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UN peacekeeping mission supporting disarmament in Côte d’Ivoire Options
Natalie Wilkins
Posted: Thursday, February 02, 2012 5:48:54 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2008
Posts: 406
Location: London, UK
UN disarmament operation continues near Abidjan
1 February 2012

A United Nations voluntary disarmament operation began today in a suburb north of the Ivorian city of Abidjan, aiming to collect illegal weapons still in circulation among the civilian population.

The operation, conducted by the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and national authorities, is part of a wider national campaign which began in June and that targets various regions of the country, with last month’s having been held in the town of Attécoubé.

“This operation will gradually increase in scale and allow us to recover weapons in various municipalities, both in Abidjan and elsewhere,” said UNOCI’s Deputy Director of the Division of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, Ndiaga Diagne.

“Every gun that is recovered is a plus, a success,” he said, adding that since its beginning some 1,000 weapons have been collected.

The operation in Abobo is conducted in collaboration with the Government, Ivorian police and the National Commission to Fight Against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons. For the Commission’s Executive Secretary, Anziani Kouadja, collaborating with UNOCI allows the population to benefit from accompanying measures such as training and support for income-generating activities.

Mr. Kouadja stressed that for the operation to be successful, rapid implementation of the accompanying training measures must follow. “I appeal to UNOCI so that those who have already laid down their arms can quickly benefit from these measures so that it may encourage others to do the same,” he said, adding that the campaign will also continue throughout Côte d’Ivoire.
Natalie Wilkins
Posted: Monday, March 19, 2012 7:23:39 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2008
Posts: 406
Location: London, UK
UN mission satisfied with pace of arms collection
16 March 2012

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire has said it is encouraged by the pace of its arms collection exercise that started in June last year, but noted that much remains to be done to take away weapons from civilians and those who may have participated in past conflicts.

“To date 2,000 ex-combatants have voluntarily handed in 1,300 weapons and some 50,000 pieces of ammunition,” Hamadoun Touré, spokesperson for the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), told reporters at the mission’s weekly briefing in Abidjan yesterday.

The arms collection operations are supervised by the mission’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) division in cooperation with the Ivorian National Commission on Small Arms.

In an effort to ensure the safety of the country’s population, UNOCI’s bomb disposal squad is also continuing its activities throughout the country, Mr. Touré said.

“We intend to set up a hotline for the population in the very near future which they can contact to alert us on any unexploded ordnance such as those which recently injured some children who were playing with them,” he said.

On human rights, Mr. Touré said that UNOCI is following up on the cases of people arrested on suspicion of carrying out activities that allegedly endangered the security of the State.

The suspects are being detained in such places as the criminal police headquarters and Côte d’Ivoire’s Directorate of Territorial Surveillance to which human rights officers have no access.

He said cases of female genital mutilation had been reported among girls aged between 7 and 25 in several areas across country. UNOCI’s Human Rights Division is organizing several public awareness activities to sensitize communities about the harmful effects of this practice.

Source: UN News Centre
Natalie Wilkins
Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 11:59:05 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2008
Posts: 406
Location: London, UK
UN destroys hundreds of small arms and light weapons in Côte d’Ivoire
13 July 2012

Some 600 small arms and light weapons have been wiped out in Côte d’Ivoire over the last two days by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) as part of the country’s first weapon destruction exercise since the 2011 post-election crisis.

UNMAS began cutting up the weapons stored at the camp in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital, of the Togolese peacekeeping contingent serving with the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) yesterday.

The two-day exercise is the result of close collaboration between UNMAS and the National Commission of Small Arms and Light Weapons of Côte d’Ivoire (COMNAT-CI), and is part of the celebration of the International Small Arms Destruction Day, observed on 9 July.

The arms were collected by UNOCI staff working in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants during ad hoc weapon collection operations across the country.

“The destruction of weapons in Côte d’Ivoire is an important milestone for the mine action programme,” said the UNMAS Programme Manager in Côte d’Ivoire, Charles Frisby.

“Having secured the consensus of all stakeholders, including the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons to proceed with destruction, we can now contribute in a concrete manner to the reduction in armed violence,” he stated, adding that UNMAS will support the Government in destroying the small arms collected since the end of the post-election crisis.

In late 2010, Côte d’Ivoire was the scene of intense fighting after Alassane Ouattara won a disputed presidential run-off election, leading to months of deadly violence when the runner-up and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.

Amongst UNOCI’s Security Council-mandated tasks is to help “national authorities, including the National Commission to fight against the Proliferation and Illicit Traffic of Small Arms and Light Weapons, in collecting, registering, securing and disposing of weapons and in clearing explosive remnants of war, as appropriate.”

According to UNMAS, since July 2011, COMNAT-CI has conducted 36 ad hoc weapon collection operations across the country, with UNOCI’s support, recovering 1,811 weapons and 316,600 munitions. This weaponry is collected and stocked in different military bases of UNOCI.

Source: UN News Centre
Natalie Wilkins
Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 1:46:47 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2008
Posts: 406
Location: London, UK
Côte d’Ivoire: Will DDR work this time?

ABIDJAN, 29 June 2012 (IRIN) - Tens of thousands of combatants who fought in the 2010-2011 post-election conflict in Côte d’Ivoire remain armed and potentially dangerous, says the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and is calling for a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme to be urgently set up.

On 8 June a militia group allegedly crossed from Liberia to near the village of Tai in Côte d’Ivoire, a few kilometres from the border, where they ambushed and killed seven UN peacekeepers and 10 civilians. At least 64 people have been killed in cross-border attacks since the conflict was officially resolved in 2011, while banditry and criminality are rife in the west and north.

