Thursday, 25 September 2003

Abidjan (Fides Service) – “We are all very anxious to see the outcome of the government meeting this morning which rebels have refused to attend” local Church sources tell Fides asking not to be named for security reasons. “Since the Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement decided to withdraw from the government of national unity, tension has increased. Yesterday, 24 September, the army closed the passage between rebel controlled territory and the rest of the country. Those most effected are ordinary people with family and friends in different parts of the country” Fides sources say.
Officially the rebels withdrew from the government because they were not satisfied with President Gbagbo’s method of appointing Martin Bleou Interior Ministry and Rene Amani Defence Minister. “Although the two men are independent, the rebels complain that agreed procedure guaranteeing consultation of all parties was not respected. But in actual fact this is only an excuse to maintain the division of the country in two parts. Too many chiefs and under-chiefs profit from trafficking between government and rebels zones, too many make ends meet with tolls taken at road blocks” Fides sources say.
“There is a danger that the country will be cut in two for a long time and this will create a status quo difficult to change in a peaceful manner. There would seem to be no immediate threat of a new outbreak of hostilities also because the army in recent months has reorganised and rearmed, with helicopters and fighter planes purchased cheap from Eastern European countries, and paid with cocoa profits” our sources conclude. This year the cacao harvest was better than last year 1.29 million tons compared to 1.26 million tons. This caused a rise in prices and supplied Ivory Coast the income needed to refurbish its army. France continues to support the government with policy and funds: loans granted to Abidjan by Paris amount to 1.2 billion Euro.
Moreover, the largest overseas contingent of the French army is deployed in Ivory Coast. “France feels it is threatened in its area of influence by other powers, it cannot lose this country, the pole of its political activity in Africa” say Fides sources. LM (Fides Service 25/9/2003 EM lines 33 Words: 446)