Mediators pursue fragile Ivory Coast peace

21st July 2006, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, July 20, 2006 (AFP) - International brokers seeking to end the political crisis in Ivory Coast said Thursday they are determined to push ahead with the country's fragile peace process, a day after pro-government supporters paralysed Abidjan.

ABIDJAN, July 20, 2006 (AFP) - International brokers seeking to end the political crisis in Ivory Coast said Thursday they are determined to push ahead with the country's fragile peace process, a day after pro-government supporters paralysed Abidjan.

In his opening speech to a power brokers' meeting, African Union representative and Republic of Congo Foreign Minister Adolphe Adada said it was time for concrete action to end the crisis, which has lasted nearly four years.

"The time has also come for the international community ... to be doubly firm and mete out appropriate treatment to all those who hinder the implementation of the (peace) roadmap," he said.

"The citizens of Ivory Coast want a return to peace, security and calm soon," Adada said at a monthly progress review meeting attended by African and international diplomats.

"Nobody has the right to put off these hopes or push them away with impunity," said Adada a day after hardline supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo ground activity to a halt in the Ivorian commercial capital Wednesday.

Armed with iron bars and wooden clubs, the so-called Young Patriots set up barricades and burnt tires on the streets of Abidjan blocking traffic flow.

They have vowed to halt a vote population identification process "by all possible means" out of fear that the rebels might try to claim citizenship for millions of foreign immigrants, who could tip the election in their favour.

Under a UN plan Ivory Coast is to hold presidential elections by end of October.

"I believe that any person who wishes to hamper the peace process now must be punished," French Cooperation Minister Brigitte Girardin said in an interview.

The UN, which in February slapped a 12-month travel ban and asset freeze on three Ivory Coast politicians viewed as obstacles to peace, threatened an extension of the sanctions on Wednesday.

"We are determined to continue to support the peace process with everyone," Pierre Schori, head of the UN peacekeeping mission overseeing the peace deal, said in an interview with AFP. He described the anti-ID protests as "dangerous and undemocratic."

The ninth session of the UN-mandated working group on Ivory Coast is taking place amid increasing tension over start of a two-month exercise to issue ID cards to the 3.5 million undocumented individuals in this country of 16 million.

The identification process will determine who is eligible to vote in forthcoming presidential and general elections and is therefore a key step in shoring up the faltering peace process.

But the deeply rooted demographic crisis has always been a highly sensitive issue in this west African country.

Ivory Coast, once the economic powerhouse of west Africa, has been divided into a government-controlled south and a rebel-controlled north since a brief civil war in 2002-03.

Young Patriots leader Charles Blé Goudé said Wednesday's protests were just a "warning" to interim Prime Minister Konan Banny.

"If nothing is done in the coming days, we will move into another gear," warned Blé Goudé, one of those under UN sanctions since February.

Gbagbo has criticised the UN for not obliging the rebels to disarm more quickly and said that launching the identification exercise before all armed groups are disarmed amounts to a "gigantic fraud" in the making.

Demobilising and disarming the rival factions is also a key element in reuniting the country.

Once a haven of political stability in west Africa, Ivory Coast descended into civil war in September 2002 after north-south tensions led to a failed coup against Gbagbo.

Northerners, who are predominantly Muslim, complained they were being increasingly sidelined by the mainly Christian south, from where recent presidents have hailed.

Ggagbo's term expired in October 2005 but it was extended by international mediators by another 12 months pending elections. The UN wants the polls to take place by October 31 but the delays in voter identification and disarmament make this deadline appear increasingly impossible to respect.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article