Accessibility links

Ivory Coast Peace Process Stalled Again - 2004-10-15


The disarmament of militias and rebel forces is due to begin Friday in Ivory Coast, but the rebels have already said they will not participate in the program until the president makes key political reforms.

The launch of the national disarmament campaign in divided Ivory Coast was set to begin Friday but reports from the rebel-held territory say weapons are not being handed over.

According to the most recent peace accord signed in the Ghanaian capital Accra in July, political reforms were to be implemented by the end of September. That deadline passed with only one of the more than 10 reform laws approved by parliament.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is pushing for disarmament to begin while, he promises, the political reform process will move forward.

But a spokesman for the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) Jean-Victor N'Kolo, says what is called the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration campaign (DDR) has in fact already begun.

"If DDR is in question, one has to recall that the process itself has started some time ago already," he said. "The government of national reconciliation supported by ONUCI has not been sitting idle. Quite a few things have been done already. So the DDR is a process rather than a specific given date."

The northern rebels known as the New Forces say they have been prepared all along to participate in the disarmament campaign, but they are waiting for political reforms to take hold first.

An analyst with the International Crisis Group, Mike McGovern, says the rebels' only bargaining tool at this point is their weapons.

"I think that it is clear that the understanding in Accra was that the government in power was meant to institute these changes before the disarmament would begin, because if the Forces Nouvelles disarm, they're not going to have any further leverage in the political process," said Mr. McGovern. "Then there is no reason to believe the Gbagbo government would go ahead with the changes."

Mr. McGovern also says threats by cocoa farmers to launch a strike on Monday pose a greater danger to efforts to return Ivory Coast to peace than the dispute over weapons and political reforms.

"That's one of the principal questions," he added. "I think maybe even more pressing than the issues about the passage of the laws and disarmament in the short run because the fact that what has allowed this situation to continue as it has is the fact that the Ivorian economy has continued on. It's still the economic powerhouse in the sub-region and if that starts coming apart then things are going to begin to disintegrate much more quickly."

Ivory Coast was once revered for its political stability and strong economy in the volatile West Africa region. But more than two years after a failed coup attempt, the country has failed to restore stability and placed its economic future in jeopardy.

XS
SM
MD
LG