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Ivory Coast Foes Set Disarmament Date


Ivory Coast's warring rebel and loyalist forces have reached agreement on the rules and a timetable for disarming. The long awaited decision was reached Saturday at a meeting in the administrative capital, Yamoussoukro and helps clear the way for elections in the West African nation.

Representatives from the Ivory Coast's loyalist army and rebel New Forces have fixed June 27 as the date to begin disarming. But, the president of the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reinsertion, Alain Donwahi says the process will begin immediately with a campaign to prepare combatants.

Under agreements signed Saturday, identification of fighters would begin June 5 and the disarmament process would finish up by August 10. Both sides also signed a document on the restructuring of the Ivorian army, one of the main stumbling blocks during previous talks.

An Ivorian army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jules Yao Yao said the agreement reached Saturday was an important step forward. He said it indicated an element of trust and confidence between the two sides.

Attempts at disarmament under previous peace deals have failed, largely due to mutual distrust.

The meeting in Yamoussoukro was the second between heads of the warring sides this month. The relaunching of the disarmament process is one of the key elements of a South African brokered peace accord signed in Pretoria in April. The accord is is aimed at preparing Ivory Coast for elections scheduled for October.

Last month, President Laurent Gbagbo agreed to allow popular northern opposition leader Alassane Ouattara to run in the election, as demanded by the conflict's current mediator South African President Thabo Mbeki. Mr. Ouattara's candidacy had been in doubt due to a controversial nationality requirement.

In an earlier sign of good faith, in April, rebels and loyalist forces pulled heavy weaponry back from the edges of a U.N.-patrolled buffer zone that divides Ivory Coast between a rebel-held north and government-controlled south.

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