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Opposition Activists in Divided Ivory Coast Frustrated With Peace Process


Even as northern-based rebels and presidential advisers in Ivory Coast say they are upbeat about the peace process taking hold, opposition activists say that current developments have not changed anything. Programs to disarm former fighters, reintegrate the army and distribute nationality and voting papers to many undocumented northerners are still needed before twice-delayed elections can take place. Phillip Wellman has this report from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

A spokesman for the opposition Democratic Party of Ivory Coast, Niamkey Koffi, says rebels and the president have made little progress.

Koffi blames President Laurent Gbagbo for repeatedly stalling peace efforts.

"They have showed us that we cannot trust anymore the president," he said. "Since the 4th of March 2007, nothing has been done. So we do not believe that they can get to peace."

Mr. Gbagbo has said this was the first time a deal resulted from direct talks with the rebels and he is confident the deal will work.

He has said elections will be held before the end of the year. But a new program to deliver nationality and voting papers to thousands of undocumented northerners has yet to start.

Rebel leader Guillaume Soro, who became prime minister in March following the Burkina Faso agreement, has also made positive comments about the peace process, even after surviving an apparent assassination attempt.

Koffi says pressure must also be put on the rebels.

"We have to put pressure on both the parties on both of them so that they will hurry and try to do the identification of people so that they can get the papers to vote," he said. "Right now, both parties are encouraged to be in certain situations because they are both sharing the wealth of this country. And the people are getting poorer and poorer. So we can [not] do it anymore, [we cannot accept] any more delay for that kind of agreement."

The elections were, initially, to be held in October 2005.

A former pro-Gbagbo militia leader, Jeff Agba, says he is disillusioned with the peace process. He points to recent student unrest as evidence he is not alone in his views.

"At this time I am talking to you, the people are running in the streets," he said. "There is nowhere to sleep, nowhere to go, nothing works. We are very upset about what is going on. There is no hope for that peace process to work."

Agba says repeated peace deals have come and gone.

"That is why nobody has a hope for this peace process, we are just watching them do a lot of mistakes, even the date they put on the paper to put on the roadmap, what they are saying, they cannot [do]," he said. "They cannot. "

There have been symbolic ceremonies for the start of militia disarmament, but no disarmament has begun.

Another sticking point is the question of ranks in a newly-unified army. Rebel and military leaders have had repeated meetings but have not reached any agreement.

The rebels say they want to integrate into the army with the ranks they gave themselves since the start of the war.

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