UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to wrap up its 12-year peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast next year, a sign of confidence in the West African nation's progress to peace after years of political turmoil and thousands of deaths.
A resolution adopted by the U.N.'s most powerful body calls for all U.N. peacekeepers and international police to leave Ivory Coast by April 30, 2017 and for the mission to officially end on June 30, 2017. It had about 4,650 troops and military observers and nearly 1,400 police at the end of February.
A second resolution, also adopted unanimously, immediately lifted an arms embargo on Ivory Coast as well as a travel ban and asset freeze on individuals.
After an attempted coup sparked a civil war in 2002, Ivory Coast was split into a rebel-controlled north and government-controlled south. A peace deal in March 2007 brought key rebel leaders into the administration, but deep divisions remained.
The country headed to the brink of civil war in early 2011 when then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat after losing a presidential runoff vote in 2010 to Alassane Ouattara, who finally became president in May 2011. Gbagbo was arrested and is currently before the International Criminal Court, accused of involvement in violence that left some 3,000 people dead in the aftermath of the 2010 elections.
The Security Council resolution welcomed "the remarkable progress by Ivory Coast to achieve lasting peace and stability, as well as economic prosperity." It commended the successful presidential election last October, which Ouattara easily won after overseeing economic growth during his first term, as "a critical milestone" in consolidating the country's long-term peace and stability.
Ambassador Francois Delattre of France, Ivory Coast's former colonial power, called the U.N. mission, which began in April 2004, "a success story."
Ivory Coast's U.N. Ambassador Claude Bouah-Kamon told the council after the vote that the government believes and hopes the council's actions testify to its "myriad efforts" undertaken since the end of the crisis in 2011.
With the lifting of sanctions, he said, the government will now tackle the modernization of the country's military and security and overhaul related laws.
"My country hails the untrammeled success of this mission and ... (wants) to ensure that it goes down in the history of U.N. peacekeeping operations as a success story to be replicated elsewhere in the world," Bouah-Kamon said.