Ivory Coast has urgent need to restore order: U.N.

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 30, 2011 3:02 PM
Ivory Coast has urgent need to restore order: U.N.

By Tim Cocks

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The U.N. envoy to Ivory Coast urged the government Thursday to restore law and order by deploying police and sending former rebels who helped President Alassane Ouattara seize power back to their barracks.

Ivorian authorities are struggling to reimpose security to the West African state after a standoff between Ouattara and former president Laurent Gbagbo over a disputed election that re-ignited a 2002-3 civil war.

Gbagbo was finally ousted by pro-Ouattara forces backed by the French military in April, but the northern rebels who swept into Abidjan in support of Ouattara remain at large.

Some Ivorians complain the fighters have been carrying out reprisals and harassing civilians seen as pro-Gbagbo.

"There is a pressing need to restore law and order throughout the country," U.N. peacekeeping mission chief Y.J. Choi told a news conference in the main city Abidjan.

"The fundamental solution can be provided for only by the Ivorian authorities by deploying the police and gendarmerie and by rolling back the army elements into their military camps."

Ouattara beat Gbagbo in an election last November but the incumbent refused to step down, and Gbagbo used his security forces and a patchwork of violent militia groups to crush dissent.

Months of negotiations and Western sanctions failed to persuade him to leave, even when an insurgency flared up against him in Abidjan, until he was captured.

"We feel confident that President Ouattara and his team, who have shown remarkable patience and sang-froid during the crisis, are working ... to meet these challenges," Choi said.

He said the U.N. mission was responding to insecurity in the west, where ethnic and land tensions ignited during the crisis, by establishing eight new military camps there.

The U.N. was also giving equipment, including vehicles, to police stations damaged during the war. The U.N. response to the Ivory Coast crisis has been compared favorably with other conflicts in which it has been accused of failing to act quickly or decisively enough -- notably when it failed to prevent Rwanda's genocide.

By contrast, Choi was swift to endorse Ouattara's election win -- and to condemn Gbagbo's refusal to accept it. The U.N. mission also used attack helicopters to destroy some of Gbagbo's weapons arsenal, after his military used it against civilians.

"Gbagbo's camp ... used machine guns to kill peacefully demonstrating women. They launched mortars on a market. We had the armed helicopters ready to neutralize those weapons," Choi said.

(editing by David Stamp)