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Nightlife Slowly Returns to Ivory Coast City Amid Armed Presence


Nightlife is slowly returning to Abidjan after the government decided to lift an eight-month overnight curfew. However, many soldiers are also patrolling the streets of Ivory Coast's main city when night falls.

Trucks full of soldiers rumble through the streets of the Blockhaus village in central Abidjan as partygoers return to the streets.

Blockhaus is near the residence of President Laurent Gbagbo. The military trucks are there because of fears that rebels now taking part in a government of national reconciliation could stage another coup attempt.

Despite these concerns, President Gbagbo decided Saturday to lift a curfew that had been in effect across Ivory Coast since September. In recent months in Abidjan, the curfew was enforced from midnight to six in the morning.

Odette Diomanse who sells grilled fish and chicken says the curfew was bad for business.

She said now she can work as late as she pleases.

"Abidjan has found its movement again," she said. "During the cease-fire some women liked it because their husbands came home early but for people who work at night like me it was not convenient at all. I live alone and I have to pay my rent and I couldn't make ends meet before. Now it's finally a big relief."

Down the street, a group of men and children play checkers.

Jean-Baptiste Ahoure, the owner of a Maquis restaurant, said the end of the curfew is like being liberated from jail.

Mr. Ahoure said that in the first few days people were skeptical, but now he said they feel safe to go out late because they see soldiers are still patrolling the streets.

In a more affluent part of town, the Deux Plateaux area, there are no soldiers but the party goes on past midnight.

According to D.J. Jean-Marie Lebeau, there are still fewer people out than there used to be before the war.

Mr. Lebeau said it will take time for old nighttime habits to return.

He said people fear for their security because rebels who still control the north of the country have yet to disarm. He said some of his colleagues who live in poor neighborhoods of Abidjan are now working past midnight, but they don't feel it's safe enough to return home in the middle of the night.

Poor neighborhoods have also been bases for growing militias opposed to the power sharing peace process.

Another obstacle to reducing tensions has been the inability of President Gbagbo, the rebels and opposition parties to agree on new ministers for defense and the interior in the reconciliation government.

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