UN cuts Ivory Coast peacekeepers

United Nations (UN) peacekeepers on parade.  (Isaac Alebe Avoro, AFP)
United Nations (UN) peacekeepers on parade. (Isaac Alebe Avoro, AFP)

New York - The UN Security Council decided on Wednesday to reduce the size of the UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast in light of an improved security situation and last October's successful presidential elections.

The number of troops authorized for the UN Operation in the Ivory Coast was reduced from 5 437 to 4 000 soldiers, according to the resolution, which was adopted by unanimity.

The mission also includes 1 500 police officers.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked to report at the end of March on the drawdown and his recommendations on the mission's future.

The government of the Ivory Coast wants all the UN peacekeepers out by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

In the resolution, the council commends the government's role in staging transparent elections in October and congratulates Ivorians for displaying "their strong commitment to peace and democracy."

It notes, however, that while "considerable" progress has been made in putting the Ivory Coast back on a path toward stability, there remains "a threat to international peace and security in the region."

The resolution keeps in place an arms embargo, despite Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara's repeated demands that it be lifted.

The embargo has been in effect since 2004, but was eased in 2012 to enable the training of the country's security forces. An embargo on diamond exports dating from 2005 was lifted in 2014.

The Ivory Coast has been buffeted by crisis for the past decade, split by a rebellion in the north and controlled in the south by partisans of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, who ruled from 2000 to 2011.

Special UN representative Aichatou Mindaoudou said in a recent Security Council debate that the security situation in Ivory Coast was now stable.

But she said banditry remains a problem, as does the threat of terrorist attacks from Mali and Liberia.

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