19 October 2007

Cote d'Ivoire: Military Impeding Embargo Inspections, UN Experts Say

New York — Côte d'Ivoire's military is thwarting the surveillance of the arms embargo in the divided West African nation, a group of United Nations experts said in a new report made public today.

According to the Group of Experts monitoring the embargo, refusals to allow impartial forces to carry out inspections have been on the rise since the Ouagadougou Agreement was signed in March.

That pact sets out a series of measures to heal the split between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north in 2002.

The latest report notes that the Group - which was established in early 2005 to gather and analyze information on arms caches and flows in the region - conducted investigations on the ground in Côte d'Ivoire from late July until mid-August this year.

During those assessments, the Group "observed a lack of understanding on the part of certain Ivorian political authorities who believed that, with the signing of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement on 4 March 2007, their mission was out of step with the current reconciliation process."

It also voiced concern about the illicit trafficking in firearms, given Côte d'Ivoire's porous borders and the availability of weapons in the region.

"Furthermore, efforts to disarm and disband militias have, for the moment, been only partially effected," the report said.

Regarding the country's natural resources, the Group met for the first time with the heads of three of the four quasi-Government agencies in the coffee and cocoa sector, and confirmed "the lack of transparency in the management of revenue in the coffee and cocoa and hydrocarbons sectors."

In contradiction to the diamond embargo preventing the exports of the precious stone out of the country, the Group reported that individuals interviewed in Seguela and Tortiya "unanimously acknowledged that most of the diamonds mined in Côte d'Ivoire are sent to Mali, but did not give details on the identity of the exporters or buyers."

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