Ivory Coast leaders launch pre-poll process

By Time of article published Apr 9, 2006

Share this article:

Abidjan - The five main rival leaders in Ivory Coast have got their country's peace process back on track by agreeing to launch a disarmament programme and a census leading to elections by the end of October, African Union head Denis Sassou Nguesso said after talks on Saturday.

"We leave with the feeling that things here are moving and are heading in the right direction ... that the train is on the rails," he said.

The meeting was attended by President Laurent Gbagbo, Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, rebel leader Guillaume Soro, Henry Konan Bedie of the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI, once the only legal party in the country) and Alassane Outtara of the Rally of Republicans (RDR).

"We have agreed that it was important that, under the authority of the government and the prime minister, the two processes of disarmament and establishing identity be carried out simultaneously and without delay," said Sassou Nguessou, who is also president of the Republic of Congo.

The question of which should come first had caused a major split between the supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo and the New Forces (FN) rebels, who have controlled the north of the country since trying to oust him in 2002.

The former wanted disarmament to come first, while the rebels said their forces should be given official new identity papers before laying down their arms.

The two programmes "should progressively lead us to the reunification of the country, to the redeployment of the administration in the country and the pursuit of the process that should lead us to elections by October 31 next", Sassou Nguesso told reporters.

"We also welcomed the efforts made by the two headquarters (loyalist and rebel) and we observed ... that those in command undertake to do everything to resolve all the problems presented by disarmament."

The two military leaderships - the loyalist goverment forces (FANCI) and the FN - restarted talks on April 1 that had been broken off last summer.

On February 28 the five leaders met for 48 hours in the administrative capital Yamoussoukro in the centre of the country and "agreed on the need to meet frequently to exchange views on the peace process and ensure that political life takes place in a climate of peace".

Sassou Nguessou baptised this latest meeting "Yamoussoukro II".

Konan Banny is due shortly to make his first visit as prime minister to France. The former colonial ruler wants to encourage recent positive signs that a solution to the crisis may be under way.

Konan Banny will meet President Jacques Chirac and Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

He will also visit other major funding partners, going to the United States later this month and Belgium in May. - Sapa-AFP

Share this article: