Remarks by Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, At an Open Security Council Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Thank you, Mr. President. I’d also like to thank Under-Secretary General Amos, Under-Secretary General Le Roy, and Assistant Secretary General Simonovic, for their valuable remarks today.
Mr. President, let me begin by commending the work of the United Nations and the brave local and international UN staff—from peacekeepers to humanitarian workers—who risk their lives to help protect civilians in harm’s way. We should not underestimate the challenges they face. All too many regimes are still willing to use ruthless and indiscriminate force in populated areas, and some deliberately target civilians, humanitarian workers, and journalists.
Last November, this Council debated how to promote and improve methods to protect civilians. Just weeks later, the world witnessed the extraordinary and ongoing courage of people in nations across North Africa and the Middle East, who have found their voices and are demanding to be heard. Many have taken to the streets to exercise their rights of expression despite, in some cases, brutal attempts at repression.
On March 17, this Council acted decisively to protect innocent civilians in Libya. Responding to the Libyan people and the Arab League, the Security Council authorized the use of all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian areas targeted by Colonel Qadhafi, his intelligence and security forces, and his mercenaries. This new resolution followed up on the unanimous Council vote in Resolution 1970 to refer the situation in Libya to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
Resolution 1970 underscored the importance that the international community attaches to ensuring that those responsible for the widespread, systematic attacks against the Libyan people are held accountable. The international community must remain united in the commitment to protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack, to ending violence against the Libyan people, and to defending the universal rights we all share.
The NATO coalition operates within the mandate of the Resolution 1973, to enforce the arms embargo, no-fly zone, and conduct a civilian protection mission. NATO makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties.
In Syria, we are concerned about the continued reports of gratuitous violence against unarmed demonstrators. We therefore welcome the mission by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law. We call on the Syrian government to allow journalists and human rights monitors to independently verify events on the ground to include reports of indiscriminate attacks on populated areas by Syrian forces.
Mr. President, we have seen real progress in efforts to protect civilians, but in Darfur and elsewhere, we still face serious challenges. Let me highlight three key areas where this Council plays a crucial role: improving peacekeeping missions, assuring humanitarian access in armed conflict, and ensuring accountability.
First, the role of peacekeeping. Consider the recent crisis in Cote d’Ivoire. The Security Council consistently responded to escalating violence there by urging the UN peacekeeping force to fully implement its mandate to protect civilians under threat of attack, culminating in Resolution 1975. UNOCI responded robustly to neutralize the threat of heavy weapons. We know that these actions saved many lives, based on the substantial weapons caches discovered in and around Abidjan.
We have seen progress—led by member states in concert with the Secretariat—to improve the tools, guidance, and resources to help UN missions identify and address the threats to populations in conflict zones. We must continue to learn from experience and provide better support to missions, including doing more to address sexual and gender-based violence. In difficult environments, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN has developed mission-wide protection strategies, including establishing community-liaison assistants and joint-protection teams to better protect civilians. We welcome these efforts.
Second, we must continue to facilitate humanitarian access into areas of armed conflict. Humanitarian personnel around the world all too often work in insecure conditions and lack access to vulnerable populations. There are increasing reports of attempts to intimidate humanitarian workers, impede their movement, and even target them directly. In Darfur, the humanitarian community’s efforts to gain regular access to those in need are being stifled by government restrictions on movement, particularly in areas where the Sudanese Armed Forces are engaged in hostilities or aerial bombardment. We must redouble our efforts to end such obstructions to humanitarian access and hold those responsible for these obstructions accountable.
Finally, accountability remains essential to ensuring an effective, transparent process of reconciliation after the guns have gone silent. The recent report from the Panel of Experts created to advise the Secretary-General on Sri Lanka alleges several violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the final stages of the conflict, which may have resulted in the deaths of up to 40,000 civilians. We urge the Syrian* government to respond constructively to the report. Accountability and reconciliation are inextricably linked. It is in Sri Lanka’s interest to take concrete steps to promote justice, accountability, human rights, and reconciliation.
Mr. President, we have a window of opportunity to translate recent Security Council cooperation on civilian protection into lasting improvements in our response to crises. We must seize it—for all of our sakes, and for the sake of the innocent men, women, and children who rely on our collective action to defend them.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Arrest of former President Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire
The United States welcomes the end of former President Laurent Gbabgo’s illegitimate claim to power in Cote d’Ivoire. As the international community has said repeatedly, the people of Cote d’Ivoire deserve peace and democracy. They deserve a government that recognizes their fundamental human rights and respects their will. And they deserve to return to the path of prosperity and security. That opportunity begins today.
As the Ivorian government and people work to move beyond the recent crisis, the United States will stand with them. We are ready to help Cote d’Ivoire recover and rebuild, and will support UN efforts to carry on its important peacekeeping and humanitarian work. The United States commends the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and French forces for the robust implementation of their mandate to protect civilians pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1975, and we will continue to strongly support their efforts in this regard.
The U.S. remains profoundly concerned about and condemns persistent violations of fundamental human rights. We support President Alassane Ouattara’s affirmation of the need to investigate those who have perpetrated attacks against civilians. All parties should be aware that the actions of their supporters will be scrutinized, alleged human rights abuses and attacks against civilians will be investigated, and perpetrators will be held accountable without regard to which side they may have been aligned.
