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UN Declines Military Action Against Gbagbo

ALTHOUGH the United Nations, the United States and France, among other leading Western countries, are actively advocating the ousting of the defeated Ivorien President, Laurent Gbagbo, from power, international troops from the UN will not join in the forceful removal, as it is being planned by the ECOWAS under Nigeria’s leadership.

Gbagbo has refused to step down after losing the country’s recent presidential election.

Answering questions during the week, the UN Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Alain Le Roy, disclosed: “We are not part of any military operation or option prepared by ECOWAS; it’s purely ECOWAS decision.”

According to Le Roy, himself, a French national known for his very open and direct expressions, especially with the media; the mandate of the UN international troops in Cote d’Ivoire is clear and does not include forcefully removing Gbagbo.

But Nigeria, on whose back the greatest burden of the ECOWAS military action may now falls, is counting on the support of the UN and the world at large in that effort.

Officials of the Nigerian mission to the UN have been quietly expressing this sense in muted tones since the beginning of the crisis late last year.

On Friday, the Minister of State in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Hajia Salamatu Suleiman, stated, after Alassane Quattara’s envoy met with President Goodluck Jonathan in Aso Rock, Abuja, restated this expression.

She said: “Currently, Mr. President, as Chairman of ECOWAS, is also liaising with the entire members of the international community.
“As you are aware, the United Nations (UN) is fully in support of the position taken by ECOWAS that Quattara is the winner of Cote d’Ivoire’s elections and should be allowed to be put in power.”

But Le Roy made it clear in New York that the mandate of the United Nations’ troops in Cote d’Ivoire does not include military action to remove Gbagbo.

He said: “Our mandate is clear — protection of civilians in an impartial manner, protection of elected authorities, and we are fulfilling that. We are not part of any other operation.”

In his maiden press conference, Le Roy’s boss, the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, had been asked the same question posed to Le Roy on what role the UN troops would play in case of a forceful removal.

But Ban had simply responded then, at the conference over a week ago, that the issue would be addressed in his meetings with ECOWAS and African leaders later in the month while he is attending the African Union Summit in Ethiopia.

Le Roy’s response to the same question, as the top UN official in charge of Peacekeeping Operations on Thursday afternoon, is seen as a further clarification of the UN role even ahead of the meeting Ban promised to hold with African leaders on the same issue.

Le Roy, also confirmed that the UN was not involved in the meeting of ECOWAS Defence Chiefs held the past week in Bamako, where the plan for military action against Gbagbo was being put together.

He said that while the UN was not part of the meeting started on Monday or any military operation by ECOWAS, “often ECOWAS will ask for our briefing.”

Incidentally, while Le Roy said UN troops in Cote d’Ivoire would not be joining ECOWAS to forcefully remove Gbagbo; the Security Council, only this past week, resolved to add 2,000 troops and additional military helicopters to its force in the country.

Since that decision, Gbagbo has again restated his objection to the UN force in his country, raising the question whether the UN can proceed to send troops in spite of Gbagbo’s rejection.

But Le Roy said categorically that the UN would go ahead and deploy the additional troops anyway. He said Gbagbo couldn’t stop the deployment.

According to him, the UN has started mobilising additional troops from Troops Contributing Countries at the UN, especially from countries, which already have troops in Cote d’Ivoire and from countries in the region, in order to make deployment of the additional troops more rapid.

-Guardian

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