With Ivory Coast teetering between war and peace, the United Nations has ignored threats from the beleaguered incumbent president and extended its peace-keeping mission by another six months. The blue helmets went in six years ago, tasked with over-seeing a peace deal signed the previous year.
The mission is made up of about 10,000 UN personnel, including soldiers from some 50 countries; there are also about 900 French troops giving support. The UN’s mandate has been repeatedly prolonged to support the goal of free and fair elections.
Last month’s elections were meant to heal the scars of 2002’s civil war, but instead spawned an increasingly violent power struggle between the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who is widely accepted to have lost, and Alassane Ousttara, internationally seen as the victor.
The stand-off has led to clashes, and even attacks on UN peacekeepers trying to keep the two sides apart. They have vowed to stay despite Gbagbo ordering them out of Ivory Coast. And they say they will take whatever action is necessary to defend themselves.
But it is not clear what the UN could do if civil war does break out. Their mandate does not specify their actions or responsibilities in a potential internal conflict.
Privately, UN officials say their heavily outnumbered troops would never take on the Ivory Coast army, which so far remains loyal to Laurent Gbagbo.