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Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso Border Reopens

The governments of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso are reopening their border that was closed last year after rebel forces took the northern half of Ivory Coast.

The border between Ivory Coast and its northern neighbor Burkina Faso was closed last September after rebels seized the Ivorian north.

The government of Burkina Faso closed the border for security reasons, it came at a high economic price.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country, and all its imports and exports formerly passed through neighboring Ivory Coast and the main Ivorian port at Abidjan. That same route is also important for the landlocked economies of Mali and Niger.

Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger are anxious to clear tens of thousands of tons of goods that have stacked up in the Abidjan port for the past nine months.

The reopening of the border should pave the way for a resumption of the important trade route, and signals a healing of relations between the two countries.

The Ivorian government last year accused Burkina Faso of backing the rebels, a charge that the government of Burkina Faso has steadfastly denied. Relations between the two neighbors soured after the accusations, but the regional economic body ECOWAS has been working to reconcile them.

Meanwhile, Burkina Faso has been adversely affected by the crisis in Ivory Coast. About one-half million Burkinabes were chased out of Ivory Coast at the height of the crisis, blamed by many Ivorians for their country's economic troubles. The return of so many citizens en masse has been an economic strain for impoverished Burkina Faso.

Northern Ivory Coast continues to be held by rebel forces, who have yet to disarm. Burkinabe officials explained that this was the cause of the delay in the reopening of the border.

They also say that cross-border trade is likely to be slow in recovering until traders can be assured of the security situation in northern Ivory Coast.