Côte d'Ivoire

Ivorian pro-govt militia says it's ready to disarm

By Loucoumane Coulibaly
ABIDJAN, June 30 (Reuters) - The leader of one of the main pro-government militia groups in divided Ivory Coast said on Thursday his fighters were ready to disarm before a late August deadline set as part of a revived peace effort.

Rebels holding the north of the West African country since civil war grew out of a failed coup in 2002 have said they will not lay down their weapons until pro-government militias, mostly concentrated in the cocoa-rich west, disarm.

"It all depends on the CNDDR (national disarmament commission). Between now and Aug. 20, we can disarm if (their) programme permits," Denis Glofiei Maho, head of the pro-government Great West Liberation Front (FLGO), told Reuters.

Although government militias took part in a ceremony last month to mark the start of disarmament, no weapons were handed over. Under the programme, fighters are supposed to move into cantonment sites after handing over their guns.

Ivory Coast's president, opposition leaders and the head of the rebellion ended talks in Pretoria on Wednesday to try to revive a peace deal brokered in April by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

All sides agreed that government militias -- who call themselves "self-defence groups" -- should begin to disarm immediately and finish before Aug. 20.

But hours after the talks ended, the rebels renewed accusations that armed men financed by the Guinean and Ivorian governments were planning to attack the rebel zone from neighbouring Guinea to undermine the peace initiative.

Rebel spokesman Sidiki Konate said parties at the summit recognised that progress on disarming militias and on voting on new laws through parliament had to be met before the rebels could start to lay down their weapons.

Previous peace deals have stalled as rebels refuse to lay down their arms before their demands for revised nationality laws and a reformed independent electoral commission are met.

"The most important thing is that the mediator recognised ... that we can't talk about disarmament without looking at the evolution of the other points of the agreement," he said.

(Additional reporting by Peter Murphy)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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