We are deeply concerned by the dangerous and deteriorating situation in Cote d’Ivoire, including recent reports of gross human rights abuses and potential massacres in the west. The United States calls on former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately. His continuing refusal to cede power to the rightful winner of the November 2010 elections, Alassane Ouattara, has led to open violence in the streets, chaos in Abidjan and throughout the country, and serious human rights violations. Gbagbo is pushing Cote d’Ivoire into lawlessness. The path forward is clear. He must leave now so the conflict may end. Both parties bear responsibility to respect the rights and ensure the safety of the citizens of Cote d’Ivoire.
We also call on the forces of President Ouattara to respect the rules of war and stop attacks on civilians. President Ouattara’s troops must live up to the ideals and vision articulated by their elected leader. At the same time, we call on the UN peacekeeping mission to aggressively enforce its mandate to protect civilians.
As President Ouattara takes the reins of government, he must prevent his troops from carrying out reprisals and revenge attacks against their former foes. The people of Cote d’Ivoire await and deserve the peace, security, and prosperity he has promised, and that they have for so long been denied.
MR. TONER: Good afternoon, everyone. Well, we thought it was – would be useful to invite our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson to come and give you all a very brief update on the situation in Cote d’Ivoire. Obviously, the situation remains fluid up to us walking out here, but we thought it would be useful for him to come and answer some of your questions, and then I’ll follow with the daily briefing.
Assistant Secretary Carson.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Sure, thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Mark, thank you. Good afternoon. Let me start with just a brief statement on the situation in the Ivory Coast, and I’ll take questions after that.
On November 27, 2010, Alassane Ouattara was elected president of Cote d’Ivoire. The elections were peaceful, and international observers commended the Ivoirian people for their high rate of participation. The United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, the African Union, and the international community writ large have reaffirmed President Ouattara’s victory over former President Laurent Gbagbo.
Since December, Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down in defiance of the international community and the will of the Ivorian people. Over the past four months, the people of Cote d’Ivoire have lived through a political crisis that has devastated their economy, created a humanitarian crisis that threatens the region, and led to the deaths of over 400 Ivoirian citizens.
This week has seen some of the most intense fighting in Cote d’Ivoire since the political crisis began in late November. The United States calls on all parties to exercise restraint and to make the protection of civilians their highest priority. The people of the Cote d’Ivoire have already paid a very high price for democracy. We call upon both sides to ensure that civilians do not pay an even higher price in the future.
Those who choose not to heed this call will be held accountable for the atrocities and the human rights violations that they commit. The United Nations and the international community will investigate all alleged human rights violations. Those implicated in directing or carrying out these heinous acts will answer for their actions.
The United States and the international community have invested in seeing a peaceful and democratic future for Cote d’Ivoire. On March 30, the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution reaffirming its support for President Alassane Ouattara and calling on the 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire to step up its protection of Ivoirian citizens, take direct action against those indiscipline forces who have targeted civilians, and to seize heavy weapons. These measures are absolutely essential in preventing more violence.
This is an important moment for Cote d’Ivoire, a time for all Ivoirians to play a positive and constructive role in the future of their country. The road ahead will not be easy, but the people of Cote d’Ivoire are up to the challenge. President Ouattara has outlined a plan for reconciliation and reconstruction for all of Cote d’Ivoire, and we hope that all Ivoirians will contribute to building a peaceful and prosperous future for their country.
Thank you. I’ll take some questions.
QUESTION: Yeah. This is maybe a little bit out of your remit, and quite frankly, I have to say I’m not optimistic on getting an answer. But what in your mind – the situation that you’ve described in Cote d’Ivoire sounds an awful lot like the situation in other places, or at least one other place, where the Administration has decided to intervene militarily. Can you explain why you don’t – you – don’t think that that kind of intervention is needed or desirable in Ivory Coast, given the fact that things are so dire on the ground?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: The international community has intervened in the Ivory Coast, and that intervention is showing results. The other country that you’re thinking about is in the Maghreb. But let me just say that there are some 11,000 UN peacekeepers on the ground in the Ivory Coast. They are supplemented by French military units that are a part of that UN peacekeeping force.
Secondly, the government – or the former government of Laurent Gbagbo does not have helicopter gunships, jet aviation, or tanks in the numbers that we have seen in the other country that you have mentioned, nor have we seen the tremendous loss of life or the exceedingly large number of people racing for the borders. This is not to say that there is not a humanitarian crisis in the Ivory Coast; there is. The reason why we are so concerned about the Ivory Coast today is that if there is, in fact, a full-scale civil war in that country, it will not only lead to large refugee flows out into Liberia and to neighboring states; it will also probably lead to growing instability in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and other countries that have been plagued by instability before.
We’re concerned about this. We’re concerned about the hundred thousand Ivoirians that have already left and gone to Liberia. But there is a difference between the two countries that you speak of. The United Nations has been engaged, including in a new resolution just last night on this issue.
