UN Issues Ivory Coast Genocide Warning

The two UN officials charged with monitoring genocide and mass atrocity are sounding the alarm that political violence in Cote D’Ivoire may descend into a genocide. Francis Deng, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Edward Luck, the Special Adviser who focuses on the responsibility to protect, appeared at a joint press conference at the UN today to issue the following statement.

Since we expressed our grave concern about developments in Côte d’Ivoire on 29 December 2010, the incidence of violence and serious human rights violations has not abated.  We remain gravely concerned about the possibility of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing in Côte d’Ivoire. We believe that urgent steps should be taken, in line with the “responsibility to protect”, to avert the risk of genocide and ensure the protection of all those at risk of mass atrocities.

We are disturbed by allegations that the armed forces and militia groups that back opposing camps in the current political crisis are recruiting and arming ethnic groups allied to each camp. We are also deeply troubled by reports of continuing hate speech that appears to be aimed at inciting violent attacks against particular ethnic and national groups. In the past few days, ethnic clashes have occurred in Duékoué, Gabia and Lakota. As noted by the United Nations, over 28,941 Ivorians have fled to neighbouring countries and 17,296 others are internally displaced as a result of these ethnic clashes. There is a real risk that such clashes could spread across the country.  If not checked, they could culminate in mass atrocities.

We urge all parties in Côte d’Ivoire to refrain from inflammatory speech that incites hatred and violence. Those responsible for committing atrocities or their incitement will be held accountable.

We wish to, once more, remind all parties of their responsibility to protect all populations in Côte d’Ivoire, irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality, or religion.

During the question and answer session with the press Ed Luck added, “We fear we are on the brink of something that could be very ugly, very destructive…but we are not there yet….we have not crossed over the precipice yet..We are just fearful that we could get there.”

Scary.  Though on a positive note, the Security Council formally approved 2,000 additional peacekeepers for Ivory Coast today.  Still, it chilling to think that two genocide experts have legitimate fears that ethnic based violence may soon erupt.