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Northern Ivorians Pleased With Peace


Leading non-governmental organizations and the United Nations have recently expressed concern over the pace of the peace process in Ivory Coast. But after visiting a community of northerners living in the southern, commercial capital Abidjan, Phillip Wellman discovered that most of its residents are happy with the current political situation and patient with the government.

When asked if life is difficult for northerners in the south of Ivory Coast, Awa Progo laughs, shakes her head no and says life is good.

Progo says all of her neighbors in the Blingue ghetto of Abidjan and all of her relatives in the north of the country are also enjoying life now that the war is over.

Progo says the current situation is a stark contrast to how things were in the recent past. She says during the war everyone was scared, but now actual peace exists.

Civil war broke out in Ivory Coast in 2002 when rebels took up arms on behalf of many northerners who said they were being treated as foreigners, persecuted by security forces and not given basic rights.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and rebel-leader Guillaume Soro ended the war with a peace accord that aims to organize free and fair elections and resulted in Soro becoming prime minister.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently said he was deeply concerned over the failure to stick to the timeline set out in the peace accord, and said continued slacking would undermine the peace process.

But the Ivorian government says it is implementing procedures carefully and thoroughly to prevent future violence.

Francois Irry, who is originally from the town of Odienne in northern Ivory Coast, says he agrees with the government that it is more important to implement measures correctly and have lasting peace than to move too quickly and risk going back to war.

In terms of peace, Irry says things are now fine. But he says financially, circumstances remains difficult.

Analysts point out that while Ivorians may be enjoying a more peaceful atmosphere after several years of violence, full reconciliation has yet to be reached, which is having negative effects on the living conditions of many.

Ivorian specialist with Royal Institute of International affairs in London Daniel Balint Kurti points out that the country's economy is particularly vulnerable as the wait for unity continues.

"The longer the country remains divided, the longer the country will remain poor and the longer it will take for growth to take off," said Daniel Balint Kurti. "So every year the country will become more impoverished."

The United Nations says that in addition to delays in the identification process, setbacks in the country's disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program are also prolonging full reconciliation.

The organization recently renewed arms and diamond sanctions against Ivory Coast in a bid to make the country stick to the terms of the peace accord.

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