A rebel minister in Ivory Coast's reconciliation government says he was attacked by supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo in the southern city of Abidjan. The rebels, who control the north of the country, say security problems are blocking progress in the faltering peace process, but supporters of the president disagree.
The attack on Issa Diakite, Ivory Coast's minister of Territorial Administration, allegedly took place late Tuesday. Mr. Diakite, who was named to his post as a member of unity government from the rebel New Forces, says he was in Abidjan attending a funeral.
He accuses members of a pro-Gbagbo student union from a nearby university campus of being behind the attack. He says the students threw stones at him before attempting to enter the house he was visiting. Mr. Diakite says he was forced to hide inside with his U.N. body guard for more than an hour before the two were rescued by Ivorian security forces.
Mr. Diakite says the incident highlights continuing lawlessness in the south.
Mr. Diakite says if the same groups that attacked him were to attack polling stations in the October 30 presidential election, then preconditions for elections have not been fulfilled.
The top rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, who is also the reconciliation communications minister, was attacked two years ago during a visit to the headquarters of the government-run radio and television. Since then, he has stopped performing most of his ministerial functions.
New Forces spokesman Sidiki Konate says continued violence against rebel ministers is blocking the peace process.
"If the New Forces say they cannot go to Abidjan, the people say 'why,'' he said. "We cannot go to Abidjan because they are killing us in Abidjan. Because nobody is in security in Abidjan."
The head of the student union accused of leading the attack, Serge Koffi, denies his group was involved in any way.
Mr. Koffi calls the incident an orchestrated set-up designed to incriminate student activists.
And the head of the largest pro-Gbagbo movement, known as the Young Patriots, Charles Ble Goude, says the rebels are simply making excuses.
"Yesterday an incident happened at the campus," he said. "I think this cannot be a reason for him (Mr. Diakite) to say there is no security in Abidjan. I don't go along with him about that. But what I can tell is people are angry with rebel ministers."
An armed rebellion three years ago split the nation in two, and, although the warring factions have signed a peace agreement, its key provisions, including disarmament, have not been implemented.