QUESTION: Right, I got – but what – could you outline for us what the American component of the UN operation is in Ivory Coast, what the U.S. is contributing to that other than perhaps just money?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: The United States contributes about 25 percent of the financial wherewithal to all international peacekeeping operations, and this is no exception. What we have contributed is a great deal of diplomacy, diplomacy at the highest levels of the U.S. Government.
President Obama has been directly involved, Secretary Clinton has been directly involved, Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg has been involved, I have been involved and our Ambassador in the region. We have worked closely with the United Nations, we’ve worked closely with the French, we’ve worked closely with Alassane Ouattara, and we have worked closely with the leaders of ECOWAS. Sometimes our political influence is as significant as what we put on the ground with respect to military might.
QUESTION: Well, right – well, except for, in this case, the political influence doesn’t – which has been brought to bear, since December, it hasn’t resulted in Gbagbo leaving, correct?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Well, I think the situation is quite fluid. If you have followed the events over the last 24 hours, you know that Alassane Ouattara’s forces have made substantial gains throughout the southern part of the country. In the west, they have made gains along the Liberian border. They have captured the second largest port city of San Pedro. They have captured the ceremonial capital of the country, Yamoussoukro. And they have made gains on the eastern side as well.
The only place where there is significant and substantial resistance to the forces of Alassane Ouattara are in and around Abidjan, and the news that we have is that the forces of Alassane Ouattara are now on the outskirts of the city.
QUESTION: Ancillary to that, there’s some reports that this conflict could be over in hours or a matter of days. What is your take on that? Obviously, you would support a complete takeover of Abidjan by the Ouattara forces. Also, are you aware of the army chief of Gbagbo taking refuge in an embassy in Abidjan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Absolutely. We have confirmed reports from the South Africans themselves, who have released a statement that the chief of the army staff, General Philippe Mangou, his wife, and three children last night asked for asylum in the residence of the South African Ambassador in Abidjan. We have unconfirmed reports that the head of the gendarme has also sought asylum in another embassy, but we have not had that report confirmed.
There is a clear indication that the military forces of Gbagbo have, in fact, started to disintegrate. The rapid pace at which Alassane Ouattara’s forces have been able to move across the country from east to west and up to Abidjan suggest that there have been widespread desertions in the Gbagbo forces. The departure of his army commander lends greater credence to that.
With respect to the first part of your question, I think it would be premature and probably a little bit reckless for me to predict when Gbagbo will fall, whether it will be in the next several hours, the next several days, or the next several weeks. But it is absolutely clear that he is in a substantial and significantly weakened position, having lost most of the territory that he holds in the south and with defections among his senior military ranks.
QUESTION: Yeah. Since Gbagbo and his forces are not doing well at all, are you in conversations with Ouattara’s side about how to handle, say, the eventual capture of Gbagbo, should he be taken alive? And are you – are these talks premature or are you –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: There is still an opportunity for Gbagbo to step aside in a fashion which will prevent widespread bloodshed and a difficult fight in Abidjan for power. We hope that he will see and seize this opportunity to step aside peacefully and encourage his supporters to lay down their arms and not to engage in urban conflict.
We are especially concerned about the youth militia, the Jeunes Patriotes, who have been manning roadblocks throughout Abidjan – undisciplined, unemployed youth who have come to the side of Gbagbo. We encourage Mr. Gbagbo, we encourage some of his senior leaders, Foreign Minister Djedje, Mr. Blé Goudé, to encourage that all of these young men who are manning roadblocks who have been accused of carrying out assassinations to lay down their weapons and participate in the reconstruction of the country.
If, in fact, there is major violence in Abidjan and Gbagbo does not step aside, he and those around him, including his wife, Simone Gbagbo, will have to be held accountable for the actions that they failed to take to stop it.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t he be held accountable anyway for the actions he’s taken until this point? I mean, he’s been responsible for a number of deaths.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Exactly. We’re looking and we certainly will and I think the international community will certainly hold him accountable. But he does have an opportunity, but that opportunity is slipping away.
MR. TONER: Any other questions? (No response.) Thank you. Thank you so much. That was good. Appreciate it.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Okay.
“The eyes of the world are on Cote d’Ivoire. Last year’s election was free and fair and President Alassane Ouattara is the democratically elected leader of the nation.”
President Obama’s Message to the People of Cote d’Ivoire
The eyes of the world are on Cote d’Ivoire. Last year’s election was free and fair and President Alassane Ouattara is the democractically elected leader of the nation. And I commend President Ouattara for offering a peaceful future for all Ivorians–an inclusive government, reunification and reconciliation.
Now Cote d’Ivoire is at a crossroad and two paths lay ahead. One path is where Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters cling to power, which will only lead to more violence, more innocent civilians being wounded and killed and more diplomatic and economic isolation. Or Cote d’Ivoire can take another path.
Where Gbagbo follows the example of leaders who reject violence and abide by the will of the people. Where Ivorians reclaim your country and rebuild a vibrant economy that was once the admiration of Africa. And where Cote d’Ivoire is welcomed back into the community of nations.
This is the choice that must be made. And it’s a choice for all Ivorians.
I want to close by speaking directly to the people of Cote d’Ivoire. You have a proud past, from gaining your independence to overcoming civil war. Now you have the opportunity to realize your future. You deserve a future of hope, not fear. You deserve leaders like President Ouattara, who can restore your country’s rightful place in the world. You deserve the chance to determine your own destiny.
