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Cte D Ivoire: President Says Rebels Must Be Disarmed By Force

I’m sure that if France were to remove their meddling and interference in a sovereign nation, the country would organize itself. Anybody ever heard of Iraq?

http://allafrica.com/stories/200411180724.html

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

In an interview with IRIN, President Laurent Gbagbo said there was no reason to return to the negotiating table to resolve Cote d’Ivoire’s two-year crisis, but called on the international community to use force to disarm the rebels who hold the northern half of the country.

A new cycle of violence erupted in the West African nation at the beginning of the month, when the Ivorian army smashed an 18-month ceasefire with bombings on rebel strongholds. Nine French peacekeepers, part of a 4,000-strong force, were killed in the attacks, prompting Paris to destroy almost the entire airforce of its former colony.

“The French have already disarmed us by destroying our air force. So when it’s us, force is used, but when it’s the rebels, people say, ‘Oh no, it has to be voluntary’,” Gbagbo told IRIN on Wednesday, sitting in a white leather armchair in his chandelier-strung study in Abidjan, a row of model airplanes on the mantelpiece behind him.

“If we have been disarmed by force, then the rebels should be now disarmed by force.”

The UN Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (ONUCI), which has some 6,000 peacekeepers on the ground helping police a buffer zone between the two sides, has repeatedly said that its mission is not to disarm the rebels, but to support the transitional government in moving the country to peace and elections planned for October 2005.

The rebel New Forces, who tried to topple Gbagbo in a coup in September 2002 which ushered in four months of civil war and split the world’s top cocoa producer in two, had promised to start handing in their weapons last month.

But the 15 October deadline arrived and they flatly refused, arguing that Gbagbo had failed to deliver his side of the bargain by not putting promised political reforms on the statute book.

As worried African leaders try to break the political deadlock in Cote d’Ivoire, which was once West Africa’s success story, Gbagbo appeared less than convinced of the need to return to the negotiating table.

“But what exactly will we renegotiate? There is already a peace accord and it’s called Marcoussis,” he said. “We have already negotiated. A text exists. It should be applied… I am applying Marcoussis, but the other side are not.”

Gbagbo says the rebels have not stuck to the deal because they have not disarmed. The rebels say Gbagbo has broken his promise by not enacting most of the reforms outlined in the Linas-Marcoussis peace deal, brokered by France in January 2003.

The reforms, which Gbagbo was again called on to enact at a pan-African summit in July in Accra, included measures to give immigrants from other West African countries and their descendents stronger rights to inherit land, take up Ivorian nationality and run for the presidency.

Standing ground on Article 35

The presidential eligibility issue is a particularly thorny one. Under Article 35 of the constitution, candidates need to prove that they are Ivorian by descent as well as nationality.

Former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, popular in the rebel-held north, was banned from standing against Gbagbo in the 2000 presidential election on the grounds that his father was Burkinabe. The rebels want Article 35 changed to open up the field in time for presidential elections due in October 2005.

However, the Ivorian head of state insisted that the controversial clause could only be changed by referendum. “This is part of the elections because we will have to have a referendum,” a relaxed-looking Gbagbo said. “We can do Article 35 first and afterwards there will be elections.”

Asked what he expected of the mediation efforts currently being spearheaded by South African President Thabo Mbeki, Gbagbo was categorical.

“I expect one thing in three phases—the disarmament of the rebels, the reunification of the country and the organisation of elections,” he said.

The president cast this month’s aerial assault on the rebel-held north as a one-off offensive that he was forced to launch because the rebels were not turning in their weapons.

“Not only were they refusing to disarm but they were calling their friends from Liberia and Sierra Leone to help restart the war,” Gbagbo said. “It was because they were regrouping that we hit them, to destroy their military arsenal.”

“But I don’t think the war will start again from our side,” he said. “If they are ready to respect the arms embargo, and not receive weapons from Burkina Faso anymore, the war will be finished.”

The UN slapped a 13-month arms embargo on Cote d’Ivoire earlier this week and warned that travel bans and fund freezes would follow for certain individuals from 15 December if steps were not taken to get the battered peace process back on track.

The latest upsurge in violence has sent more than 7,000 foreigners fleeing from Cote d’Ivoire. Soon after France wiped out the country’s fighter jets and most of its helicopter gunships, pro-government militants staged massive anti-French protests on the streets of Abidjan.

Looters rampaged through expatriate homes, international schools and businesses went up in flames, women were raped and men attacked with machetes, witnesses said.

Gbagbo said he hoped foreign businessmen would return and that they were essential to his country.

“French schools were burned so I understand those people who have left to enrol their children in school. As for the others, I think they’ll come back. A man who owns a business here, what do you think he’s to do in France?”


Posted by SPN on 11/19 at 10:12 AM in International

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