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Ivory Coast Government Calls for Widespread Peace Efforts - 2003-06-17


The reconciliation government in Ivory Coast has called for all Ivorians, including politicians and journalists, to work for peace and ensure the success of a power-sharing peace deal with rebels.

Government spokesman Patrick Achi said all politicians should refrain from statements that could impede the peace process to end the civil war that began on September 19.

Mr. Achi spoke late Monday on state television after ministers from the reconciliation government, including nine rebels, met with President Laurent Gbagbo in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

But opposition to the peace deal is still strong. Parliamentary speaker Mamadou Koulibaly, who is from Mr. Gbagbo's party, has recently said lawmakers will not vote on any laws as long as rebels remain armed. He has also called for a campaign of civil disobedience to protest the power sharing peace deal, which he calls a constitutional coup.

The rebels still control the northern half of the country, but the circulation of goods, civilians, and services is slowly resuming across Ivory Coast. The disarmament of rebels is being planned as part of the reorganization of the Ivorian army.

The peace deal, mediated in France in January, also calls for a series of new laws to address the grievances of rebels and many northerners who feel they are treated like second-class citizens.

Monday's government statement also called for journalists in government-controlled Abidjan to be more ethical in their treatment of events. Newspapers like Notre Voie, which represents the political party of Mr. Gbagbo, accuse rebels of continuing to kill, rape, and loot even though other reports indicate the situation is calm in northern Ivory Coast.

The new communications minister is Guillaume Soro, the main rebel leader. He has stayed little in Abidjan since becoming a minister, preferring to continue living at rebel headquarters in their stronghold of Bouake.

Marie-Madeleine Kono, a journalist with the Abidjan-based newspaper Notre Voie, says she is not looking forward to working with Mr. Soro. "It will be very difficult to collaborate because you know that as a rebel he has already killed people and coming here with other people it will be very difficult so we do not share the same ideas. Those who are with him are also against our ideas. He pretends to do his best, but it will be very difficult," she said.

Antoine Beugre, a spokesman for the rebels, says he deplores this type of attitude and most of the reporting done in Abidjan.

Mr. Beugre said most of the newspapers in Abidjan are not on what he calls the boat to reconciliation. He said they want to see the war start again, but that rebels are resolute in pushing for peace.

At a recent football (soccer) match in Abidjan, Mr. Beugre said rebel leader turned sports minister Michel Gueu knew he would be booed if he went, but criticized if he did not. Mr. Gueu decided to go and faced nearly unanimous booing from fans in the packed stadium when his presence was announced.

There were also reports in the Abidjan press that a close associate of Mr. Gueu tried to assassinate President Gbagbo at the match. Mr. Beugre denied there had been any such plot.

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