It’s time for democracy in Cote d’Ivoire.
And those who choose that path will have a friend and partner in the United States of America.
The United States condemns Laurent Gbagbo’s continued attacks on unarmed civilians in Cote d’Ivoire and we demand an immediate end to this brutality. Gbagbo’s indiscriminate violence against civilians cannot be tolerated. All individuals responsible for ordering or carrying out these heinous acts will have to answer for their actions.
Gbagbo’s claim that he represents the Ivoirian people belies his persistent refusal to participate in the peaceful transition recommended by the African Union. Gbagbo’s incendiary rhetoric, such as his recent call for civilians to take up arms against their fellow citizens, stands in stark contrast to President Ouattara’s appeal for calm and restraint among the Ivoirian people. Now is the time for all Ivoirians to embrace the path of peace and to unite in rebuilding Cote d’Ivoire so that future generations can enjoy the stability and prosperity that all Ivoirians deserve.
The United States is providing humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the growing violence, including a $4.5 million food aid contribution to the United Nations World Food Program in Cote d’Ivoire and a $7.5 million contribution for refugees in neighboring Liberia. We will continue to assist those affected by this violence and help put an end to the crisis.
The United States strongly condemns Laurent Gbagbo’s acts of violence perpetrated against the people of Cote d’Ivoire, including his security forces’ attack yesterday on unarmed women demonstrators that left seven dead. Gbagbo and his forces have shown a callous disregard for human life and the rule of law, preying on the unarmed and the innocent. He should step aside immediately in the name of peace.
Gbabgo’s selfish effort to cling to power despite losing the election has elevated tensions and eroded the fundamental rights of Ivoirian civilians. Since December, Gbagbo has used security forces to attack the very people he claims to represent, and deprived Ivorian citizens of access to water and electricity. Indeed, Cote d’Ivoire’s most vulnerable citizens, its women and children, are suffering the most.
The United States calls for an immediate end to the violence. Military leaders, regime officials, and others responsible for directing or committing violent acts against civilians will have to answer for their actions.
Phillip Carter III, U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire
MR. TONER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. It’s our great, good fortune to take advantage of the recently concluded, or just concluded, Chiefs of Mission Conference to have Ambassador Phillip Carter, who is our Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, come down to the briefing room and brief all of you on the current situation in Cote D’Ivoire.
AMBASSADOR CARTER: Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody. We’re looking at this election. When you examine it, you have to take into consideration that the November 2010 election – presidential election in Cote D’Ivoire was the culmination of years of work by the country’s national institutions as well as international – the international community with an aim to resolve a ten-year-old conflict. And the agreements that were made that led to that election, principally the Ouagadougou Political Agreement of 2007, established a process that aimed to address questions of national identity, voter registration, disarmament, reunification, as well as the conduct of those elections. And the OPA, the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, also was the agreement that invited the United Nations into the country to work on the elections and to certify them. These – this agreement, which was to certify both the presidential and legislative elections, was an agreement that was signed by at-the-time President Gbagbo, Mr. Ouattara, Mr. Bedie, Prime Minister Soro, as well as the president of Burkina Faso, President Compoare.
The first round of the elections took place. Fourteen candidates ran. Three were principal. Of the remaining 11, I don’t think any of them collectively got more than 3 percent of the vote at most, perhaps not even one. And it – the process went smoothly, 84 percent turnout – voter participation in the first round of the election, making it one of the highest voter turnouts on the planet. It was peaceful, and the results were that you had Gbagbo leading, with the second place to Ouattara, and the third place to Mr. Bedie. Bedie threw his support behind Ouattara for the second round, which had a participation rate, we understand, of about 81 percent, which is remarkably high for a presidential runoff. And there the process after the election of the second round, things became a bit more controversial.
Though the process was the same for the first and second round where the independent Electoral Commission tallied the results, reported them out. The results of the first run were then certified or endorsed by the Constitutional Council and certified by the United Nations. The process proceeded for the second round, but there pressures became clearly evident in the tallying of the second round. Intimidation was being reported in certain parts of the country, but also that – but the process continued in terms of the tallying of the results that proceeded unimpeded until everything was obtained at the Electoral Commission’s headquarters. And what we saw there was a split within the Electoral Commission trying – the commission trying to move on a consensus basis to tally the results, which they did on early Thursday morning after the election, by consensus, coming up with the 19 districts that were there. And there was a challenge in terms of how they were going to report the results out. The Electoral Commission, or the president of the Electoral Commission, had been intimidated. There were security forces throughout the commission headquarters. In the end, he reported them out at the – at a hotel, the Golf Hotel, which was essentially the – I guess you could call it – the offices of the prime minister, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who was the prime minister of President Gbagbo at that time. And his results indicated that Alassane Ouattara won with about an 8 percent margin.
Later that day, the Electoral Commission – or the Constitutional Council declared the results of the Electoral Commission null and void, and the following day reevaluated the results, indicating that Laurent Gbagbo won with 51 percent of the vote to about 48-plus percent of Alassane Ouattara.
