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UN OFFICES IN WEST AFRICA STEP UP EFFORTS TO BOOST STABILITY ON EVE OF POLLS

Source: unic.org

United Nations political and peacekeeping missions in West Africa have drawn up joint plans to strengthen stability in the region, where upcoming elections, drug trafficking and organized crime are potential factors for unrest and violence.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit chaired a meeting ending yesterday that brought together senior mission officials from Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in Dakar, Senegal.

“Given that elections are considered a factor for instability and a threat to social peace and taking into account the busy electoral calendar in West Africa, the peace mission representatives agreed to reinforce their collaboration and unite their efforts to bring the full support of the United Nations to the relevant States,” UNOWA said in a news release.

“They reiterated the UN commitment to support the free, transparent and peaceful electoral processes. They called on national authorities, candidates, their supporters and the people at large to do everything in their power to avoid electoral violence and ensure the good conduct of the ballot.”

Elections are scheduled for next month in Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea, landmark stages in the process of ending factional conflict and bringing democratic government. There is no UN peacekeeping mission in Guinea but Mr. Djinnit visited there last week as part of an effort to resolve tensions over the delayed second round of the presidential poll.

In New York today, on the sidelines of the General Assembly's annual opening session, Mr. Ban discussed the upcoming elections with Guinean Foreign Minister Bakary Fofana, voicing the hope that they would take place soon in a transparent and peaceful manner, and calling on all Guineans to show maturity and ensure a peaceful outcome.

Turning to drug trafficking, the UN peacekeeping officials reiterated their commitment to reinforce the means of the countries concerned to fight the scourge in cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

“They underlined the priority that must be given to a coordinated from the whole international community to effectively fight this threat to the peace and stability of the whole sub-region,” the statement added.

Drug cartels use Guinea-Bissau as a transit point for shipments from Latin America to Europe and leading UN anti-narcotics officials have repeatedly warned of increased trafficking throughout the region.

Those participating in the meeting were Mr. Ban's Special Representatives Ellen Margrethe Løj for Liberia and Joseph Mutaboba for Guinea-Bissau; Deputy Special Representative Abou Moussa for Côte d'Ivoire; and Deputy Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) Berhanemeskel Nega.