Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: New government formed in absence of rebels, opposition party

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ABIDJAN, 13 March (IRIN) - Cote d'Ivoire's much-anticipated national reconciliation government was unveiled on Thursday in the Ivorian administrative capital, Yamoussoukro. However its announcement and first cabinet meeting occurred in the absence of the country's main opposition party and rebel groups.
Over 20 ministers attended the cabinet meeting, also held in Yamoussoukro. The administrative capital is 260 km north of the economic capital, Abidjan, where cabinet meetings have taken place for the past 43 years. Informed sources said Yamoussoukro was chosen for security reasons.

Media sources quoted President Laurent Gbagbo as saying that he moment was a historic one. "Many thought we wouldn't achieve what has been done," AP quoted him as saying. "We are probably leaving a state of war."

However, the opposition Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR) of former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, the main rebel Mouvement Patriotique de Cote d'Ivoire (MPCI) and two smaller rebel groups did not attend the meeting, leaving nearly half of the seats in the 41-member cabinet vacant. While the rebels cited logistical difficulties - some of their ministers being out of the country - for their failure to leave their headquarters in the town of Bouake, about half an hour drive from Yamoussoukro, the RDR said it had kept its ministers away for security reasons.

An MPCI spokesman, Antoine Beugre, said his movement would participate in future cabinet meetings.

However an important question remained to be answered: who will head the defence and interior ministries?

For weeks, this issue had blocked the formation of the government of national reconciliation, which resulted from an agreement in January, between the country's main political parties and rebel groups. A follow-up agreement on Saturday yielded a proposed solution to the deadlock: the creation of a National Security Council comprising representatives of all major political actors, including the rebels, to nominate the heads of the two security ministries. However, up to Thursday, it was still not known who would occupy the two posts.

Meanwhile, groups of youths took to the streets of some Abidjan neighbourhoods on Wednesday and Thursday to protest against the inclusion of the rebels in the government.

[ENDS]

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