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Variety of Issues Impact Year-Old Ivorian Peace Plan


Former warring sides in divided Ivory Coast are talking about more delays, one year after the latest power-sharing peace deal was signed in Burkina Faso. Repeatedly delayed elections have been scheduled for June, but both sides admit that will not be possible. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

While target dates to start disarmament, reunification and work on new electoral lists come and go, a top New Forces rebel official Cisse Sindou points to lack of funding as one major problem.

"We need money to move forward," said Sindou. "All the technical challenges have stopped because of a lack of means to fulfill them. I am talking about disarmament. I am talking about demobilization. I am talking about reinsertion and so on and so forth."

When asked if United Nations calls for June elections are realistic, President Laurent Gbagbo's special advisor, Lambert Seri Bahi said probably not.

"I think with regard to the situation on the ground, I think anyway the president indicated the month of June, which of course is indicative," said Bahi. "It is not the president who decides the date of the election. It is the independent election commission that sets the date of elections. I think we will definitely have elections this year, maybe not in June, maybe two months later."

Rebel official Sindou blamed the country's political parties, which he called by their French acronyms, for the lack of progress.

"We are ready but the political groups, the major ones, like FPI, RDR and PDCI should really focus on the elections instead of politics as usual," said Sindou.

Political parties have been pressing President Gbagbo and rebel leader and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro to make faster progress on redeploying administrative staff in the rebel-held north and on creating a reunified army.

A former militia fighter for Mr. Gbagbo, Jeff Agba, says political leaders must understand that the more that time is wasted the harder it is for average people to make a living.

"There is no work at this time," said Agba. "Everyone wants to see elections before opening the markets, before opening society, because they are all scared about the elections."

Previous elections have been violent in Ivory Coast, and Agba senses trouble ahead.

"At this time, they are starting to say a lot of things," he said. "They are starting to disagree on the elections."

Rebels took over more than half of Ivory Coast in late 2002, saying they were fighting for equal rights for northerners. Mr. Gbagbo called it a foreign-backed assault, and says he has been trying to ensure Ivory Coast can become truly independent of foreign meddling, including from the former colonizer France.

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