Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: Opposition ministers return ahead of cabinet meeting

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ABIDJAN, 19 March (IRIN) - Ministers chosen by Cote d'Ivoire's main opposition Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR) to represent it in a new government of national reconciliation (GNR) returned to Abidjan on Tuesday in what is seen by some observers as a major step in an ongoing effort to resolve the crisis sparked by the outbreak of an armed rebellion in September 2002.
Over the past few months, the RDR's executive and senior cadres, including its president, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, had been living abroad for security reasons. The six ministers-designate arrived in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire's economic capital, amid tight security ahead of the first full meeting of the new cabinet, to be held on Thursday, media sources reported.

Security had been one of the reasons cited by the party for not attending an inaugural cabinet meeting held last Thursday in the administrative capital, Yamoussoukro, 260 km north of Abidjan. Ever since independence from France 43 years ago, government meetings had been held in Abidjan. The decision to have the new government meet in Yamoussoukro was prompted by security considerations. Ministers to be designated by the country's three rebel movements also did not attend the 12 March cabinet meeting. They, too, cited security reasons, but pledged last week that they would attend Thursday's session.

The six RDR ministers-designate who arrived this week include the party's Secretary-General, Henriette Dagri Diabate [justice ministry], Amadou Gon Coulibaly [agriculture] and Hamed Bakayoko, the owner of a private radio station, who is tipped to head the ministry of information technology and telecommunications.

The other three are Marcel Amon Tanoh, Amadou Soumahoro and Zemogo Fofana. Up to early Wednesday, it was still unclear whether the seventh minister designated by the RDR - whose nomination as head of the ministry of family affairs has been opposed by President Laurent Gbagbo - had returned to Abidjan.

In the past two weeks, Cote d'Ivoire has experienced a series of what one observer called "small but positive" steps towards a resolution of its crisis, starting with a meeting in Accra, Ghana, at which the parties finalized the plan for the creation of the GNR, whose 41 members include seven representing the main rebel Mouvement Patriotique de Cote d'Ivoire.

The Accra meeting saw the rebels drop their demand to head the security and defence ministers, which they said they had been promised by Gbagbo at a January meeting in Paris. The disagreement over the two ministries had been a major stumbling block to the formation of the new government, led by Prime Minister Seydou Diarra.

The political parties and rebel groups who participated in the Accra meeting formed a National Security Council which is to come up with nominations for the two posts.

[ENDS]

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