UN fears attacks from Liberia on I. Coast

By The Citizen

UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Friday raised fears that followers of ousted Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo could step up attacks on the country from neighboring Liberia.

Ban said in a report to the UN Security Council that the United Nations has indications that cross-border attacks are being planned with the help of Liberian mercenaries.

Extra Ivory Coast government forces and UN peacekeepers have been sent to the border area in recent months following raids on villages in Ivory Coast this year.

'Reports continued indicating that planning and organizing of further cross-border attacks may be underway with the support of Ivorians affiliated with the former regime living in Liberia and Liberian mercenaries, with funding from abroad,' said the report.

Ban said the reports were of 'serious concern' and added that the border danger poses a threat to Ivory Coast, Liberia and other countries in the region.

Previous UN reports have highlighted action by Gbagbo followers who have sought refuge in Ghana.

Ban lauded 'remarkable progress' made by President Alassane Ouattara to stabilize the country after the showdown with Gbagbo in 2010 in which about 3,000 people died.

Gbagbo refused to acknowledge defeat in an election and UN and French forces helped oust him. Gbagbo is now before the International Criminal Court in The Hague facing crimes against humanity charges.

'Networks affiliated to the former regime aiming to destabilize the government', 'mercenaries' and armed elements on the border were among threats to the Ouattara government listed by the UN.

It also highlighted the 'uncontrolled circulation of weapons', organized crime and tensions between communities.

Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) boycotted regional and municipal elections held in March and its contacts with the government are deadlocked. The Gbagbo party has demanded a general amnesty be declared, including for its detained leader.

Ban called on the government and former ruling party to resume discussions 'to pave the way for political reconciliation.'

He also said electoral reforms were needed to make sure elections in 2015 are 'fair, inclusive and transparent.'

Ivory Coast is awash with arms left over from a decade of turmoil up to 2011. Tens of thousands of former fighters in rival militias are also a problem for the authorities.

The UN report said that by June about 6,000 former combatants had been disarmed and that the government aimed to demobilize 65,000 in two years.

Ban said improved security and high economic growth had fuelled 'optimism that the current path will lead the country to regain its place as an anchor of stability and prosperity' in West Africa.

'Remarkable progress' has been made, but the UN leader cautioned that 'more needs to be done to ensure that the period of crises has been left behind.'

Ban recommended that the UN mission of 10,400 troops and police be renewed but said two battalions of peacekeepers could be removed by 2015.