UNOCI’s head of DDR, Sophie Da Camara ,estimates that 60,000-80,000 former fighters need to be disarmed, while Côte d’Ivoire’s deputy defence minister, Paul Koffi Koffi, puts the number at around 30,000. The national army - Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) - was bloated by post-election recruitment drives by both former president Laurent Gbagbo and current president Alassane Ouattara, as well as by Ouattara’s move to integrate former rebels and government soldiers into a single force when he took power.

Omitting militia groups would be the “biggest threat to DDR”, and would be an “extremely dangerous risk”, said Da Camara. “They need to find a way back into this society, this new regime, and this new country. And they have to be taken care of because those weapons are still there - they are just under everybody’s beds.”

The challenge is to identify the former combatants, as most have gone into hiding or are living in refugee camps. “You cannot be both - either you are a refugee or an ex-combatant,” Da Camara said.

”Excruciatingly slow”

The government has not yet created a national DDR commission, the first step in the process, according to UNOCI. Progress has been “excruciatingly slow,” said Da Camara. “It’s extremely urgent that we have a national institution that would drive the process.” The UN awaits the government’s cue.

Unrelated to the DDR process, an existing commission, the National Commission for the Fight against the Proliferation of Light and Small Arms, led by Police General Desiré Adjoussou, has been working with UNOCI to collect some 3,000 weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from ex-fighters. It does not pay them for surrendering their weapons, he told IRIN, as former soldiers often use the money to buy more weapons.

In late May the defence minister warned on national television that the government would give people illegally carrying weapons until June 30 to turn them in. “Every single operation we’ve been running in Abidjan [the biggest city in Côte d’Ivoire] has been very successful in numbers,” Da Camara told IRIN.

A 30 percent weapons collection rate is generally estimated to be a good result in a DDR programme.

Trust needed

But there have been “good reasons, political reasons” to move slowly, Da Camara conceded. “Until the legislative elections, the trust, confidence, and political environment were not sufficient for real DDR to start.”

Experience has shown that DDR requires strong political backing and concurrent widespread reconciliation efforts if it is to work, but planned reconciliation activities have not yet been a priority for the government.

The political commitment is there this time said Matt Wells, West Africa researcher with Human Rights Watch. "The Ouattara government has repeatedly recognized the importance of DDR and of security sector reform more generally, but progress in actually disarming former fighters... is slow at best.”

Demobilization usually leaves soldiers unemployed, which can become an additional security risk. “Somebody used to run around town in a uniform, with a political or social status and a lot of authority - all of that goes [away] when you’re demobilized,” Da Camara noted.

The UN is preparing for DDR by building “regroupment sites” where disarmament and demobilization can take place - nine are planned altogether - with the aim of putting 10,000 members of the FRCI through “classic DDR”, which involves verifying the soldier’s identity, a medical check-up, disarmament, counselling if needed, and then being accompanied back to their community.

UNOCI will focus on integrating ex-combattants but will not cover education or employment programmes Da Camara said, as that is up to the government and donors. Deputy defence minister Koffi Koffi said no money will be exchanged for weapons.

Crucial final stages of DDR - reintegration back into civilian society through well-targeted education or job training, and reunification with their communities - is often overlooked by donors, national governments and peace support operations, so DDR exercises often fall short. Many say DDR cannot work in Côte d'Ivoire without simultaneous security sector reform.

“State of terror”

Though security has improved across much of the country, people in the west are “living in a state of terror”, as they hear constant rumours of more attacks, said acting spokeswoman of UNOCI, Sylvie van den Wildenberg. Many flee their villages on hearing of attacks, only to be attacked when they return, or come back to find their houses have been taken over.

UNOCI estimates that 3,000-4,000 young men who fought in pro-Gbagbo militia groups are living in neighbouring Liberia to the west or Ghana to the east. No one should “underestimate the danger [they]… represent,” said Da Camara.

“These guys are being manipulated. They feel threatened. They crave revenge. They need to be offered an alternative to resorting to use of weapons.”

UNOCI is continuing to reinforce its troops along the border.

Banditry and criminality is common, much of it allegedly carried out by former fighters. “Nobody can say it is safe on the roads, when going into the plantations, or at home - anybody can be attacked anywhere,” said René Hokou Legre, president of the Ivoirian League of Human Rights (LIDHO).

Across the country, guns are often used to settle land rights, or ethnic and other scores. “Every day civilians [in Issia, a town in the central-west] are attacked, scaring off farm-hands,” Atty Francis, the acting mayor of Issia, told IRIN.

The commandoes that wreaked destruction in several neighbourhoods in Abidjan during the conflict were largely disbanded in 2011, but armed robbery is on the rise, say residents. “Robbers use weapons of war [AK47 rifles], and they have a perfect mastery of them,” said Falikou Sangare, a trader whose shop has been attacked by armed robbers twice in the past six months, and US$6,000 was stolen.

Many of the police still lack weapons, leaving the military to play a policing role in much of the country. Several ex-fighters have told the Light Weapons Commission [National Commission for the Fight against the Proliferation of Light and Small Arms] to come to their houses to collect their arms - they do not want to be seen doing so in public because they are afraid of becoming a target.

DDR failed in 2004 and 2007 in Côte d’Ivoire, partly because of inadequate political support, lack of know-how, or relapses into violence. “There was an endless, unfortunate list of reasons,” Da Camara said.

“If DDR fails, usually the country relapses into conflict,” she noted. “But on the other hand, if the political process fails, the reconciliation and transition fails, then no matter how successful your DDR process was, unfortunately, they will go back to weapons - whatever alternative you’ve offered.”

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Source: IRIN
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