Côte d'Ivoire / UNOCI head, Special Representative on sexual violence travel to Duekoue and Bouake

By Mission of UN in Côte d'Ivoire

ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, November 25, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A delegation led by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Bert Koenders, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts, Mrs. Margot Wallstrom, travelled on Thursday 24 November 2011 to Duékoué and Bouaké.

The delegation had working sessions with local authorities, military contingents of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), officials of UNOCI and UN agencies, representatives of women's and youth organisations, and victims of sexual abuse. Discussions hinged mainly on the fight against sexual violence and the United Nations' contribution to the elections to the National Assembly.

« We came to support the fight against violence against women; the figures we have are alarming,” Mr. Koenders said in Duékoué. “We have come to listen to you so as to be able to better help you to fight against these types of violence.”

Statistics provided by a social centre that assists victims of gender-based violence in Duekoué show that an average of about 70 persons are subjected to such abuses each month. “From January 2011 to October 2011, 699 cases of gender-based violence were registered, including 162 committed by armed men, and 181 cases of rape, 55% targeting minors,” said Mr. Mamadou Sylla, director of the centre. “These figures are not exhaustive, because some women do not declare the abuses they are subjected to, either because of shame or for lack of resources,” he explained.

Mr. Koenders asked the UN troops to increase their patrols and organise interaction sessions with the population so as to have a better grasp of their concerns and protect them better.

Similarly, Mrs. Wallstrom stressed that the population was counting on the UN troops, who were their last defence against abuse. “You have the mandate to protect civilians, women and girls in particular,” she told the Blue Helmets in Bouaké. “You have to find the means to do it in the most effective way.”

Mrs. Wallstrom also proposed additional patrols and regular contacts with the women so as to better protect them. “Women were subjected to the worst atrocities during the post-election crisis and they are afraid that that might repeat itself during the upcoming legislative polls,” she told the troops. “You are their hope, they will come towards you because they have confidence in you. Make their security a priority.”

With regard to elections to the National Assembly, Mr. Koenders mentioned the contribution UNOCI has been making towards the success of the polls, explaining that there were two aspects to this: logistics and security.

The former is a major challenge that the mission has to meet, he noted, calling on UNOCI personnel to be ready to support the operation.

The UNOCI head also underlined the importance of the security aspect. “We are there to ensure the safety of civilians so that everyone can go and vote in peace, otherwise these elections will not be free and transparent, which would affect my role as certifier,” he stated.

The delegation also included UNOCI Force Commander General Gnakoudé Béréna and the heads of the country offices of the UN Population Fund and the UN Children's Fund, Mrs. Suzanne Maiga and Mr. Hervé Ludovic de Lys, respectively.