNOCI to make a judgement on the 2010 election results, whether they were free and fair and who was the rightful winner," he says. "No peacekeeping operation has ever done that."
Unhappy Gbagbo supporters
Yet not everyone was impressed with UNOCI's operation.
Supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo, currently facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, accuse UNOCI of bias.
"The losing party was the Gbagbo administration, so it's not surprising to me that they are deeply unhappy and would deny a positive legacy of UNOCI," reckons Vines.
What is true, he admits, is that post-conflict reconciliation has been both "arbitrary and selective".
Culture of impunity
"The main actors from the post-electoral crisis haven't been tried yet, except Simone Gbagbo, the former First Lady," Antonin Rabecq, from the International Federation of Human Rights in Abidjan, told RFI.
"It doesn't send a good signal in favour of the end of impunity. In the past six years since the post-electoral crisis, there has been a lot of progress especially in the economical field and a lot of reforms, but in the judicial field there is still a lot to do."
For Vines, who was involved in UNOCI from 2005 onwards, there has been more impunity for people who supported Alassane Ouattara than for those who opposed him, and he says "that healing still needs to take place".
With Gbagbo behind bars that might be difficult.
"The long standing culture of impunity is our main concern," says Rabecq.
"That was proven when soldiers seized control of the country’s second largest city [in January and May]. It reflects a wider perception that the army is above the law.”
Sharing wealth to ensure peace
The military crisis is indicative of a perceived disconnect between growth and redistribution.
While the country has benefited from strong economic growth since the end of the civil war, there's a feeling among the population that these gains are not being equally shared.
"There is deep inequality that is growing, so some people are doing well and others are doing less well," says Vines. "That's got to be the Ouattara administration's priority now."
Otherwise it could roll back the gains made by ONUCI in terms of peace, he warns.
"There has to be equitable growth within the post-conflict story of Côte d'Ivoire, so that it's not just a UNOCI success story but a post-conflict success story," Vines concludes.
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