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Former Coup Leader Says Ivorian Arrests Are Unjust


Former 1999 Ivory Coast coup leader Ibrahim Coulibaly has recently said that several of his supporters in the rebel-held north have been unjustly arrested. Coulibaly was close to rebel leaders when the rebellion began in late 2002, but has had repeated public disputes with northern authorities since then. Phillip Wellman reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Coulibaly, currently living in exile in Paris, says that about 10 of his supporters have been arrested since September 19. He says that some of the arrests occurred in Danane, a city under New Forces rebel control, while the others took place in neighboring Burkina Faso.

Coulibaly has remained popular among northerners since staging the country's first coup in 1999, in a move seen by many in the north as an attempt to stop southern domination.

A spokesman for Coulibaly, Ismael Doumboya, says the supporters were arrested because they disagree with the latest peace plan mediated in Burkina Faso, which they say leaves fundamental problems unsolved.

One of them is a stipulation in the constitution saying both parents of a presidential candidate must be Ivorian. In successive peace deals, though, parties have agreed that all major Ivorian politicians, including those with questionable nationalities, will be allowed to contend in the next election.

But Doumboya says Coulibaly wants long-lasting solutions.

"We are not satisfied with this peace agreement because it does not resolve our problems," said Doumboya. "We have problems of our resources being stolen by people, and we have problems with our constitution which is not good. So what we want is to solve these problems deeply."

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and New Forces rebel leader Guillaume Soro signed the peace deal in March resulting in a coalition government in which Mr. Soro was named prime minister.

The new government says its aim is to reunite Ivory Coast and organize free and fair elections.

But Doumboya says the coalition government does not represent all Ivorians.

"This is a [peace] deal between Mr. Soro and Mr. Gbagbo, and we do not want this deal," he added. "We are waiting for our real solution, which will involve all Ivorians. If this problem is not solved, I think that people will use any means to solve the problem."

A spokesman for Mr. Soro's New Forces Sidiki Konate says he believes Coulibaly is currently trying to destabilize Ivory Coast from abroad.

Konate also says that those arrested in September were planning subversive actions against the government. He says Coulibaly must understand that Ivory Coast is tired of violence and is ready for peace.

"This guy [Coulibaly] has accepted to want to see some progress in a coup against Ivory Coast rather than engage in a peace process, which is really irreversible," said Konate. "We can not go back every time to a coup in Ivory Coast because we need peace."

Konate says that it is important for Ivorians not to become discouraged by the pace of the peace process, which at times may seem slow.

"We are working to unify the country. Everyone knows that the Ivory Coast has been split in two since 2002 and now we are trying to work to unify it," added Konate. "We are still working on that."

Presidential elections in Ivory Coast have been postponed through U.N. resolutions since October 2005. The Ivorian independent electoral commission says elections could take place around October 2008.

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