The United Nations, doing what it did during the first round, continued its certification process, which was incredibly rigorous and done completely independently of the national institutions in the country. And it was very rigorous, very impartial. And the results of that certification indicated that Alassane Ouattara won with about 8.2 percent margin, similar to that of the Electoral Commission. The United Nations had tried to replicate how the Constitutional Council had moved forward and was unable to do so. Eliminating parts of the vote in the north still resulted with Alassane Ouattara winning.
The issue of violence in the north was – there were incidents we noted, observers noted, but nothing that was destabilizing to the results of the election or would derail the results of the election. There was actually more violence in the western part of the country, where the – Gbagbo’s party did not contest the results. With a participation rate of 81 percent, and in some areas it’s even higher in the north, it was hard to say that people were impeded from voting.
So what we have now is a situation where we have had a good election that was transparent, democratic, attested to by the United Nations, certified by the United Nations, where it was observed by both credible national and international observer groups, including the Carter Center, the European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS, and local observer groups, and where the incumbent has refused to accept those results of a process that he himself has put in place through the agreement of other African leaders within Cote d’Ivoire as well as outside.
So what we have is a situation where we have a good election with clear results that are incontrovertible. It’s a matter of fact and a matter of interpretation of national institutions. And we have a dilemma, a national dilemma of institutions within the country between – a challenge between the Constitutional Council and the Electoral Commission having different results. The fact that the United Nations was invited in under the Ouagadougou Political Agreement is the thing that sets this process in Cote d’Ivoire apart from other elections that are coming up in Africa because of the fact that we have clear evidence as to who won that election.
The situation is now much more difficult with President – outgoing President Gbagbo holding on to the reins of power through some security forces, trying to hold on to the instruments of governance through the ministries. With President-elect Ouattara taking refuge in a Golf Hotel, protected by about 300 peacekeepers, both United Nations and French La Cornue troops, with some former elements of the – there’s this – there was this coordinating body within the local military that had the Force Nouvelle and the local forces. And some of the forces, they’ll have remained at the hotel protecting both President Ouattara as well as his newly-designated prime minister, who was the former prime minister, Guillaume Soro.
The situation is such that the country is in a sense of stasis. It’s frozen. You have – if you may recall, prior to this election, the northern part of the country was essentially in rebel territory. And the hope was that this election would be a critical and important and essential step to further unifying the country. It has not happened as a result of the refusal by President Gbagbo.
Violence has persisted in the country, particularly in Abidjan. There are credible reports of groups of militias under the control of Gbagbo going through neighborhoods that are largely populated by Ouattara supporters, pulling people from their homes, beating them. Some of them are summarily executed. Others have disappeared. The United Nations has conducted investigations, though those investigations have been impeded by the security forces controlled by President Gbagbo, indicating that around 250 – they’ve been able to certify that 250 people have been summarily executed and around a hundred have disappeared. Those numbers will likely climb.
We have President Gbagbo using the national media, the state media, particularly the television station, which is the number one outlet – or was the number one outlet for news within the country – turning it into a propaganda machine that has been spewing out basically invidious information. Some have declared it hate speech. I don’t know if I want to take it that far, but it’s been clear propaganda, largely inaccurate.
You do have the written press. There are what we call the blue journals, the blue press, which – blue is the color of Gbagbo’s party; the green press, which is the color of Ouattara’s party; and the independent, a few, that are carrying both sides of the story, both pieces. So it’s – you have to kind of wade through all of it to get an objective view.
We have also had a situation where the international community, looking at this certification the United Nations has, has supported the election of President Ouattara, Alassane Ouattara. ECOWAS, the regional African body for West Africa, has stated that he is duly elected and that he’s – that President Gbagbo should step down to allow a peaceful transition. This has been taken up by the African Union, the United Nations Security Council, as well as ourselves, the United States Government, as well as other countries, the European Union as well, and other non-European states.
The hope is that this pressure, which includes sanctions against individuals and certain specific entities on the part of the European Union as well as ourselves, both in terms of travel restrictions and certain targeted financial sanctions, coupled with President Ouattara’s efforts to claw back and try to obtain control of the national resources and national instruments of governing, specifically the central bank, which is a regional central bank for Cote D’Ivoire, which is part of the West Africa Monetary Union. He now has control of those national funds and is putting the financial squeeze on the instruments of power controlled by President Gbagbo.
The situation is tense. There have been efforts to mediate, to find a reconciliation, to find some means out of this peacefully, led by ECOWAS, the African Union. There have been efforts on the part of former South African President Mbeki, former Nigerian President Obasanjo. There was a delegation of ECOWAS presidents that went there twice. The prime minister of Kenya Raila Odinga and others have come to work with both sides, to at a minimum lift a blockade of the Golf Hotel where President Ouattara is and where he’s constrained. That has not happened. Where they have urged President Gbagbo to seek an honorable, peaceful exit to effect a transition that can move the country forward, he has resisted those offers.
And that’s where we are now. The situation is now more critical as the financial sanctions, the travel sanctions, the control of the central bank by Ouattara, are beginning to bite. And Gbagbo is beginning to feel the pressure. There’s a financial crisis within Abidjan right now as we speak and trade is slowing down. The economy is in – it’s not in freefall yet, which it soon will be if this persists, and that has regional import insofar is that Cote D’Ivoire makes up 40 percent of the economic activity of the West Africa Monetary Union, 40 percent.
