News / Africa

    UN: Disarmament a Priority for Ivory Coast Peace

    Republican forces troops allied with President Alassane Ouattara drive through the village of Keibly, just outside Blolequin in western Ivory Coast, May 31, 2011.
    Republican forces troops allied with President Alassane Ouattara drive through the village of Keibly, just outside Blolequin in western Ivory Coast, May 31, 2011.
    VOA NewsLaura Burke
    ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - It has been one year since political violence formally ended in Ivory Coast, but at least 60,000 ex-combatants are still armed. The United Nations says it was a failure to disarm fighters from the 2002 -2003 civil war which helped fuel last year's conflict and the country cannot afford to make the same mistake again. 

    Chief of the U.N.’s DDR operation (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration) in Ivory Coast, Sophie Da Camara, says taking a weapon away from a former fighter is a delicate process and can be a security risk.

    "If you start a process that will shed out of the army a good half of the current people enrolled within the army and say to them, 'Now you go home and you’re demobilized,' you’re taking a very strong stance and you’re putting the government into a situation where you need answers to these young men because they have used weapons before. They know weaponry and they will be frustrated and they will be scared," she said. "Demobilization is to some extent unemployment."

    Da Camara says governments often delay disarmament to maintain stability, even if that stability is fragile. And, that is the case in Ivory Coast - where the government has yet to launch the national DDR campaign, more than a year after political violence ended. 

    In the meantime, the United Nations has collected, stored or destroyed more than 3,000 weapons and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition.  Da Camara says former fighters have shown a willingness to hand in their weapons.

    "We tell them we will be there on the site to collect weapon and ammunitions and register combatants, and they come," she said. "Every single operation we’ve been running in Abidjan has been very successful in numbers. People do come and we don’t offer them anything particular. There is no cash involved and people come and surrender their weapons."

    Yet more needs to be done. The U.N. estimates 60 - 80,000 ex-combatants need to be demobilized. They fought in conflicts dating back to the civil war in 2002.

    Da Camara says if DDR fails a country easily relapses into conflict, like Ivory Coast did in 2010, when at least 3,000 people were killed in post-election violence. Former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Alassane Ouattara. Both sides handed more weapons to youth willing to fight adding to the thousands of illegal arms already in circulation.

    In 2011, the new Ouattara government combined former soldiers and former rebels to form a new army, but there are too many soldiers. So the plan is to demobilize about 10,000 of them. Da Camera says, if disarmament is not a priority, another threat is in an increase in armed criminality.

    "We have seen in Mozambique, Guatemala, unfortunately here in the sub-region, we can think of Guinea-Bissau, we have seen groups turn into criminal organizations... just because they have a weapon and they can use it for easy money to be made much simpler than going back to school and getting a job," she said.

    The United Nations is building nine camps for the demobilization and positive reintegration of these soldiers. But Da Camara says the biggest challenge is reaching out to former pro-Gbagbo militia. Most deny having fought for him or have gone into hiding.

    "The biggest threat of this new DDR campaign is to leave people out, certain groups out. … That I think would be an extremely dangerous risk to take because these youth need support," Da Camara said. "They need to find a way back into this society, this new regime, and this new country. And they have to be taken care of because those weapons exist. They are just under everybody’s bed."

    A proposal on how to organize a national commission on DDR has been submitted to President Alassane Ouattara and is pending approval.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Nielsen's, Sina Weibo Team Up for Closer Look at Chinese Social Media

    US-based rating agency reaches deal with China's Twitter-like service to gauge marketing effectiveness on platform which has more than 200 million users

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora