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Ivory Coast Proposed Amnesty Bill Garners Dissatisfaction - 2003-08-05


Six months after the Ivory Coast government, rebels and political opposition signed a peace accord in Paris, there is growing impatience at the slow moving pace of the reconciliation process.

Members of the Ivory Coast parliament debated an amnesty bill on Monday, but there was much dissatisfaction with the proposed legislation. It was designed to pave the way to peace, but opponents see the bill as letting the perpetrators of crimes get away without any punishment.

About 200 people who say they are victims of last year's civil war, gathered outside the parliament buildings to voice their opposition to the bill. They accused the members who support the bill of being "assailants and assassins" and say the people who committed crimes ought to be brought to justice.

The protest was the latest in nearly daily complaints over the slow progress in implementing the Ivory Coast peace accord.

The agreement includes a plan for sharing control of the key ministries of defense and security. But two men of President Laurent Gbagbo's choosing are continuing to fill the two jobs in what is called an "interim" capacity.

Delays in the release of prisoners held by the government and rebels have also been a source of frustration.

The two sides exchanged lists of prisoners they wanted released last week. But the lists were riddled with inaccuracies. France put a halt to the process until the errors are dealt with.

The French army is central to the peacekeeping force that is keeping apart the rebel forces in the north and west, and the government troops in the south. On Monday, the U.N. Security Council renewed the authorization for the international peacekeeping force.

Until last year's coup attempt and the civil war that followed, Ivory Coast was regarded as a haven of peace and stability in West Africa. The effort to restore that status is moving more slowly than many people had hoped.