A Peacekeeping Success Story in Côte d’Ivoire

Although there are 16 United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions operating around the world, those in the Central African Republic, Congo, and South Sudan have often dominated headlines. Yet one of the biggest stories about UN peacekeeping bringing peace is from the mission in the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire, which is on its way to closing in June 2017 because of its success in helping the country restore stability and governance after the internal conflict that began in 2002 and resurfaced in 2010.

Six years ago, Côte d’Ivoire was on the verge of war, as elections produced two candidates who declared their victory, threatening to divide the country along ethnic lines and plunge it into civil conflict. At the time, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and its peacekeeping force was already deployed there, and stepped in to offer security and stability as the international community lined up to bring peace through diplomacy, and without bloodshed. Today, as I saw during my recent visit to Abidjan, UNOCI is on course to wrap up its mission in Côte d’Ivoire, a country today at peace with few signs of its past conflict.  

Headquarters of the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. [Photo courtesy of Colleen Traughber]

The United States -- a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations worldwide -- is committed to the Security Council’s mandate for the “maintenance of international peace and security,” and that includes in Côte d’Ivoire, where the UN has had a political or peacekeeping mission since 2003. In October, my colleague and I traveled to Côte d’Ivoire and reviewed the progress of the UNOCI in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians, provide good offices to help facilitate the resolution of disputes, monitor and promote human rights, and support the Ivorian Government efforts in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants and in implementing security sector reform.  

During our trip, we saw firsthand that UNOCI’s transition is largely on track. There is good coordination between UNOCI and the host government and UN agencies that will continue to operate in the country (the “UN Country Team”). We met with UN officials across the mission, including civilian police and military staff. We learned about the mission’s security section reform program, which is a ten-year plan to help the Ivorian government modernize its security services. We met with government stakeholders who are taking over responsibilities from UNOCI, including the ministries of Defense, Interior, and Solidarity and Social Cohesion, as well as the National Commission of Human Rights, National Police, and National Security Council. We also learned about the transition of responsibilities from the mission to the UN Country Team and the international community, as they focus on continuing to provide development support to Côte d’Ivoire.

Department of State officials Colleen Traughber and Amanda Jessen pose for a photo during a Mission Monitoring and Evaluation trip to the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire in late October. [State Department photo]

Again, the lack of news is a sign of progress. The importance of UNOCI’s upcoming closure is demonstrated by the background of the peacekeeping mission and its role since. Established in 2004, UNOCI initially focused on working with the government to bring peace to the country destabilized by an armed rebellion two years prior. The Security Council originally established the peacekeeping mission to facilitate the implementation of the peace agreement with the Ivorian parties and thereby end the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire. To improve the peace deal’s chances to lead to sustainable peace, UNOCI’s mandate was periodically adjusted to meet the evolving situation in the country. In recent years, the mission has been reducing its military component and transitioning toward a smaller, advisory UN presence. Recognizing the country’s progress, in April, the Security Council renewed UNOCI for one final period until June 30, 2017, by which time all uniformed and civilian components of UNOCI will have been withdrawn. 

It was encouraging to see this progress firsthand, given the security situation in the country less than a decade ago. By all accounts, UNOCI is a peacekeeping success story -- a mission that helped national stakeholders to return a war-torn country to peace in a relatively short amount of time. Now from a place of greater stability, Côte d’Ivoire has the opportunity to focus on social cohesion, transitional justice, and inclusive economic growth. It’s time, in other words, to use the hard-won peace and stability to focus on long-term development -- an effort to which the United States is committed to working with the international community to achieve. 

About the Author: Colleen Traughber serves as an International Affairs Officer in the Office of Peacekeeping, Sanctions, and Counterterrorism in the Bureau of International Organizations Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.  

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Comments

Comments

Gary B.
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Vermont, USA
December 12, 2016
I have read and heard a lot of rubbish on the role of the UN in the Ivory Coast and its peacekeeping exercises. This recent piece by Colleen Traughber of the State Department is about as uninformed and ignorant a piece on the subject as I have ever read. It was the UN and their French colleagues who interfered in the Ivory Coast and whose UN helicopters shot down innocent civilians and called it peacekeeping. It is a shameful piece of UN history and a shameful exposure of the vacuous response of the State Department to a humanitarian crisis. I attach an analysis I wrote a while ago on the debacle. https://www.academia.edu/21454488/U.N._Justice_And_French_Colonialism_The_Gbagbo_Dossier
Gary B.
|
Vermont, USA
December 12, 2016
The State Department's inability to pursue human rights in the Ivory Coast did not fool Senator Imhofe of Oklahoma (ranking Republican on the Sentate Armed Services Committee) who posted pages of infoprmation about the failures and duplicity of the UN and the State Department in the Congressional Record. Her is a quote from one of them " These are the death squads of Ouattara. This is a picture of them. You can identify them. They are in there killing people. We don't know how many tens of thousands of people have been murdered in cold blood. Amnesty International came out the other day and criticized the U.N. mission for ignoring pleas for help and failing to prevent the massacre in the town of Duekoue. That is the town of Duekoue. See the charred bodies. People are saying they actually had hogs eating the bodies. This is what Ouattara did in a little town called Duekoue. I have another picture of what is happening. It is really criminal. These are all of Ouattara's people. These are the ones our State Department supported, and it is serious. Amnesty reports that a manhunt was launched against Gbagbo loyalists in Abidjan, and several senior officials close to him were beaten in the hours after his arrest..."
United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) peacekeepers prepare to depart on a joint patrol mission with their FDS (Government Defense and Security Forces) counterparts in the city of Deukoue, Côte d'Ivoire on June 15, 2005. [UN photo]
December 8, 2016

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