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Gbagbo Withholds Salaries From Cabinet Ministers Who Boycotted National Unity Government - 2004-05-19

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is withholding salaries from cabinet ministers who have boycotted the national unity government since a military crackdown on a demonstration in March led to the deaths of more than 100 civilians.

President Gbagbo, speaking on national television Tuesday, ordered ministers from opposition and rebel groups to rejoin the government or risk losing their salaries for the month of May along with any government issued vehicles. He has promised to give the money from the salaries to victims of the war, which split the nation in two.

He said that all of the ministers in the national unity government were forbidden from traveling outside of the country without prior permission. Mr. Gbagbo will be traveling to Guinea on Wednesday.

Mr. Gbagbo also ordered all representatives of the rebel held north currently residing at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan to vacate the property, prompting his student supporters known as the Young Patriots to demonstrate outside of the hotel.

Sidiki Konate, one of the leaders of New Forces, a rebel group, says the Young Patriots were dispersed by members of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Ivory Coast who also reside at the hotel.

?So, as you see we have been attacked by the Young Patriots after the speech of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo,? Mr. Konate said. ?It was a long speech. The first comment is that this was not a declaration of peace. This can only be a war declaration against peace process, against Marcoussis against all the goodwill that wants Ivory Coast to come back to peace.?

Marcoussis is the name of the peace accord drafted in January last year to end the civil war in Ivory Coast.

One of the leaders of the Young Patriots, Kouame Illocent, says they are acting on behalf of their president in removing the people that they blame for the civil war in their country.

?So us, we are patriots. We defend the different interests of our country. We have decided to tell this person go out of our hotel so that good people can come into the hotel because this hotel is a commercial hotel. So, we think these people can't live in our country, in our place,? he said.

The general secretary of the New Forces, Guillaume Soro, has called all his leaders to return to the northern city of Bouake to discuss their course of action in response to President Gbagbo's speech. Mr. Soro expects to issue a statement by the end of the week.