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New Ivory Coast PM Struggles to Name Government


The transitional prime minister for divided Ivory Coast, Charles Konan Banny, is struggling to form a new government. He tells VOA he is resolute to work by consensus in his efforts to end the drawn out three-year conflict.

Three weeks after he was named by African mediators to move forward the stalled peace process, Mr. Banny - until recently the regional bank governor - still has not accomplished the first step: forming a new government.

From one of his official residences in the neighborhood of Cocody, he tells VOA the initial French-brokered peace deal, in early 2003, dictates that he work by consensus.

"This is the difficult part of my job. In other words, I don't have the liberty, the total liberty to choose who I want and so I am on this process. It seems to be slow but we are making some progress," he said. "I am not at the end of the process as soon as I'll be at the end, I'll present the team to the people of Cote d'Ivoire and to the international community."

Mr. Banny gets to pick from the party of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, northern-based rebels and the opposition. Of particular sensitivity are the posts of finance and defense, as well as which rebels he will pick and to which ministries.

He says he wants a team that will include women and youth.

The Ivorian conflict has been marked by intense bursts of fighting, followed by lulls, marathon negotiations and different interpretations of successive peace deals which are only marginally implemented, before being updated over and over.

Mr. Banny says he does not wish to use strong-arm tactics.

"I just came to cooperate to bring everyone together to go and search for peace in Cote d’Ivoire and this is the way I want to tackle my job. So I’m not here to antagonize with anyone," he said. "I’m here to put everyone together, every Ivorian, the political parties, but overall the people of Cote d’Ivoire as they will be my soldiers for the peace."

Mr. Banny has earned praised from opposition parties for harshly condemning an attempt Monday by armed men to steal the corpse of the recently buried mother of popular northern opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

He said the authors of what he called a despicable crime would be pursued. Opposition leaders said the attack highlighted the climate of insecurity and impunity under Mr. Gbagbo.

Rebels remain concerned Mr. Gbagbo is blocking Mr. Banny's key choices to his new government.

The son of a planter, from the central ethnic Baoule group, Mr. Banny, says he hopes to succeed in reconciliation, where others have failed.

"I hope that it will be the final effort and after that effort I really wish that peace will be back in Cote d'Ivoire," he said.

His main goals are to disarm rebels and militias, reunify the country and prepare free and fair elections, in which he is not allowed to run.

When elections scheduled for October 30 were deemed impossible, Mr. Gbagbo's term was extended one year and Mr. Banny was appointed to make sure elections can take place before October 2006.

Rebels say they are fighting for more northerners to be allowed to take part in elections, while Mr. Gbagbo says he is defending Ivory Coast against a foreign backed aggression.

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