AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Future of Ivory Coast in the hands of four ruthless politicians

Monday, 5 April 2004

Abidjan (Fides Service )- “In Ivory Coast the four candidates for elections in 2005 are fighting for power” a mission in Ivory Coast who asked not to be named, told Fides. “Instead of thinking of the common good of the people they are engaged in a political conflict which could lead to civil war”. “President Laurent Gbagbo and the main Opposition leaders, Allasane Ouattare, Henri Konan Bédié, Soro Guillaume, are locked in dangerous political discussion” the missionary told Fides. “Ivory Coast is still split with the north in the hands of New Forces rebels. Instead of going ahead with the peace process and the reunification of the country, political leaders in Abidjan have triggered a highly dangerous spiral of tension. The Opposition took to the streets well aware that people would be killed”. On March 25 police repressed a demonstration staged by 7 opposition parties which walked out of the interim government accusing the president of failing to respect points of the peace agreement signed in France in 2003 to put an end to civil war which had raged since September 2002. According to the government 37 people were killed on 25 March while the opposition claims that no less than 500 persons were killed. “I firmly hope the people will not be led into a similar trap again which was cleverly orchestrated to put the President in a bad light in the eyes of the international community. I also hope that the deployment of the UN peacekeepers will help to calm the situation” the missionary concluded.
The official deployment of the UN mission was started yesterday, 4 April. On 27 February the UN Security Council reached a unanimous decision to send Ivory Coast 6,240 UN peacekeepers, authorised to use force to protect the civilian population should it be in danger. UN resolution 1528 established operation ONUCI led by Senegalese General Abdoulaye Fall. The deployment of ONUCI composed of troops from Bangladesh, Benin, France, Ghana, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Senegal, Togo and Ukraine should be finished by July.
The Mission will monitor the cease-fire between government troops and rebels and the process of disarming the rebels. The Licorne mission of 4,000 French troops sent to stand between the warring parties will stay in Ivory Coast but they will not be commanded by the UN mission. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 5/472004, righe 32 parole 404)