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Ivorian Mediators Discuss End to Election-Related Violence

Ivorian Mediators Discuss End to Election-Related Violence

Ivorian political leaders and election officials met with mediators in Ouagadougou Thursday to discuss how to bring an end to outbreaks of election-related violence that have plagued Ivory Coast since last week and caused voter registration to be suspended for the country's long-delayed presidential elections.

Ivorian political leaders and election officials met with mediators in Ouagadougou to discuss the current electoral crisis in Ivory Coast, namely accusations of fraud in the voter list and demands for the resignation of electoral commission head, Robert Mambé, who has been accused of approving a voter list that contained almost a half million foreigners.

An Ivorian tribunal has confirmed evidence of "fraud" in the voter list being prepared for the upcoming poll, and Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and his party have called for Mambe's resignation.

Mambé disputes the fraud allegations and, in Ouagadougou Thursday, reiterated his intention to remain in his post and finish the job.

Mambé says Ivory Coast began with problems of identity but now has 5.3 million who hold national identity cards and we are now dealing with the more than one million contentious cases. He says we have come a long way and are 95 percent of the way there.

Observers say recent tensions over the voter list show just how far the country is from resolving the question of nationality. It was at the heart of the civil war in 2002 and remains sensitive in Ivory Coast, which has a large immigrant population.

Mounting frustration has erupted into violent protests outside courthouses around the country since last week over allegations of fraud in the voter list. Administration buildings have been burned and fighting has caused injuries and deaths.

Ivorian Prime Minister Guilllaume Soro suspended voter registration indefinitely Wednesday in the face of recent unrest, specifically with regards to the contesting of names currently on the provisional voter list.

Alphonse Djédjé Mady, head of the coalition of opposition parties opposed to President Gbagbo, was also in Ouagagdougou Thursday and said he did not think Mambe's resignation was the answer.

He says we must avoid a widespread public uprising. He says the issue with the voter list is not really an electoral issue; it is a question of identity. He says this debate is really about the right to have a nationality and to not have that nationality taken from you without proof. He says that is the core issue.

Mady said, at this point in time, holding the elections is a question of political will.

The presidential poll is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict in the once stable West African nation, but voter registration issues have pushed back the election several times since President Gbagbo's mandate ran out in 2005.

In Ouagadougou, Special Representative to the Facilitator, Boureima Badini, stressed the importance of remaining calm and committed to holding transparent and credible elections.

Badini says we have made a lot of progress in the electoral process, and above all getting out the crisis in general. He says the most urgent thing now is releasing a definitive voter list. Once we have the definitive list, he says the rest will take shape, including setting a date for the election.

But Ivorians, weary of repeated delays, are unsure what, if any, resolution this week's talk in Ouagadougou can bring to the current electoral gridlock.