AFRICA/IVORY COAST - “CEASE-FIRE? REAL PEACE IS NOT SIMPLY THE ABSENCE OF FIGHTING. PEOPLE WANT A DECENT LIFE, LOOTING MUST STOP” SAY MISSIONARIES IN IVORY COAST

Monday, 5 May 2003

Abidjan (Fides Service) – “People can’t take anymore. The situation must change. It is not possible to live a situation of anarchy for months on end.” This is how missionaries in northern Ivory Coast describe the present situation in rebel controlled zones. Since September last year vast areas of Ivory Coast are in the hands of rebels demanding the removal of President Laurent Gbagbo. On Saturday May 3 a cease-fire agreement was reached between army leaders of Ivory Coast and Liberia and Ivorian rebel group leaders. Liberia has promised to monitor the border with Ivory Coast to prevent the passage of men and means, in particular mercenaries from Liberia and Sierra Leone. At the political level there is still deadlock over the appointment of defence and interior ministers in the national unity government. President Gbagbo and leaders of rebel movements have yet to reach an agreement on who will head these key ministries.
“Here in the central-north, the cease fire has held for some months now, say the missionaries contacted by Fides Service, and for this we thank the Lord. But the absence of fighting is not peace, it does not mean security. The rebels live off the local people. Until a short while ago they said they were taking state goods because the government owes them a lot of money. Many rebel soldiers are in fact former army soldiers who took up arms against the government because it had not paid their wages. After looting public buildings and banks the rebels have now turned on the people, entering homes weapons in hand and taking whatever they want. Along the main roads about every hundred metres there are roadblocks manned by boys of about 16 or 17 armed with Kalashnikovs who demand money, food etc to let you pass. A few shop keepers who had reopened their shops have fled because they cannot taken any more of the violence and theft at the hands of these bands of youths. This has been the situation for several months now and it makes life very hard for the people without even the basic necessities, food and medicine”. LM (Fides Service 5/5/2003 EM lines 30 Words: 404)


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