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Côte d'Ivoire / UNOCI chief deplores the presence of armed men around candidates

By Mission of UN in Côte d'Ivoire
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ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, December 9, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Summary of UNOCI weekly press conference

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Côte d'Ivoire, Bert Koenders, deplores the isolated violent incidents often provoked by armed men who surround candidates, that disturb the tranquility of the population, the Spokesman for the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) Hamadoun Touré, said in Abidjan on Thursday.

In his assessment of the electoral campaign, which is judged to be generally calm, the Special Representative asked the competent authorities to ensure that the laws governing this period are respected and to ensure that all candidates are treated equally, said the Spokesman, who was speaking at UNOCI's weekly press conference.

A few hours to the end of the electoral campaign, the head of UNOCI urged the population and all the Ivorian parties to rise to the occasion in their conduct so as to ensure that the election is held in a peaceful and serene environment which will serve as the dawn of the national reconciliation process, said Mr. Touré, adding that Mr. Koenders remained convinced that together, Ivorians will avoid all useless provocation and excesses which could prove prejudicial to the electoral process.

Still on elections, Mr. Touré gave an update of the Mission's preparations for the polls as part of its support to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). In this regard, he announced that UNOCI was continuing its transportation of sensitive electoral material throughout the country.

The transport of the material, which includes ballot papers, tally sheets, indelible ink and other printed documents, for the polling stations is being carried out by air and road under escort by UNOCI's Force, from warehouses in Abidjan and Yamoussoukro to departmental electoral centres, said the Spokesman.

Mr. Touré cited the localities that had already received this material, namely Boundiali, Kouibly and Tengréla, adding that the next convoys will be going to Biankouma, Bloléquin, Danané, Duékoué, Ferkessédougou, Guiglo, Odienné, Toulepleu, Touba, Zouan-Hounien, Madinani, Mignignan, San Pedro and Sassandra.

“UNOCI continues to concentrate its efforts on guaranteeing the timely transportation of the material throughout the country up to the communal electoral commissions and sous-prefectures (sub-districts), based on when the material is provided by the Independent Electoral Commission,” he explained, adding that the second phase of the distribution chain, from the local commissions to the polling stations will be carried out by the IEC with the support of the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“UNOCI encourages the IEC to continue its efforts to ensure that the polls are peaceful, inclusive and transparent and held as scheduled,” he said.

Turning to military issues, Mr. Touré said that UNOCI military contingents have continued to transport Ivorians troops (some 6000) responsible for security for the legislative elections since 5 December 2011.

“Mixed patrols with their counterparts from the Forces republicianes de Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI) are being intensified in the west, especially along the border with Liberia, which contributes to improving the security situation in Côte d'Ivoire,” added the Spokesman.

In this regard, he recalled that on 4, 5, and 6 December a delegation comprising generals of the Impartial Forces, the FRCI Chief of Staff and commanders of the Ivorian police and gendarmerie had carried out a mission in Sector East (Bouaké) and Sector West (Daloa, Man and San Pedro) to put in place security arrangements and sensitise the troops providing security for the legislative elections. He also referred to a meeting of UNOCI sector commanders, presided over by the Force Commander, General Gnakoudé Béréna, to discuss and finalise arrangements made by the Force to participate in the smooth holding of the polls.

On the issue of human rights, Mr. Touré announced that since the start of the election campaign, violations and abuse, especially physical assault, arbritrary arrests, bad treatment, including intimidation, and the destruction of property had been documented by UNOCI in Bayota (40 km from Gagnoa), Brobo (20 km northwest of Bouaké), Divo (180 km from Abidjan), Gbélégban (80 km west of Odienné) and San-Pedro. In Divo and San-Pedro, the posters of some candidates had been torn down by supporters of the opposing camp.

Mr. Touré concluded by announcing the second mission of the United Nations Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Côte d'Ivoire, Doudou Diène, who is in the country from 7 to 13 December 2011.