, UNITED NATIONS, Dec 24 – With two Ivorians claiming the presidency and the sitting strongman unwilling to cede power to his world-backed rival, the task of keeping a fragile peace rests with the UN Operation in Cote D\’Ivoire (UNOCI).
The peacekeeping mission UNOCI was created in 2004 by United Nations Security Council resolution 1528, which allows for the use of force in case of threats to the country\’s stability.
Its military force is comprised of 9,105 men and women from 42 countries, mainly Bangladesh, Benin, France, Ghana, Jordan, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Senegal and Togo.
Among them are 7,576 troops, 193 military observers and 1,336 police.
Add another 500 men from the UN mission in neighboring Liberia, UNMIL, who were deployed several weeks before disputed presidential election results plunged Ivory Coast into crisis.
The force is spread across the former French colony in west Africa and is controlled by a central headquarters in the capital Abidjan.
UNOCI\’s initial role was to prevent a resumption of conflict in the wake of the country\’s 2002 rebellion. Violence resumed in 2004 after peace accords that led to a largely ineffective unity government that saw President Laurent Gbagbo stay in power after his mandate expired.
The UN mission also helps provide security for civilians and the transport of goods, and in particular help protect persons in immediate danger.
The UN deployment in Ivory Coast began April 4, 2004, and was tasked with observing and monitoring implementation of a May 2003 cease-fire 2003 and a joint declaration of the end of civil war, dated April 6, 2005, and assisting the Ivorian government in monitoring borders and national reconciliation.
It was also given a special taks of certifying the results of the November 28 elections. UNOCI special representative Choi Yong-Jin certified victory for Gbagbo rival Alassane Ouattara, and several world powers support that certification.
Despite the current showdown, and strong calls by the United Nations for Gbagbo to step down, the UNOCI mandate has not changed.
UN peacekeeping chief Alain LeRoy told AFP this week that UNOCI\’s mission was "dangerous," but his aide Michel Bonnardeaux stressed that protection of civilians and the country\’s key political players was paramount.