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Ivory Coast Peace Process Deadlocked


Analysts in Ivory Coast say the peace process has reached a deadlock in the last week.

Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, who is in charge of advancing the peace process, refers to his mission as the train of peace.

After what many had considered a positive period in attempts to reunite Ivory Coast, there was an initial shudder when President Laurent Gbagbo announced he would remain at the helm of the country until elections were held. Though planned for October, it's not certain this date will be met.

Mr. Gbagbo also said he would not recognize any certificates of nationality issued during a controversial identification scheme. Mobile courts around the country have been registering those born in the country but without any legal documents.

The rebel New Forces took control of the north in 2002, arguing northerners were not on electoral lists. They say the only way for them to give up their guns is for undocumented people to be granted the chance of getting a nationality certificate at the mobile courts. This would allow them to eventually take part in elections.

With this condition no longer met, the train of peace has hit a road block. Rebel leader Guillaume Soro has announced his withdrawal from the disarmament process.

Third to react was the United Nations, which has about 7,000 peacekeepers and officials in the country. They are supposed to facilitate the peace process and patrol a buffer zone between the rebel-held north and the government controlled south.

Their spokesman, Hamadoun Touré, says they are now encouraging all political parties to rejoin the efforts to reunite Ivory Coast.

"I do not think we were expecting such a blow to the peace process," he said. "That means we have to be very imaginative and very cautious in handling the situation."

Touré adds that this is not necessarily a reason to lose hope.

"It is not new," he said. "Whenever we record positive steps, we are used to having this kind of apparent deadlock."

Currently in Ivory Coast to analyze the situation for the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization working for conflict prevention, is Gilles Yabi. He tells VOA that Mr. Ggagbo's statement goes against previous agreements.

"This was not exactly what was agreed by all political parties," he explained.

Mr. Gbagbo was elected in 2000, with opponents saying millions were excluded from the electoral role.

Yabi says Mr. Ggagbo is worried that the identification scheme could lead to more voters for his opponents.

"What is clear is that President Gbagbo has always been reluctant to agree on the terms of an identification process," he noted. "That means a process which would create an entirely new electoral list."

Prime Minister Banny has not come out with a plan to resolve the deadlock. His guide on the mobile courts remains vague on the detail of certificates of nationality.

But Mr. Ggagbo's spokesman, Désiré Tagro, says Banny is adhering to the law, and thus to Mr. Gbagbo's position.

He says, rebel leader Guillaume Soro is a part of the government and, he says, agreed to the appointment of the prime minister. He asks, how can he then disagree with what the prime minister is doing?

Tagro also says, as the rightful head of state, there is no way Mr. Gbagbo would hand over power even if elections are not held.

He says, how could you choose someone to stand in as an interim leader? He asks, how would you chose one person and not another?

As it stands, the rebels do not think the train is heading in the right direction.

New Forces official Cissé Sindou tells VOA over the phone that their stance on the issuing certificates of nationality is non-negotiable.

He says Prime Minister Banny had assured them this aspect would not be changed. Sindou says Banny now has to do something if he wants to keep his mandate. "If not," he says, "he will just be another Seydou Diarra," his predecessor who was widely thought to have failed in advancing the peace process.

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