- All actors in Côte d’Ivoire have been urged to focus on creating the political and security conditions necessary for free and fair elections to avoid a return to violence.
In its latest report "Côte d’Ivoire: Ensuring Credible Elections", the Brussel-based International Crisis Group [ICG] examines the conditions for new elections scheduled on 30 November 2008.
However, the crisis group feared an eruption of "a potentially explosive environment" because hungry politicians appear ready to go extremes for the presidential competition. This could turn worse considering the proliferation of armed groups and growth of impunity in the West African state in recent years.
"Technical and financial constraints are real, but the government is using them as excuses to justify delays," says Gilles Yabi, Crisis Group Senior Analyst. "The real problems, which threaten the entire peace process, come from the political manoeuvrings of Ivorian leaders in the run-up to the elections."
The crisis group says the 4 March 2007 Ouagadougou Peace Accord [OPA] which saw the appointment of the former leader of Forces Nouvelles, Guillaume Soro, as the Prime Minister, has produced mixed results.
Though there has been a general improvement in the security environment, but the overall implementation is far behind schedule, and there has been no decisive progress on two critical issues: "identification" of the population – determining who is a citizen and who may vote – and the disarmament of ex-rebels and militias and their reinsertion or reintegration into civilian life or the military, the ICG says.
The group describes these as the "most politically sensitive and risky tasks", whichy need to be undertaken now, warning that the "calm political climate" brought in by the signing of the OPA should not fool anyone.
"It will be difficult to reach an agreement among all political actors to create the conditions for democratic elections."
The group calls on all parties to stricly adhere to the OPA, implement a consensual security plan for the identification operations and the elections as well as work out a conflict and prevention strategy in collaboration with Burkina Faso President Compaoré, the facilitator and arbitrator of the peace process, and the UN mission (ONUCI). Mr Compaoré has been urged to expose the "spoilers" and recommend individual sanctions to the Security Council.
"The struggle to influence the electoral process and the presidential campaign will be harsh and divisive, with the risk of returning the country to turmoil," says Daniela Kroslak, Deputy Director of Crisis Group’s Africa Program.
"But a successful outcome to the peace process is critical for the stability and economic future of all West Africa."
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