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Africa

2003-09-05

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - PEACE HAS DIFFICULTY GETTING STARTED, SPECTRE OF FOOD SHORTAGE IN REBEL CONTROLLED AREAS THREATENS

Abidjan (Fides Service) – “The peace process has certainly come to an abrupt halt” a local Church source tells Fides Service after the discovery of a plan to assassinate President Gbagbo. The detection late last month, led to the arrest of 50 suspects. A few days earlier in France, airport police detained 11 persons about to board a flight for Abidjan on the grounds of complicity in the assassination plot. Among those arrested were mercenaries led by a former Ivorian military commander connected with the regime of General Guei who governed Ivory Coast after a 1999 coup until elections in 2000.
Ivory Coast has lived a situation of tension since last September when, following an unsuccessful coup, the north and the west of the country fell under the control of a series of different rebels movements. Fighting between forces loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo and rebels continued for several months until a cease fire was declared and a peace agreement reached (signed in France in January) which included the establishment of a national unity government formed of members of the President’s party and the parties of the rebels. However the new government has been blocked by a dispute over the appointment of Defence and Internal ministers.
The country is now divided in two, north and west in the hands of rebels and south and east under army control. The government has promised to re-establish state administration in rebel territory by October. “This decision is important to prevent the country from breaking in two completely” says the local source. “Unless government administration is re-established in these regions we will see a rival rebel administration and this would make reconciliation difficult if not impossible” the source adds
On the humanitarian level, Fides Service source note “a slowing down in humanitarian efforts on the part of international organisations, probably due to other commitment to address the crisis in neighbouring Liberia. Regular distribution of food supplies in rebel controlled areas has stopped and this is causing a situation which within months could result in a food crisis and farmers have no seeds to sow for a new harvest.”
In this context the local Church continues to play an important role in assisting civilians. “Parishes remain the fundamental point of assistance, food, other help and also education after schools closed in rebel areas” Fides sources conclude. (LM) (Fides Service 5/9/2003 EM lines 37 Words: 476)

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