16 June 2010The disarmament and demobilization of 600 former combatants has begun in the northern, rebel-held town of Korhogo, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) reports. The disarmament and demobilization of 600 former combatants has begun in the northern, rebel-held town of Korhogo, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) reports. The soldiers from the Forces armées des Forces nouvelles (FAFN) who demobilized yesterday are part of a group of 1,200 ex-combatants who are expected to disarm and enter cantonment, and to join an integrated national army.At a ceremony yesterday the Secretary-General’s Principal Deputy Special Representative in the West African country, Abou Moussa, said UNOCI would do its part to make the process a success, and encouraged all the participants to see it through. The process is being monitored by the UN mission and other parties.Côte d’Ivoire, which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south, had been making progress toward the holding of elections, which were supposed to have been held as far back as 2005. However, the process has been repeatedly postponed.While preparations for the polls were on track up until late last year, they were interrupted in January. Political tensions began to mount after voter registration was suspended due to violence and President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in February. A new Government and Electoral Commission have since been established, but the electoral process remains stalled as differences persist on how to tackle the issue of fraud and resume the interrupted appeals process on the provisional voters list.Acting on the recommendation of the Secretary-General, the Security Council late last month extended the mandate of UNOCI and the French forces which are supporting it, for one month – “in order to give Côte d’Ivoire a chance to walk the final mile to the elections with the full support of the United Nations.” In keeping with the Ouagadougou Peace Agreements, the 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation, the process is now focusing on the remaining priorities – including those related to elections, disarmament and all aspects of the reunification of the country.As agreed by the parties in 2008, a de facto reunification is to be completed two months prior to the presidential election.