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National Unity Government In Ivory Coast At Risk - 2004-03-11


Three more political and rebel parties have threatened to boycott the national unity government in Ivory Coast, one week after the People's Democratic Party suspended its participation.

The three parties have scheduled a meeting for Monday to discuss what role they will play in the government under President Laurent Gbagbo. They have also announced a protest march against what they say is President Gbagbo's disregard for the peace accord signed last year in France.

A similar demonstration had been scheduled last year but was canceled when the government passed a law banning all public marches.

A spokesman for one of the parties, Cisse Bancogo, says they are doing everything they can to save the peace process but that from time to time they need to sound the alarm over what President Gbago is doing.

A statement made on behalf of President Gbagbo criticized the parties for planning the protest. It says the parties are acting selfishly and hurting the peace process. The president's statement said the dispute is particularly bad coming as the international community is trying to help Ivory Coast in its reunification efforts.

The political parties joined forces with the People's Democratic Party in issuing a statement condemning the actions of the pro-Gbagbo militia-style youth group known as the Young Patriots, who stormed the Justice Ministry in Abidjan on Tuesday.

The young militants were protesting the appointment of two new judges to the ministry, and attacked at least five magistrates and looted the premises before police used tear gas to disperse them.

On Wednesday, members of the same militant group targeted the headquarters of the former-rebels, now known as the New Forces, and were also dispersed by police using tear gas.

Tensions among the groups in the power-sharing government in Ivory Coast have been rising over the past week.

The disarmament process, which was due to begin Monday, has been suspended indefinitely after a rebel leader announced that his fighters would not surrender their weapons until a free and open election is held. That is not scheduled until October of next year.