Ivory Coast will meet disarmament deadline:French army chief

20th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, Aug 19 (AFP) - French military chief of staff General Henri Bentegeat expressed confidence Thursday that Ivory Coast's warring factions would adhere to an October 15 deadline as the start date for their disarmament.

ABIDJAN, Aug 19 (AFP) - French military chief of staff General Henri Bentegeat expressed confidence Thursday that Ivory Coast's warring factions would adhere to an October 15 deadline as the start date for their disarmament.

"We must band together to effectively ensure that disarmament will begin as quickly and as calmly as possible," said Bentegeat, who arrived Tuesday to inspect more than 4,000 French troops patrolling a ceasefire in the former French west African colony.

Disarmament has been a sticking point in 23 months of political bickering and low-level conflict that have destabilised this country since a failed coup against President Laurent Gbagbo plunged it into war.

Gbagbo supporters insist that the rebels, who retain control of the north, disarm before a peace pact signed in January last year mandating political and electoral reform can be fully implemented.

A new accord, signed last month in the Ghanaian capital, set forth a roadmap of political reforms that must be undertaken before disarmament of all paramilitary and militia forces begins.

"We have decided that together we will study how to best proceed with disarmament," Bentegeat said. "I am confident that things will start on time."

France, together with the UN mission of some 6,000 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, will monitor and assist the disarmament campaign but is not directly responsible for it, Bentegeat stressed.

"We are here to support the process and ensure the country's security while it is underway," he said.

Disarmament is considered crucial to any hope of lasting peace for Ivory Coast, and it is hoped it will be a bulwark against further insecurity in the rest of troubled west Africa.

The region is rife with reports that combatants in Liberia, which itself has just emerged from 14 years of nearly uninterrupted conflict, are smuggling weapons over the forested border into Ivory Coast, either to disrupt the nascent peace or to benefit from the more attractive incentive package on offer.

The process underway in Liberia, which has so far registered some 65,000 combatants, provides a USD 300 (EUR 240) stipend plus food rations and vocational training.

In Ivory Coast, which before the civil war had a standard of living envied in the region where most people survive on less than a dollar a day, the stipend is USD 900.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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