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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs