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Slow Pace Of Reconciliation Affects Some Livelihoods In Ivory Coast

Sunday marks eight months since Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo signed a peace deal with rebel leader Guillaume Soro, now prime minister. The agreement, which followed a brief civil war, is proceeding slower than planned, leading non-governmental organizations and the United Nations to express concern. They say while reconciliation is prolonged, living standards are declining. In the Ivorian commercial capital, Abidjan, Phillip Wellman spoke to workers at a fish market about how their livelihoods have been affected by the wait for unity.

At a fish market in Abidjan, many people say business is not what it used to be.

Junior Touvoly, who has been working here for 15 years, buys big fish such as shark and blue marlin from fishermen and sells them to the public. He says, because of the peace accord, more fishermen are coming to the market with bigger fish, but prices are high for everyone.

Touvoly says fish prices were lower before the war. He says many people fled to Abidjan to avoid the violence in other areas of the county. As a result, demand is exceeding supply, driving prices up.

Twenty eight-year-old Nadege Diangone, who also works at the market, says many customers who used to come from outside Abidjan to buy fish have either been killed or cannot afford to make the trip now, and this has devastated business for many people.

She says business is getting better, but it is not as good as it used to be. She says fish mongers are feeling the effects of the war even as the country moves towards reconciliation.

Diangone says she is praying for peace. She says if true peace were to come, workers at the fish market would get more business and the situation would be as good as it was before the war.

Analysts say Ivory Coast's economic influence is slowly deteriorating as reconciliation is prolonged. Companies that used to do business in Ivory Coast continue to trade with neighboring countries instead, resulting in lost jobs and making it difficult for many to buy imported goods.

The United Nations also agrees that Ivory Coast's ensuing social and economic situation is leading to a steady decline in living standards.

It says delays in both the identification process of undocumented Ivorians and in the country's disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program are delaying unity. But the Ivorian government says it is implementing procedures thoroughly to prevent future violence.

The U.N. recently renewed arms and diamond sanctions against Ivory Coast in a bid to make the country stick to the terms of the peace accord.