So that’s the circumstances that we face. Gbagbo himself has tried to marshal support within and outside of Africa for his cause. He has tried to alienate the international community, without much effect, frankly. One thing that has to be clear is that while there are people who are looking at the situation, certain governments in Africa and outside, there is still a overwhelming international sense of unity as to the results of the election and hope for a peaceful transition of power.
So that’s the summary of the events that are there. Any questions?
QUESTION: I mean, this sounds worse than Egypt. (Laughter.) I mean, we’ve been at briefings now for, what is it, months? It feels like years, but months. How is this going to be resolved?
AMBASSADOR CARTER: Well, I think there’s a couple of things. One is that the immediate crisis that we face in Cote D’Ivoire has been going on for less than two months, since the election, and President Ouattara has been stuck in the Golf Hotel for about two months. But you’re right; the crisis of Cote D’Ivoire goes back to 1999, and this has been building for some time.
The elections were initially supposed to be held in 2005 and had been delayed and delayed and delayed, so there was real hope that these elections would take place. There’s not a controversy about the elections. They were conducted well. It’s an acceptance of one individual of those results – someone who is trying to hijack a democratic process.
How it’s going to work out is that basically this is an Ivoirian thing, it’s an African thing, and the Africans are looking at their resources and their means by which to allow for this political transition to occur as peacefully as possible. ECOWAS has indicated that should that fail, they’re looking to consider a military force, but that’s a last resort.
I expect that we’re going to see continued pressure in the diplomatic, political, and economic and financial channels to persuade, dissuade, Gbagbo from the course that he’s on. That will continue. How long that will take, it’s unclear. What we’ve seen in the context of Tunisia and Egypt and others is that there’s always – what happens accelerates sometimes. We may see that in Cote D’Ivoire. We may not. I don’t know. The context for Sub-Saharan Africa is qualitatively different than North Africa.
QUESTION: There’s some reporting that essentially any determination among the African countries to act on Ivory Coast is actually – this is in decline, that the naming of the Equatorial Guinea leader to head the AU is a sign that actually African support for doing something about Ivory Coast is dissipating. How would you react to that?
AMBASSADOR CARTER: I would say that I don’t know if that’s necessarily correct. I think what we’re seeing is efforts on the part of Gbagbo to marshal support amongst certain longstanding partners, but that the selection of President Obiang to the head of the AU was something that was cooked ahead of this crisis. This has – his election has nothing to do with the situation in Cote D’Ivoire.
But having said that, he himself, and as well as the African Union, has come out subsequent to the establishment of this commission that they put forward indicating that they still recognize President Ouattara as elected and that they’re looking for a peaceful transition.
As to point of departure here for the Africans is that the recognition that this election was a good one and that you have to honor the results of that. Trying to set – setting that election aside would be a major step back for democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, given the huge investment that was made by national institutions, the international community, the fact that the election was transparent, observed out the wazoo, and frankly, the results are factual. It’s a matter of fact, not a matter of interpretation.
I think the Africans are looking for whatever means they can to avoid conflict or to exacerbate conflict. They all recognize that the human rights abuses that are occurring in Abidjan and in the western part of the country – not necessarily in the north, which is essentially Ouattara’s – under Ouattara’s control – are something that have to be attended to. And the question of accountability is coming up, and so that window for Gbagbo to leave honorably, peacefully, with amnesty, that window is closing.
Other questions? Yes, sir.
QUESTION: The panel, the AU panel that –
AMBASSADOR CARTER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: — that has a month or so to work, is that a realistic time frame? I mean –
AMBASSADOR CARTER: A month? I think I leave it to the African leadership to determine if that’s adequate. They’ve given themselves a month. And you have to understand that this is a culmination of other efforts on the part of the African Union. I mean, shortly after the election, former South African President Mbeki was there on the part of the African Union. You’ve had Obasanjo from Nigeria who was there on the part of the African Union. You’ve had Raila Odinga there twice on the part of the African Union. You’ve had Jean Ping and PSC Commissioner Lamamra there on the part of the African Union.
So this is just another step in that direction of them trying to do the maximum effort to avoid violence, to avoid a military intervention. It’s the last resort, which is the point that ECOWAS has put forward, which the African Union has put forward.
Whether that’s realistic in terms of achieving a goal – I mean, I would think so, provided both parties agree to engaging with this panel. I understand that President Ouattara has. But I understand that the Gbagbo side has put out some conditions that may make this effort moot.
QUESTION: Do you know when President Ouattara engaged with the panel?
AMBASSADOR CARTER: I think he issued a statement shortly after it was announced. And in French, he; he welcomed the panel. And when they arrive or whatever, he will engage with them and talk to them. But he’s waiting for their arrival.
QUESTION: You said that sanctions are beginning to bite and Gbagbo is beginning to feel the pressure. What evidence is there of that?
