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ECOWAS approves beefed-up ECOMICI contingent

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has approved an increase from 1,200 to 3,200 in the number of West African peacekeepers deployed in Cote d'Ivoire.

At a meeting held on Monday in Abidjan, the Mediation and Security Council, which is made of ECOWAS' foreign ministers, confirmed a proposal made last week in Dakar, Senegal, by the regional body's defence chiefs to strengthen the ECOWAS Mission in Cote d'Ivoire (ECOMICI) by 2,000 men.

According to an ECOWAS statement issued following the Dakar meeting, the move was "in response to the terms of the new mandate given to the force under the Accra and Linas-Marcoussis Agreements, and UN Resolution 1464".

The two agreements - signed in the first quarter of the year between Cote d'Ivoire's political forces and rebel groups - are aimed at resolving the crisis that began in September with a military uprising that developed into a rebellion. The agreements have yielded a government of national reconciliation which includes representatives of the various signatories.

According to ECOWAS's deputy executive secretary, General Cheick Oumar Diarra, the regional body had no choice but to strengthen ECOMICI because the situation had changed. In the beginning, the role of the West African force was to monitor the ceasefire. However, UN Resolution 1464 beefed up its mandate to include ensuring that the ceasefire is respected, protecting civilians and humanitarian agencies and, the media quoted Prime Minister Seydou Diarra as saying after the Abidjan meeting, disarming the belligerents.

ECOWAS said that while it deemed the strengthening of its mandate an important decision for peace, it faced a shortage of funds which, if not addressed, would hamper the operations of the military unit. The Council appealed to international donors, including the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Canada and Japan, to help finance ECOMICI.

The West African peacekeepers has been progressively taking over from French troops along the ceasefire line between loyalist and rebel forces in central and eastern Cote d'Ivoire. The French force, now numbering about 3,000, had played a leading role in guaranteeing an October 2002 ceasefire pending the full deployment of ECOMICI.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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