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Thousands Rally Against Ivory Coast President


Thousands of people demonstrated in Ivory Coast Sunday to demand the end of President Laurent Gbagbo's rule. Franz Wild spoke to some of the people at the rally and filed this report for VOA from Abidjan.

People came to Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, to show the world they want President Laurent Gbagbo out of power.

Thousands gathered in Treichvilles Palais des Sport. Most of the demonstrators were loyalists of the coalition of major opposition parties, the Rally of the Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace, that organized the rally.

The rally was held a day after the top U.N. elections supervisor in Ivory Coast said the war-divided nation's long delayed election will be postponed for another year. Although the rally was planned before the announcement, the election postponement is likely to prolong the deadlock that has paralyzed the country.

Franck Pono said Ivory Coast's future lies in the hands of the international community.

"We are tired of these problems and this war," said Franck Pono. "That is why we have come to tell President Gbagbo that it is over for him. I am asking the African Union and the United Nations to do something to get Gbagbo out of power."

Mossou Kouame said it was time to act now, because Ivory Coast was in such a poor state already.

"If the AU and the U.N. support Gbagbo for another year, our country will no longer be able to function," said Mossou Kouame.

Pono and Kouame then listened to speeches by senior politicians from attending parties.

The leader of the Rally of the Republicans' youth wing, Karamoko Yayoro, spelled out his party's demands clearly.

"First of all, he said, they want the constitution to be suspended," said Karamoko Yayoro. "Secondly, the prime minister needs to be given enough powers to do his work properly, including control over the army. Finally, the elections should be controlled by the electoral commission and nobody else."

Ivory Coast's peace plan expires after this month. Rebels have controlled the north since a failed coup developed into a civil war in 2002.

Last October, the international community extended President Gbagbo's mandate by a year because a rebel disarmament and an extensive voter identification plan had not yet been organized to pave the way for elections.

A year later, few advances have been made, with each side accusing the other of blocking the peace process. Nonetheless, the United Nations says the foundations are in place for elections to take place in the next 12 months.

Mr. Gbagbo, whose election victory in 2000 was based on dubious electoral lists, says he will not leave power until elections are held.

While the U.N.-backed peace plan is running out, Ivorians are waiting for what proposals the African Union and United Nations will back during the next two weeks.

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