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Ivory Coast Opposition Protest Cancelled - 2003-11-07

Opposition activists in Ivory Coast have scrapped their plans to hold a march in support of a stalled peace deal with rebels. The decision comes several days before a hastily prepared summit in Ghana to revive the peace deal.

Youth groups from Ivorian political parties were planning to defy a government ban on street demonstrations, and march in Abidjan Saturday in favor of a French-brokered peace agreement.

But they have now decided to postpone the march, while attempts are under way to inject new life into the peace process.

A leader for the Rally of the Republicans, Odjie Tiakore, says the group did not want to create divert attention from the summit, which is scheduled to take place next week in Ghana.

Mr. Tiakore says the Ghanaian initiative gives new hope for the peace deal, which was signed in January, but has yet to be implemented.

President Laurent Gbagbo, rebel leaders, heads of Ivorian political parties and West African leaders have been invited to take part in the summit. President Gbagbo, who has made contradictory statements about the peace agreement itself, has not confirmed his attendance.

A leader of the youth wing of the former Ivorian ruling party, the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast, Herve Ahoussi, says his group was worried Saturday's march could turn violent. He says a statement from his party calls for youth activists to abide by the ban on government marches, even though they view this ban as undemocratic.

The ban was issued last month, following attacks by pro-Gbagbo militants on French-owned businesses, which were supplying water and electricity to northern rebel areas without charge.

The rebels pulled out of the reconciliation government in September, saying President Gbagbo was preventing the implementation of the peace accord, which includes giving voting rights to many northern Ivorians.

Opposition political parties and rebels want the agreement implemented, but Mr. Gbagbo's political party has expressed reservations.

Peacekeepers from the former colonial power France remain deployed along the line that separates the Ivorian army from rebels. Their deployment late last year ended months of fierce fighting.