Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: Abidjan rocked by protestors

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ABIDJAN, 27 January (IRIN) - Cote d'Ivoire's commercial capital, Abidjan, was rocked over weekend by protesters who took to the streets to denounce the Ivorian round-table agreement signed on Friday. The protesters, who at times turned violent, set up roadblocks, burnt tires on the city's main streets and attacked several French interests.
The unrest started on Saturday evening with spontaneous gatherings in several neighbourhoods of the capital, in university campuses around Abidjan and in front of the French military base. By Sunday, hordes of young men and women had taken to the streets disrupting economic activity. They targeted several French interests, including the French embassy, French-owned schools and businesses, saying they were protesting Friday's agreement which they deemed to have put the country on its "knees" and threatens Ivorian sovereignty.

The Ivorian national army, through its spokesman, also expressed some misgivings over the agreement, saying some of its parts tend to "humiliate" the army, the State and its population.

Schools remained closed on Monday, while businesses and transport were disturbed. The United Nations and various missions and embassies in Abidjan ordered all their staff to stay at home until "further notice".

President Laurent Gbagbo, who returned from France on Sunday evening, urged the protesters to "leave the streets" and "resume work". Gbagbo, who had begun discussions with several political actors on the prevailing situation, was expected to address the nation soon.

The organisation of "young patriots", which mobilised the protests in support of Gbagbo's government, said it had put off a demonstration scheduled on Monday in front of the US embassy. It said the demonstration was aimed to "ask the United States to help our endangered country, put on its knees by France".

Friday's 13-page agreement between the country's major political parties and the three rebel groups established, among other things, a government of national unity to be headed by a prime minister "of consensus" and a restructuring of the political arena. Ministerial posts will be distributed among the political parties and the three rebel groups, namely the Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire, the Justice and Peace Movement, and the Ivorian Popular Movement of the Great West.

The agreement came after nine days of negotiations in Paris and was followed by a conference on Saturday and Sunday of West African heads of state and leaders of international organisations. On Saturday Gbagbo nominated Seydou Elimane Diarra as the new prime minister. Diarra, a 69-year old diplomat, served as prime minister during the military junta of late General Robert Guei.

The heads of state summit, also approved the creation of an international committee to follow up on the implementation of the Paris agreement. They urged international donors, such as the IMF, the African Development Bank and the EU, to assist the country to help rebuild its economy that has been affected by four months of conflict.

According to sources and analysts in the country, the implementation of the agreement which is due to begin, will be the hardest part of the search for peace in Cote d'Ivoire.

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