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UNOCI INCREASES ITS PATROLS ON THE CÔTE D'IVOIRE – MALI BORDER

By Mission of UN in Côte d'Ivoire
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ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, March 30, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Summary of UNOCI weekly press conference

The United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) has increased its ground and air patrols along the Côte d'Ivoire – Mali border following the coup d'état in Mali on 22 March, the Mission's Spokesman, Hamadoun Touré, announced in Abidjan, on Thursday.

Speaking during UNOCI's weekly press conference, he said that for the time being, the situation was under control and the influx of people and goods across the border was normal, adding that the Mission would continue to be vigilant until the situation improves.

In this regard, Mr. Touré recalled the participation of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, in the extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the situation in Mali. “The presence of a UN Representative at the meeting in Abidjan signifies that we are closely monitoring the situation,” he said.

Turning to military issues, the Spokesman added that in accordance with their mandate to protect the population, UNOCI contingents had carried out 1,556 ground and air patrols during the past week and had continued their patrols along the Côte d'Ivoire – Liberia border, in an effort to contribute to improving the security situation throughout the country.

Last week, the different battalions of UNOCI's Force provided free medical treatment for 2,721 patients throughout the country and distributed 77,000 litres of potable water to people in need, he added.

On the issue of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR), Mr. Touré announced that new voluntary arms collection operations will be held by the Commission Nationale de lutte contre la prolifération illicite des armes légères et de petit calibre (ComNat-ALPC) with UNOCI's support, in the Foyer des Jeunes in Attécoube on 3 and 4 April and the town hall in Abobo on 5 and 6 April. “Last week, these operations were organised in Yopougon and Yamoussoukro,” said the Spokesman, who deplored the small number of arms collected. “We would like to see more weapons being collected, especially ammunitions,” he added.

In this regard, Mr. Touré said that UNOCI's DDR division, in collaboration with the Commission Nationale de Lutte contre la Prolifération illicite des armes légères et de petit calibre (ComNat-ALPC), has been organising since Tuesday, a sensitisation session on voluntary arms collection for community leaders in Grand Béréby, near San Pedro. “Very soon, local DDR committees will be created in Grand-Béréby, San-Pedro, Sassandra and Méagui in the Bas Sassandra region as part of a vast sensitisation campaign on voluntary arms collection and the return of Ivorian refugees currently living in neighbouring countries,” he said.

Concerning human rights, UNOCI deplores the punitive action launched by Ivorian soldiers against the inhabitants of Yopougon-Selmer neighbourhood, in Abidjan, after a soldier was beaten up youths in the area, said Mr. Touré, adding that at least one person was killed and four seriously injured as a result of this action.

“UNOCI will not only deplore or condemn such behavior, but will also contribute to improving the behaviour of soldiers with regard to respecting human rights,” he said. He further explained that, in this regard, the Mission has been holding a four-day training programme in Korhogo, for some 100 soldiers from the Forces Républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI) deployed in the Poro region, on the rights and protection of children.

“The training programme is aimed at giving them a better understanding of the concept of the child, international standards and norms on child protection, the impact of armed conflict on children and an understanding of what it means to promote and monitor children's rights,” the Spokesman explained.

Turning to another subject, Mr. Touré announced the continuation of UNOCI's sensitisation activities throughout the country to strengthen social cohesion and national reconciliation, in an effort to help Côte d'Ivoire consolidate its achievements and overcome its different challenges with the contribution of different targets.

Asked about the security situation in the west of the country, Mr. Touré said that although things were improving, there were still a lot of challenges remaining. “People are still hesitant about returning, so they must be reassured,” said the Spokesman, adding that this hesitation was due to three main reasons, namely security, the means to find their property and the freedom to carry out their political activities. He said, however, that he was happy to note that inter-community confrontations had stopped. “We must work harder to encourage more people to return home by creating the right living conditions, by providing the local administration with the appropriate means in accordance with our mandate and the expectations of the people,” he said.