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UN Expects Swift Economic Recovery in Ivory Coast


UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Ivory Coast, Young-jin Choi (l) and President Alessane Ouattara at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan (file photo)

UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Ivory Coast, Young-jin Choi (l) and President Alessane Ouattara at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan (file photo)

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara have taken control of the presidential palace in downtown Abidjan. It was one of the last places where fighters backing the former president were holding out after months of political violence. The United Nations expects a swift economic recovery for the country once security is restored.

Ouattara forces took control of the presidential palace after U.N. peacekeepers arranged the surrender of former government troops there and cleared out a basement arsenal that included more than 500 rockets for BM-21 mobile rocket launchers.

Ouattara officials are now preparing the palace for an official inauguration, which could come in the next few days.

Mr. Ouattara came to power following Monday's capture of former president Laurent Gbagbo, who was holding out in an underground bunker refusing to recognize that he lost November's vote.

With most of Mr. Gbagbo's senior military officials now pledging their support for President Ouattara, the new government is moving quickly to restore security in Abidjan.

The U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative in Ivory Coast, Young-jin Choi, says security has improved faster than he expected, and he may soon allow U.N. staff to return to their homes after sleeping for months at the UNOCI headquarters.

"UNOCI cars were forbidden to go out because Gbgabo's people distributed all the plate numbers and gave orders to burn UNOCI cars wherever they see them," said Choi. "But I think it is secure enough that we can show the way by going home beginning in several days."

With security, President Ouattara says he wants to get the economy back on track by resuming cocoa exports, restarting Abidjan's refinery, and reopening banks.

Buses and taxis are back on the road. Shops in most neighborhoods are open. A car dealership in the Marcory neighborhood had several customers Thursday. Furniture makers are back at work as two men pulled peach-colored upholstery across the frame of a couch.

Choi believes Ivory Coast's economy will recover quickly from more than four months of political violence because there was little damage to infrastructure.

"Destruction was really minimum," he said. "The airport is intact. It is operating now. The seaport is intact and ready to operate. The sanctions are lifted. Bridges were never broken or damaged. All the roads are there. Electricity, no damage at all. Water, no damage at all to the supply."

The European Union and France are giving Ivory Coast $840 million for emergency spending to restart essential public services and meet overdue payments.

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