Ivory Coast rebels meet on power-sharing government

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 19 Mar 2003
By David Clarke

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast, March 19 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's rebel factions huddled in meetings on Wednesday, trying to agree a common position ahead of a second attempt to unite enemies in a power-sharing government and end civil war.

Six months exactly after a rebel uprising sparked war in this former French colony, the new government was slowly taking shape, but a question mark still hangs over whether rebel ministers would attend Thursday's cabinet meeting.

They stayed away from a first cabinet session in the capital Yamoussoukro last week, citing security and logistical problems.

Rebel spokesman Sidiki Konate said Wednesday's meeting in the rebel stronghold of Bouake would review a French-brokered peace deal, which led to the government's creation, and examine the exact roles of rebel ministers.

"The meeting could drag on because it really is about the future of the movement," he said at the rebels' headquarters, a former training center for health workers.

The new government is meant to end fighting that has split the world's largest cocoa producer, killed thousands, displaced more than a million and crippled the economy.

The main rebel faction, the MPCI, has seven ministers in the new government. Two other rebel factions, operating in the west of the world's largest cocoa producer near the border with Liberia, have one ministry each in the 41-portfolio team.

The strategic defence and interior ministries have not yet been decided, and Konate said this would also be discussed on Wednesday.

OPPOSITION LEADERS RETURN

Ivory Coast's civil war began with a coup attempt by the MPCI last September. They now hold the northern half of the country, while the two other rebel factions hold large chunks of the west, where war has inflamed ethnic tensions.

All the warring parties have agreed cease-fires, but there have been sporadic skirmishes in the west, where Liberian fighters have joined rebel and government ranks. Some 3,000 French troops are in the country to enforce the truces.

Also absent from last week's inaugural cabinet meeting were members of the main opposition party, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), but they have said they will take their seats on Thursday in Yamoussoukro.

Six top party officials, expected to be named as ministers, flew into the southern city of Abidjan on Tuesday.

Many party officials fled the country after last September's uprising as government supporters accused RDR leader Alassane Ouattara of backing the rebels. He has denied all involvement.

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