Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire: Reports of clashes, killings in the west cloud new agreement

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ABIDJAN, 10 March (IRIN) - Côte d'Ivoire's political parties and rebel groups reached agreement on Saturday, at a roundtable meeting in Ghana, on the implementation of a joint-government accord stalled for over a month, but reports of killings in the west of the country cast a shadow over the new development.
The Accra meeting was called by Ghanaian President John Kufuor - who is also chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) - to find ways to facilitate the implementation of a French-brokered pact signed on 24 January in Marcoussis, France, by three Ivorian rebel groups and seven political parties. The accord provided for the formation of a government of national reconciliation, headed by a consensus prime minister. Seydou Diarra was designated to hold that post soon after the agreement was signed. However, further implementation was stalled by disagreement over the allocation of seats in the new government. The rebels insisted on the posts of defence and the interior which, they said, President Laurent Gbagbo had promised them at a follow-up summit held in Paris on 25-26 January.

Under Saturday's agreement, the rebels have agreed to give up the two posts. Instead, they and other signatories of the Marcoussis Accord - Côte d'Ivoire's main political parties - will be represented on a new 15-member National Security Council that will also include a representative each from the police, gendarmerie (militarised police), and armed forces along with the prime minister. The council's tasks will include helping to ensure that the ministries of defence and the interior are properly managed, according to a communique issued at the end of the meeting. It will also propose personalities to head the two ministries to the prime minister who will in turn submit them to the president.

The meeting set 14 March as target date for the appointment of a new cabinet in which the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) will have 10 ministries, while seven each will go to the former ruling Parti democratique de Côte d'Ivoire (Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire), the opposition Rassemblement des Republicains (Rally of the Republicans ) and the main rebel Mouvement Patriotique de Côte d'Ivoire (MPCI - Patriotic Movement of Côte d'Ivoire), which controls the northern part of the country.

Also to be represented in the government are four smaller parties and the two rebel movements that operate in western Côte d'Ivoire, the Mouvement pour la Justice et la Paix (MJP - Movement for Justice and Peace) and the Mouvement patriotique du Grand Ouest (MPIGO - Patriotic Movement of the Greater West).

The conclusion of the agreement coincided with reports of fighting in the town of Bangolo, western Côte d'Ivoire, in which a number of civilians were reportedly killed. MPIGO, which controls the town, said it had been attacked on Friday by forces that support the Ivorian government. However, the armed forces denied this.

A French buffer force which - along with ECOWAS peacekeepers - have been securing the frontline between the belligerents and seeking to protect civilian lives, found evidence of extensive killings in the town, according to media reports.

MPIGO's representative at the Accra talks, Roger Banchi, said in an interview with Ivorian state radio and television that the situation in western Côte d'Ivoire was confused and that was no longer a struggle between two sides. It also involved uncontrolled groups, he said, as well as clashes between communities.

The Accra meeting called on the Ivorian government, in conjunction with French and ECOWAS forces, to immediately take all measures needed to ensure the protection and safety of the participants in the Marcoussis meeting, in particular members of the government, and of the population in general.

The meeting also stressed the need for all parties involved in the Ivorian conflict to end the massacres and other abuses committed in the areas under their control.

[ENDS]

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