Niger to send 868 peacekeepers to Ivory Coast
By Kingsley Kobo, Saturday, May 17, 2014
ABIDJAN – Niger will send 868 soldiers to join the U.N. peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast, a West African country recovering from a decade of armed conflicts.
"These men from the military force, gendarmerie and national guard will leave for Ivory Coast early next week and will take the place of our soldiers who have been there for a while now," Niger Assistant Chief of Army Staff General Ahmed Mohamed told Anadolu Agency by phone on Saturday.
This will be the 21st contingent from Niger to Ivory Coast since 2004 when the Nigerien soldiers began their participation in the United Nations Operations in Ivory Coast (ONUCI).
"It is a kind of rotation, especially in a time like this when Niger is highly solicited for peacekeeping efforts on the continent," said Gen. Mohamed.
"The men have been properly trained and will be able to carry out their duties," he added.
The soldiers have undertaken a two-month training course in Niger's western city of Ouallam.
The training was organised by the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) – a U.S- sponsored mission meant to enhance the capacities and capabilities of forces from its African partner countries.
Ivory Coast defence ministry said the incoming Nigerien contingent will serve in the western region of the country which shares a 716-kilometre border with Liberia.
The porous region remains the most insecure part of the West African country following nefarious activities by armed men who cross from and into Liberia.
Thirteen people, including two children and three soldiers, were killed in an attack on an Ivorian village along the Liberian border on Thursday.
The midnight attack was carried out by about 40 armed men from Liberia, according to Ivory Coast Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi.
In a statement released on Saturday, he played down the attack and blamed it on armed bandits searching for food and other valuables.
Two inhabitants from the village of Fêtè, where the attack took place, told Anadolu Agency on Saturday that the assailants were carrying Kalashnikov rifles and machetes and that they looted food items and burnt down several houses.
The western region of Ivory Coast is dominated by tribes close to the country’s former president Laurent Gbagbo, who is now in The Hague awaiting trial for crimes against humanity over violence that followed his refusal to step down after losing the 2010 presidential election.
In June 2012, an attack launched from neighbouring Liberia killed 18 people, including seven soldiers from the Nigerien contingent.
Ivorian authorities have incessantly accused pro-Gbagbo militants of trying to destabilize the country with the help of armed groups from Liberia.
Gbagbo’s party has denied any involvement in such attacks and has always condemned them.
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