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UN Sees Enormous Challenges Before Ivory Coast Vote

  • Drew Hinshaw

The United Nations says enormous challenges remain unaddressed in the run-up to the long-delayed presidential election in Ivory Coast now scheduled for October 31.

The U.N.'s deputy mission chief, Abdou Moussa, told reporters in Dakar Wednesday that Ivory Coast has never been this close to holding its long-awaited national elections.

Observers hope the October 31 vote, which has been delayed at least six times since the 2002 civil war broke out, will finally erase memories of the country's internal violence.

But with just a month left before the vote, Moussa says, there is a daunting amount of preparation to do.

Moussa says he ought to emphasize that "we are not there yet, that we still have a way to go before October 31st." He adds that "there are so many challenges to face," like enormous logistical dilemmas.

Those challenges start with the difficulties of shipping voting material from the southern port city of Abidjan deep into the nation's backcountry.

The U.N. is helping Ivory Coast's electoral commission set up more than 20,000 polling stations, many in far flung villages within the northern hinterland still held by former rebels.

Next, the U.N. will help recruit 66,000 polling agents who must be trained to conduct the vote.

From October 10 to 18 the U.N. will support the electoral commission's undertaking to distribute voting cards throughout the entire nation.

Meanwhile, the U.N. will need to fill a vast and fractious country with even more peacekeeping soldiers.

Moussa says the U.N. approved on September 28 an additional 500 blue helmets to guide the country through this tense chapter in its 50-year-history.

Moussa says that on October 31 the U.N. is going to begin a public awareness campaign to ensure that the country does not just hold elections, but holds peaceful elections.

"Because there will be 14 candidates, but there will only be one president. So we have got to make sure that the losers accept the results of this vote," Moussa explained.

In the six years since Ivory Coast's north-south civil war wound down, the nation's government has cited formidable logistical challenges in their arguments to delay previously scheduled elections.

This time, Moussa says he has no doubt that something -- an election, however peaceful or fair -- will take place on the 31st.

He says at this moment, he can tell you right off the bat that all candidates are gearing up for their campaigns, all across the country. But campaigning costs money, he says. He does not think they would be wasting their money if they did not believe that something is going to happen. And we have not seen that before, he says.

Whichever candidate wins the vote will inherit a country with considerable economic potential, recovering from deep internal strife. The West African nation not only exports rubber and coffee, it is the world's top grower of cocoa.