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UN's Ivorian Mission Disavows Its Peace Messenger As Posts Remain Unfilled

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, July 5 -- In the aftermath of the missile-fire in Bouake at the plane carrying ex-Forces Nouvelles rebel, now Ivorian prime minister Guillaume Soro, the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire, UNOCI, has issued two press releases. UNOCI rushed to state that "the comments made by its Peace Messenger on the Bouake events do not reflect the position of UNOCI."

            At UN Headquarters on Thursday, Inner City Press inquired into this cryptic statement, as well as asking on the record for the UN's response to charges from the Forces Nouvelles' deputy chief of states that the UN is responsible for the shoot-down, because it did not adequately secure the Bouake airport. Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe answered that

"the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire is not responsible for the security of any airport in the country, except concerning UN flights, when it is requested to provide security.  So the airport security in Bouake is the responsibility of the Forces Nouvelles.  But this is a guidance that I received on Tuesday."

            Inner City Press has asked the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations if and when they have provided security to Mr. Soro, who has said both that he knows who shot his plane, and that he will continue the peace process with President Laurent Gbagbo.

            So who shot the plane? When Inner City Press asked about UNOCI's cryptic disavowal of its Peace Messenger Alpha Blondy's statement, the response was that Mr. Blondy had blamed France for the shoot-down. While Inner City Press is dubious, one observer said, "Drole de messager de la paix" (funny peace messenger). Another riffed that the motive, under this conspiracy theory, would be France wanting to stay in Cote d'Ivoire, and noted ironically that the UN might have the same motive. No one, to our knowledge, has accused Alpha Blondy himself...

            Thus far the most popular theory has it that the left-behind Forces Nouvelle, feeling sold-out, fired at the plane. Reportedly, they are concerned that Soro's deal with Gbagbo would leave them too long when and if integrated in to the Ivorian army. Mr. Soro says he knows his Forces' methods, and this is not them.

Alpha Blondy, UN's Messenger of Peace

            Back on May 23, Inner City Press asked:

Question:  In the Ivory Coast, President [Laurent] Gbagbo has said that he requested and obtained the departure of not only Mr. [Pierre] Schori, but Mr. [Gerard] Stoudmann, the envoy for the elections.  Is that true, that he's obtained his ouster and does Ban Ki-moon still stand behind Mr. Stoudmann?  Will he be returning to Ivory Coast to oversee the elections?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don't know.  I will ask about Mr. Stoudmann and whether he will go back there.  As far as I know and as far as the Secretary-General knows, Mr. Schori left at the end of his regular mandate.

Question:  The Secretary-General's 14 May report on Côte d’Ivoire says all Ivorian parties recognize the importance to maintain the United Nations responsibility for international certification.  It seems that Mr. Gbagbo no longer agrees with that.  He was saying that Mr. Stoudmann overstepped his power and wanted to be a co-President.  So I guess I'm just, has Ban Ki-moon received a letter from Mr. Gbagbo since he wrote this report?

Spokesperson:  No, he has not.  However, you know, if you want an update on the situation in the Ivory Coast, we can certainly get one for you.

            An update came on June 19:

The Security Council’s mission to Africa is wrapping up its visit to Cote d'Ivoire, and the leader of the Council delegation to that country, Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru, just gave a press conference in Abidjan about the results of that visit.

He said that the Council mission had met with President Laurent Gbagbo and with Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, both of whom stressed that the United Nations should remain involved in the country to certify the identification process, elections and other measures to implement the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement.  The mission also met with the representative of the facilitator of that Agreement, Foreign Minister Michel Bassolet of Burkina Faso.

In their discussions, Ambassador Voto-Bernales said, the Council delegation and Ivorian officials discussed the modalities of how the United Nations can assist the process leading up to elections, as well as the elections themselves.

The United Nations and Ivorian officials will begin discussions on how to maintain the functions of High Representative for Elections Gerard Stoudmann's Office, and whether it would be included in the Office of the Secretary-General's Special Representative.

   Since former Special Representative of the Secretary General Pierre Schori unceremoniously left, no new SRSG has been named. (Then again, the post of the UN's Office of Special Adviser on Africa has been left vacant for two months as well.) On Cote d'Ivoire, some speculate that the parties -- read, Gbagbo -- want former UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tuliameni Kalomoh.  He is, however, getting back involved in politics in his native Namibia. Others say the fix is in for the next SRSG to be an American. We'll see.

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