AMBASSADOR CARTER: A couple of things. One is, as we see most recently, the financial situation in the country is getting tough. I mean, we’re seeing that the banks that have international associations are under the gun in terms of meeting the requirements of the West African Monetary Union. President Gbagbo has stated publicly that he wants to seize the assets of the office of the central bank that exists in Abidjan – not the central bank itself, but there’s an office there – to take over those assets. He has been pirating. He’s been stealing money from (inaudible) Data corporations to meet salary. He has been extorting local businesses to pay in advance their taxes, to pay things forward – contracts forward, putting increasing pressure on a variety of companies that are involved in natural resources, be it coffee, cocoa, petroleum, timber, whatever, to pay forward. They’re resisting.
And so what we’re seeing there is an effort for him to marshal as many resources as he can to get the money together to meet his payroll probably to acquire additional weapons, to keep his fight going. There’s a lot of – there’s been a lot of press about the isolation of Ouattara at the Golf Hotel. I would submit that they’re both isolated – Gbagbo within his own presidential palace and his cohorts around him, increasingly isolated within the international community, both financially, politically, diplomatically, economically. Whereas Ouattara, though he’s physically isolated at the Golf Hotel, has the support of the entire – virtually the entire international community and financial system; where he’s been able to push out some of his diplomatic representatives outside; where he’s been able to send ministers out. So what we see is time seems to be on the side of Alassane Ouattara and not necessarily on the side of Laurent Gbagbo.
Questions? Yes, ma’am.
QUESTION: So could you expand a little bit more about how Mr. Gbagbo is feeling the sanctions? Because obviously, he personally doesn’t care whether his country faces –
AMBASSADOR CARTER: Correct.
QUESTION: — sanctions or not. But are you saying that it’s going to be increasingly difficult for him to pretend that he’s still in power because he will not have access to money?
AMBASSADOR CARTER: Well, he is a pretender now. Let’s be clear about this.
AMBASSADOR CARTER: Okay. But the thing is – the issue at hand is that his ability to govern – in other words, he exists for what reason? He has security forces backing him up, period.
QUESTION: And if he can’t pay them, then –
AMBASSADOR CARTER: If he can’t pay them, what are they going to do? How loyal are they going to be? Let’s not underestimate the banality of things.
Any other questions?
QUESTION: Is the United States prepared to take any new steps to –
AMBASSADOR CARTER: Well, we’re looking at the full arsenal of things that we can do. I mean, we’ve taken some significant steps. One, we stand with ECOWAS. More importantly, we stand with President Ouattara. President Obama has congratulated him on his election, and we’ve engaged his government as best we can – small that it is, sequestered that it is. We work with our African partners. We’re not in the lead of this, okay. This is an African thing. So we work with ECOWAS. We’re working with the African Union. We work with our development partners, be it in the European Union or outside. We work in the context of the Security Council. I understand there’s a discussion going on in New York today on the question of Cote d’Ivoire at the Security Council.
So we are actively engaged in the diplomatic front. On the – and bilaterally, we’ve imposed travel restrictions on a number of individuals. Most recently, we imposed financial – targeted financial sanctions on five individuals, and we’re considering adding more to that list. Those five include Laurent Gbagbo; his wife, Simone Gbagbo; his diplomatic advisor, Ambassador Alcide Djedje; Desire Tagro, one of his closest associates; and the head of the political party, Gbagbo’s political party named N’Guessan. And that list will get larger. It’s quite large now by the European Union. And that will have an impact in terms of who can do business with whom in that country by the international community, too. So the bite is happening, and this month of February will – that process could very well accelerate.
QUESTION: I mean, how long do you foresee this standoff going on? Where is the solution?
AMBASSADOR CARTER: If I knew that, I’d be –
QUESTION: That’s the million-dollar question.
AMBASSADOR CARTER: Yeah, I’d be looking at a cool ambassadorship afterwards.
QUESTION: Because it sounds like you’re just waiting for Mr. Gbagbo to run out of funds and admit that he –
AMBASSADOR CARTER: No, I mean, there’s increasing pressure. I mean, we can’t ignore the fact that there is increasing pressure. He’s having to do what he can to maintain power. I mean, it’s one of these things that – whereas Alassane Ouattara is doing what he can to gain the instruments of governance, Gbagbo is doing as much as he can to hold onto that. And day by day, his ability to hold onto them is weakened and we have to keep that pressure on. And we will continue to keep that pressure on bilaterally and multilaterally within the context of the United Nations, within the context of ECOWAS, within the context of the African Union. And we will work very closely with our African partners in supporting them in that effort.
Thank you all very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. President. This session of the Human Rights Council comes as citizens across the Middle East have taken to the streets to demand change. We urge all governments to respect the rights of individuals to peacefully assemble and express their views.
The United States calls attention to the following country situations:
In Libya, the government launched airstrikes on civilians, fired indiscriminately, violently repressed demonstrations, and targeted perceived opponents, resulting in hundreds of deaths. It has tortured prisoners and restricted freedoms of speech, assembly, and association.
Iran uses arbitrary detention, torture, intimidation, and violence to restrict the universal rights of its citizens at home while hypocritically applauding the exercise of those same rights abroad. We call on the Council to create a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran this session.
The DPRK controls almost all aspects of citizens’ lives, denying freedoms of expression, assembly, association, religion, movement, and worker rights. We call on the Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for the DPRK.
