UN forces open fire in Ivory Coast

As the situation in violence-ravaged Ivory Coast deteriorates even further, there has been a belated stepping up of the UN’s role in the country in an effort to prevent civilian casualties. UN and French helicopters yesterday opened fire on military camps loyal to defeated President Gbagbo, who refused to leave office after November’s Presidential elections.

The situation in the Ivory Coast is rather like that in the former Yugoslavia, which followed a similar cycle of political systems failing, rising violence with civilians often the victims and an international community for a long period only willing to take very limited steps in the face of a humanitarian disaster and likely war crimes.

Unlike the former Yugoslavia, however, the conflict has been almost completely absent from the British political agenda, though yesterday International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said, “There may be nearly a million people who are on the move in the Ivory Coast and we’re very anxious to do everything we can along with the international community to help those who’ve been caught in this way.”

What can the UK do? It can give further aid to neighbouring countries to help with the refugee crisis, it can use its role in the UN Security Council in today’s deliberations to push for a strengthening of the peacekeeping force’s mandate and it can pressure the French to commit further military forces to this part of Francophone Africa.

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