Chief of UN Mission in Côte dIvoire says 400 UN staffers evacuated

Chief of UN Mission in Côte dIvoire says 400 UN staffers evacuated

After briefing the Security Council in closed session, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Pierre Schori told journalists that there were about 1,200 civilians in the peacekeeping mission and, adding in the humanitarian agencies, staff of the “UN family” there numbered some 2,000.The staff had not been allowed to bring their own families to the West African country, he added. The attacks on the UN have taken place in Abidjan, in the west and other places in government-controlled areas and, given the vitriolic messages on the radio and in other media, the situation might not improve very much in the next few days, he said, adding that some of the staff had been traumatized and needed to rest. Mission staff was going to Banjul and agency staff to Dakar.During the four-day siege of the offices in Abidjan, Mr. Schori said he slept on a mattress in his office, but in the west of the country the humanitarian agencies were chased out and their offices and warehouses were looted and destroyed. The Government, especially the Ministry of Defence, was asked to check out the situation before the UN staff would go back.Because the unrest was unexpected, the mission had not been given certain equipment and was not well-equipped for riot control, having only three formed police units and three armoured vehicles in the commercial capital, Abidjan. Mr. Schori said he had asked the Security Council for more units. The mission would also need more police and troops to secure the country for the identification, election and disarmament processes. “It is a huge country,” he said.Last month, the Secretary-General recommended in a report to the Council that it authorize an additional 3,400 soldiers or four battalions to be added to the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) troop strength, plus an additional 475 police personnel.Mr. Schori also voiced strong opposition to impunity. “I don’t want this to happen again and I want those who are behind this to be punished,” he said.A non-binding recommendation from the UN-authorized International Working Group to close down the Assembly, whose mandate had expired, had triggered the unrest by President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters.Mr. Schori said while Mr. Gbagbo had said nothing, his supporters, called the “Young Patriots,” saw the Working Group as undermining the President’s position and transferring some of his powers to the Prime Minister.When President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria made an emergency visit to the country last week, he met Mr. Gbagbo and they, together with Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny and Mr. Schori, hammered out a text saying that the former members of the National Assembly could help to coordinate the road map to peace.The President and Prime Minister were tasked with finding a political solution, he said.In Abidjan, UNOCI said it was essential to rehabilitate the destroyed buildings, secure them and make them functional so that staff members who had been forced to leave their duty stations could resume their work under decent conditions.To this end, an evaluation mission would go without delay to Guiglo, 516 kilometres, west of Abidjan and the scene of the most serious incidents, the mission said.UNOCI also reassured the Ivorian population of its determination to continue to work in favour of the peace process.

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