Syria tortures, arbitrarily detains, and unlawfully kills its citizens, represses political opposition, and severely limits freedoms of association and expression.
In Cote d’Ivoire, we deplore the forced disappearances, targeted killings, arbitrary detentions, intimidation of peaceful protesters who support President Ouattara, including the recent killing of at least seven women in Abobo, and restrictions on the movement of UNOCI. Former President Gbagbo’s actions have pushed Côte D’Ivoire to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.
Eritrea severely restricts freedoms of expression, association, and religion. Authorities summarily execute individuals attempting to flee military service or leave the country without an exit visa.
Burma holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, strictly controls media and civil society, and discriminates against members of minority groups. We call for renewal of the Special Rapporteur on Burma.
Cuba restricts freedom of expression and association, and uses detention and government-orchestrated mob violence to suppress dissent. Cuba should immediately release all political prisoners and allow peaceful dissent.
In Venezuela, restrictions on civil society are severe and the erosion of democratic institutions continues, with new decree powers given to the executive.
Zimbabwe uses arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture to target political and civil society activists. We urge security forces and political elements to heed recent calls to renounce violence.
China restricts religious freedom, and freedom of expression, including on the Internet. Human rights defenders, including lawyers, face imprisonment. Tight controls on Uyghur and Tibetan language, religion, and culture continue.
Belarus should immediately drop charges and release all persons jailed for efforts to promote human rights and democratic governance. We call on this Council to continue monitoring the situation in Belarus and take appropriate action.
In Sudan, Southerners overwhelmingly voted for independence. The parties must now reach agreement on critical issues including Abyei and citizenship. In Darfur, attacks on civilians, including aerial bombardments, must cease immediately. Violations of civil liberties throughout the North, such as the arrest of peaceful demonstrators on International Women’s Day, must end.
Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on Cote d’Ivoire
Good afternoon, on behalf of the Security Council, I would like to read the following statement* on Cote d’Ivoire:
The members of the Security Council after the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 1962 (2010), remain deeply concerned about the continued violence in Côte d’Ivoire, including armed attacks against the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and multiple civilian fatalities, many more wounded and even more being displaced across Côte d’Ivoire.
The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest terms acts of violence against UNOCI and recall its resolution 1502 (2003) on Protection of United Nations personnel, associated personnel and humanitarian personnel in conflict zones. The members of the Security Council warn all those responsible for attacks against peacekeepers and civilians that they will be held accountable and will be brought to justice, in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law.
The members of the Security Council urge all Ivorians to exercise maximum restraint, remain calm, resist provocative actions, refrain from violence, and work together to restore sustainable peace.
The members of the Security Council reiterate their support for the constructive role of the Secretary-General in Côte d’Ivoire and stress that UNOCI, under the leadership of his Special Representative, continues to fulfill impartially its existing mandate, and to facilitate political dialogue between the Ivorian stakeholders in order to ensure peace in Côte d’Ivoire and respect for the outcome of the Presidential election as recognized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, can you give us an update on where the Council is on negotiations on North Korea please?
Ambassador Rice: There’s really no update to provide beyond what I said last night. There has not been continued discussion today of the text. I think most Council members — we still never heard back from at least one delegation as to whether they had instructions. But I think most Council members concluded that the window of relevance, or principle relevance for the stake that we were discussing yesterday, has largely passed.
Reporter: Ambassador, does this meant that there’s no reason to continue with these discussions? What’s the U.S. position in your capacity as ambassador?
Ambassador Rice: The U.S. position is that it would have been constructive, had it been possible, to issue a strong and unanimous statement in which we made clear that it was the Council’s view that the attack by North Korea on the island of Yeonpyeong was to be condemned, and that we were clear as to what had transpired in addition to urging restraint. At this point, since that was not possible despite the fact that the vast majority of Council members were prepared to do so, we don’t think that it’s particularly necessary or productive to continue the discussion. The goal is peace and security on the Korean peninsula, and we stand in support of that. And I think continued haggling over a statement whose relevance has largely passed is not particularly productive. I think it’s unfortunate that almost all of the Council was prepared to go in that direction last night, but not all of us. And today, we’re frankly focused on Cote d’Ivoire and a number of other issues that are also pressing.
Reporter: On Cote d’Ivoire, Alain LeRoy told us afterwards that Laurent Gbagbo has some non-Ivoirians, he used the word “mercenaries” from Liberia, fighting with his forces. I wonder what you think of that. And also there’s a report that Ocampo of the ICC told the U.S. Mission or yourself that Bashir had $9 billion taken from Sudan and put in London, Lloyd’s of London, is what he mentioned. And I just wondered, it’s one of these cables, I don’t want to talk about the cable aspect of it, but I just wanted to know what do you think of that? Is that something Ocampo met with you and Ambassador Wolff and said, and if case, what did the U.S. do to find out if it’s true?
Ambassador Rice: I’m not going to comment on cables. I don’t have a recollection of that being told to me directly, and I don’t know if it was said to anybody else. With respect to the mercenaries allegedly being utilized in Cote d’Ivoire, we’re aware of those reports; to my knowledge, they have not yet been confirmed. If they are confirmed, it would be a source of grave concern, not only for the United States, but indeed, for the entire Security Council.
Thank you all very much.