AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Government and former rebel leaders welcome UN decision to send 6.000 peace keepers

Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Abidjan (Fides Service)- The decision taken by the United Nations’ Security Council to send 6,000 UN peace keepers to Ivory Coast has been welcomed by the country, local church sources in Abidjan told Fides. “Both the former rebels New Forces and President Laurent Gbagbo have issued statements expressing satisfaction for the decision made by the Security Council’. In a televised address the President said the decision to send peace keepers shows that the International Community is committed to restoring peace in Ivory Coast. We know now that we are not abandoned”.
Since September 2002, Ivory Coast has been divided: centre south, controlled by the government, and the north west held by the New Forces. The UN peace keepers will be deployed in both areas in strategic points in the north and south of the country. It will consist of 600 men and will absorb the 1,500 African troops already present as a peace mission from the West African Economic Community CEDEAO/ECOWS. The 4,000 French troops will remain in the country but they will continue to be receive orders from Paris.
“The decision to send UN peacekeepers is certainly positive. But the problem of disarmament remains to be solved” local sources told Fides. “Recent agreements stipulated that disarmament should start on March 8. The government has confirmed the date by the rebels refuse it because they say disarmament must start only when the reforms foreseen by a previous agreement in France are started ”.
The agreement signed in 2003, put an end to civil war and set up an interim national unity government, including rebel ministers, with the task of preparing for elections, ‘credible and transparent ‘in 2005 and starting some reforms. One reform is a revision of laws on citizenship and rural land ownership. Ivory Coast has about one million foreign citizens, many descendants of immigrants, who have been waiting for citizenship for years. Non citizens are denied certain rights including the right to possess land. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 2/3/2004, righe 33 parole417)