AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Small steps for reconciliation between President Gbagbo and 7 Opposition Parties which abandoned interim government of national unity

Friday, 16 April 2004

Abidjan (Fides Service)- “There are signs of hope but we will have to wait for the meeting tomorrow, 17 April, to see how dialogue has progressed” a local church source in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, told Fides with regard to two days meeting April 14 and 15 between Prime Minister Seydou Diarra and Opposition leaders. Last month 7 Opposition Parties walked out of the interim national unity government accusing President Laurent Gbagbo of failing to implement the January 2003 peace agreement signed in France putting an end to civil war which had raged since September 2002.
The Opposition organised a protest demonstration for March 25 but it was tightly repressed by the police and in the ensuing clashes many were killed and injured. The government said 37 people were killed but former President Henri Konan Bédié, one of the Opposition leaders, said that the number of persons killed in clashes between police and demonstrators was between 350 and 500
“To avoid more violence and victims President Gbagbo agreed to let the Opposition Parties hold another demonstration on 30 April monitored by UN peacekeepers being deployed in the country” the local source told Fides. “Unfortunately the programme to disarm the various military factions, often announced and often postponed, has still not started”.
Ivory Coast has been split in two since September 2002 with the centre-south under control of the government and the north-west in the hands of the New Forces rebels. The UN contingent of 6,000 peacekeepers is being deployed along the dividing line and in several strategic points in the north and south of the country. Some 1,500 African peacekeepers already in the country sent by the Economic Community of West African Countries will be absorbed into the UN peace keeping mission. A contingent of 4,000 French soldiers will remain in the country, but under the command of Paris. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 16/4/2004, righe 31 parole 382)