The UN Security Council extended its peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast on Monday, hours after the UN’s top envoy in the West African country said armed men had been threatening staff in their homes.
Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat in last month’s election and his demand that peacekeepers leave have raised fears that UN personnel and other foreigners could be targeted in violence.
“Armed men have been coming to the personal houses of United Nations employees, asking them to leave and searching their houses under the pretext of looking for arms,” UN Special Representative Choi Young-jin said at a news conference in Abidjan.
However, a spokesman for Gbagbo in Paris on Monday said he doubted soldiers or those supporting Gbagbo would be involved in such tactics.
Gbagbo has ordered the UN peacekeeping force to leave Ivory Coast, claiming it is biased in favor of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.
The UN and the international community recognize Ouattara as the victor of last month’s presidential runoff vote.
The UN has refused to leave, and the Security Council resolution adopted unanimously on Monday extended the mandate of the 8,650-strong force until June 30 next year.
“Members of the Security Council warn all stakeholders that they will be held accountable for attacks against civilians and peacekeepers and will be brought to justice in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law,” said a statement read at the end of the meeting by US Ambassador Susan Rice, the current council president.
The council also extended the temporary deployment of up to 500 additional personnel until March 31, and extends by four weeks the temporary redeployment of three infantry companies and an aviation unit from Liberia to Ivory Coast.
The UN has nearly 10,000 troops in Ivory Coast, and France more than 900. About 800 UN peacekeepers are protecting the luxury hotel from which Ouattara is trying to govern the country. They are in turn encircled by troops loyal to Gbagbo, who has been accused of recruiting Liberian and Angolan mercenaries.
The council resolution stepped up pressure on Gbagbo to concede defeat, and urged all Ivorian parties and stakeholders “to respect the will of the people and the outcome of the election” in view of the recognition of Ouattara by the African Union and the West African regional group ECOWAS.
Meanwhile, the EU said on Monday it would impose an assets freeze and a visa ban on Gbagbo and his wife after a Sunday deadline for him to step down elapsed.
The travel ban will be imposed on Gbagbo, his wife Simone and 17 of his close allies, expected to include top security, ruling party and regular army officials.
“We expect the ban to be adopted by Wednesday and come into effect on Thursday, effective immediately,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission in Brussels, said on Monday.
Gbagbo’s supporters brushed off the measures as insignificant, noting that Gbagbo rarely travels.
“I don’t think this will advance things. It just shows that those behind them haven’t got much room for maneuver,” Gbagbo aide Pascal Affi N’Guessan said.