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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs