A few weeks after the Ivorian people cast their votes in a peaceful nationwide presidential election with results certified by national and international monitors, the country is rapidly descending into chaos and possibly massive violence.
Calls from all corners of the planet in favour of a peaceful resolution to the standoff between Alassane Ouattara, widely recognized as the winner of the elections, and Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent President, who contests the election results, are falling on deaf ears. As both sides dig in their heels, the possibilities of a renewed civil war are real.
In February 2004, the international community sent a very strong message to this country when, at the request of President Gbagbo, it authorized the deployment of a United Nations peace-keeping operation “ONUCI” which today has a troop strength of over 9,000 soldiers, with a mandate “to protect civilians under threat.”
The UN and members of the UN Security Council are still bound by this mandate. The Ivorian people are desperately awaiting a clear sign from the United Nations Security Council that they will not be let down. A first sign has been sent to them with the decision by theUN Security Council to extend ONUCI’s mandate by six months starting 1 January 2011. Nevertheless, they are waiting for the international community to prevent the situation from deteriorating further and for measures to be taken to protect them from a bloody tragedy.
It is not enough for the UN Security Council to call another emergency meeting and reaffirm its commitment to the ONUCI mission. It should take all necessary measures to stop the violence by ordering the cantonment of the army, banning all armed militias, prohibiting public demonstrations and marches and giving ONUCI the mandate to enforce these measures and any others required to protect civilians under threat.
There is no time to waste—the Responsibility to Protect the Ivorian people is Now.