Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: Government wavering on Paris accord

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ABIDJAN, 29 January (IRIN) - Cote d'Ivoire's government appeared on Wednesday to take an ambiguous position on last week's Paris agreement as several public statements from senior officials cast doubt and at times contradicted the accord, creating a perception that the government was reneging on its earlier position.
The Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, named after the suburb where the Ivorian groups met, was signed on Friday after ten days of negotiations between the major political parties and the three rebel groups. The agreement, which was endorsed by a summit of heads of state, also attended by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, was intended to end the Ivorian crisis.

On Monday, Gbagbo told youths at the presidential palace that the agreement was a set of "proposals". On Tuesday, Interior Minister Paul Yao N'Dre described the agreement as "null and void" saying it would mean that "all you have to do is fire off a few rounds to get invited into government and destabilise the whole of the sub-region." A former dean of the law school at the University of Abidjan, N'Dre said legally and politically, the agreement was not viable.

The army, whose leaders met Gbagbo on Monday, also issued a statement rejecting some provisions, particularly the one giving the defence and security ministries to the rebels under a proposed new government of national unity.

News agencies however reported that French President Jacques Chirac, had urged Gbagbo "to respect his engagements". Foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, said that France was ready to evacuate all its nationals if the situation got worse.

The Paris agreement triggered off widespread unrest which rocked Abidjan from Saturday night to Tuesday and at times turned violent. From Saturday night when word of the agreement spread, hundreds of young men and women took to the streets in several suburbs of the city to denounce it and France for what they called an attempt to "humiliate their country". Several French-owned school and businesses were ransacked.

Abidjan was calmer on Wednesday as some businesses opened up. Banks, which had remained closed, were expected to open on Thursday while some foreign missions resumed minimal services. However French-run schools remained closed until "further notice". Many hoped that Gbagbo's anticipated address to the nation, expected in the next few days, would calm the situation.

Annan on Tuesday appealed for calm: "I appeal to all the people of Ivory Coast to stop the violence, to return to their normal life and the way to resolve this issue is not to turn on each other violently," he told a Security Council meeting.

[ENDS]

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