Prof. U. Joy Ogwu
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations
New York, NY
30th March, 2011
When the thirty-ninth Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Ordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government called upon the Security Council to revisit the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, it did so in response to the rapidly deteriorating political security and humanitarian situation in that country.
The reports that we have received from numerous sources, including those from the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, indicate that the unthinkable is taking place before our very eyes. The fragile peace established by the Ouagadougou accord a mere four years ago is quickly unravelling through patterns of killing, rape and the destruction of property. Angry militias and young people are being indoctrinated, trained, armed and deployed to seek out and harm civilian targets, increasingly through the use of heavy weaponry and explosives.
Those hardest hit are the most vulnerable — women and children who have committed no greater crime than trying to lead a normal life. Not only are civilians suffering from indiscriminate attacks, there is mounting evidence that they are also being specifically targeted. Such heinous acts violate international humanitarian law. The fact that the violence is beginning to take on ethnic and sectarian overtones is an indication of the risk of a relapse into the recent state of civil war in Côte d’Ivoire.
As stakeholders in the future of Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations, ECOWAS and the African Union have a moral and legal obligation. Therefore, we cannot be a party to this inexorable degeneration. The inevitable consequence of such a relapse would imperil the West African subregion. This is already happening, as civilians have begun to seek refuge in Liberia, Ghana and other neighbouring countries. The added strain on those societies should not be underestimated, and the risk of conflict spillover is all too real.
Further, there is evidence of attacks on foreign nationals, including targeted attacks on those from ECOWAS States. Let there be no doubt that this situation is a collective global responsibility. We must act now.
The current situation is without a doubt a direct consequence of the refusal of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to President Alassane Ouattara. This is unacceptable. Mr. Gbagbo’s intransigence threatens to plunge his country, once the beacon of the subregion, into a bloody and protracted civil war. It is indeed time to translate the words of the Security Council’s press statements of 10 January, 3 March and 11 March 2011 into concrete action.
In response to the rapidly developing circumstances, this resolution reinforces those sanctions already in place, as part of an incremental approach, to which we have all agreed, to resolving the conflict. Nigeria is confident that the resolution strengthens the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to protect Ivorians and provides the necessary space for UNOCI and other international actors to work without hindrance.
The targeted measures against Mr. Gbagbo and his close associates will complement and strengthen the international actions that have curtailed his access to Côte d’Ivoire’s accounts and resources. Moreover, our support for the political efforts of the African Union and other interlocutors has already been expressed in the Council. These preventive diplomacy strategies can create space for a peaceful transition of power.
The collective action that we have taken today by adopting this resolution is a significant step towards protecting the defenseless civilians, including women and children, in Côte d’Ivoire, who bear the brunt of the brutal attacks.
The political stalemate in Côte d’Ivoire has led to an absence of effective governance, and, indeed, the unrest is spiralling out of control. This resolution provides an opportunity to stem the tide of conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. In this defining moment for Côte d’Ivoire, it is imperative that we all ensure that the valid aspirations of the Ivorian people are ultimately fulfilled.