Côte d'Ivoire

Ghanaian contingent for Ivory Coast peace mission leaves

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Accra (dpa) - The first batch of Ghana's peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast left the central city of Kumasi Monday for the Ivorian capital, Yamoussoukro, as the situation in the war-torn county remained uncertain following the rejection of the French-brokered peace pact by supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo.
Dubbed "ECOFORCE", the 51-member contingent is made up of five officers and 46 men, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reported.

The contingent is charged with providing security for the headquarters of the ECOFORCE mission during their six-month service mission in Cote d'Ivoire. Ghana is to contribute 256 soldiers towards the ECOFORCE mission.

GNA said in the next one-and-half weeks, the contingent would be joined by another batch of 205 soldiers.

Rebels in the Ivory Coast have called upon Gbagbo to adhere to the French-brokered peace treaty signed a week and a half ago, saying their patience is coming to an end.

Guillaume Soro, spokesman for the Patriotic Movement of the Ivory Coast, said the various rebel groups are to meet on Thursday to decide their next move.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin also called on Gbagbo to adhere to the agreement.

Under the ECOWAS arrangement, five countries in West Africa comprising Ghana, Senegal, Benin, Togo and Niger are expected to contribute a total of about 1,500 troops to form the ECOFORCE to for the Ivory Coast peacekeeping force.

Brigadier George Aryiku, General Officer Commanding the Northern Command, urged the force members to remain neutral during their tour of duty adding they should exhibit the highest professional standards and discipline.

"You as peacekeeping soldiers must be neutral in all your operational activities in the mission area and also strive to operate within the framework of the ECOFORCE mandate," he said.

Aryiku said neutrality was the only way they could win the confidence and respect of all the parties involved in the Ivorian conflict.

He observed that the situation in Ivory Coast was conducive to arms smuggling and trafficking and warned: "This should not be a licence for any Ghanaian soldier to be attracted to any offers to either sell or buy any firearm. Severe disciplinary action will be taken against any Ghanaian service personnel caught in any arms deals in the mission area." dpa afe sc

Copyright (c) 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 02/03/2003 13:40:43

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