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Security Concerns Loom as Ivory Coast Campaigning Begins

  • Peter Clottey

Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo (L) and Burkina Faso's president Blaise Compaore meet at the airport in Abidjan on 22 Feb, 2010 after Campaore arrived to act as a mediator in Ivory Coast's political crisis

A leading member of the opposition Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI) has expressed concern about the security situation as official campaigning begins Friday ahead of the 31st October presidential election.

Michele Koffi told VOA his party has petitioned the country’s security agencies to ensure peace ahead of the election.

“We will open our campaign now in our state house headquarters in Kokodi. Then, the 17th of this month, we will have a church program in Yamoussoukro (the capital).”

Analysts have expressed concern about the security situation in the country following the country’s 2002 civil war saying not all of the weapons were retrieved from militia groups during disarmament programs. They warn that could pose a security challenge during the poll.

Koffi called on the international community to help with the security situation on the ground ahead of the vote.

“First thing that we expected is (improved) security within the campaign period. Definitely all of them (Ivoirians) are afraid of the security issues in this campaign time because we know the (ruling) party. So, all of us are afraid of (this) period, but we have taken the necessary (steps) to make sure that we get a full-time campaign without any kind of negative issues going on.”

Recently, the U.N. Security Council approved the deployment of 500 peacekeepers as the country gears up for yet another attempt at restoring constitutional rule.

U.N. officials are reportedly upbeat about the prospects of the presidential election after Jean-Marie Kacou Gervais, Ivory Coast’s Foreign Minister, said during the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly the humanitarian situation in the West African nation had improved enough to pave way for the presidential vote.

The U.N. special envoy to the Ivory Coast, Y.J. Choi, said, “All ballot papers have been transported to the interior of the country, as well as heavy electoral materials such as ballot boxes and polling booths.”

The civil war, which derailed several attempts to have a presidential vote, divided the country into two with the rebel-held north and the government controlling the southern part of the country.

Koffi said Ivorians are expressing joy that, after years of conflict, they will have the opportunity to choose a leader in a democratic election.