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PRESS CONFERENCE BY COTE D'IVOIRE

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

26 July 2004

The dismissal of three Ivorian Cabinet members was the result of the need for vigorous action by the President of the Republic in response to the impasse resulting from a boycott by some opposition ministers, Philippe Djangone-Bi, Permanent Representative of Cote d’Ivoire to the United Nations, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Briefing correspondents on the latest developments in the crisis in his country, he said that the respective parties or groupings of the dismissed ministers could replace them at their discretion in line with the balance recommended by the Linas-Marcoussis Peace Agreement. The accord stipulated that the Government “will be made up of representatives appointed by each of the Ivorian delegations taking part in the Round Table”. In assigning ministries, a balance would be struck among the parties throughout the Government’s term of office.

Speaking ahead of an international conference on the Ivorian crisis, to be held in Accra, Ghana, next Thursday, he said the dismissals did not breach the Agreement, since the principle of “immovability” stipulated in it concerned only the Prime Minister, who would remain in place until the elections scheduled for October 2005, but would not be able to stand as a candidate. In fact, the Heads of State meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the recent African Union summit had taken note of the dismissals, hence, the need to replace the dismissed ministers as soon as possible so that the Government could get back to work.

Addressing a misunderstanding concerning amendments to article 35 of the constitution on eligibility to the presidency, he emphasized the constitutional stipulation (article 127) that “no amendment procedure may be undertaken or pursued when the integrity of the territory is undermined”. Any amendment to article 35, which must be subjected to a referendum (article 126) after a qualified vote of the National Assembly (two-thirds majority, article 125), could not be carried out before the end of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and reunification of the country.

With respect to the National Assembly’s examination of bills suggested by the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, the Assembly could not be forced to vote in one way or the other, he said. The determination to adopt laws in conformity with the spirit and letter of the accord could thus be understood only as subject to the relevant constitutional provisions. Those provisions, articles 66 and 71, in particular, stipulated that “each deputy is the representative of the whole nation. Any mandatory instruction is null and void...” and “the National Assembly holds the legislative power. It alone votes the law”.

Mr. Djangone-Bi stressed that the Agreement recognized the Ivorian Constitution and its established institutions, of which the President of the Republic was the cornerstone. It also recognized the need to preserve the country’s territorial integrity. A timetable of the Government’s national reconciliation programme was appended to the peace accord. Peace was built with two sides and the Agreement defined clearly the rights and obligations of each of the two parties.

He said it was obvious that the President had made sacrifices, while the other side had not made equivalent sacrifices. He had appointed a Prime Minister of consensus from outside his own party; formed a balanced Government of national reconciliation, in which he had only nine Ministers out of 42; adopted an amnesty law and a decree reintegrating amnestied rebel soldiers; adopted all the reform bills envisaged by the peace accord, except for five that were awaiting the return to government of rebel or opposition Ministers to submit them; and met with the different parliamentary groups, as well as the Bureau of the National Assembly to encourage them to accelerate their work on the bills submitted to them.

On the other hand, he said, the armed opposition continued to act contrary to the spirit and letter of the Agreement. The country was divided in two and occupied in the north by the armed rebellion; the administration was not yet redeployed in the whole country; national radio and television transmission was still prohibited in the north, while the Ministry of Communications –- which was in the hands of the rebellion -– broadcast propaganda programmes against the legal authorities in that part of the country; disarmament had not yet started; the country’s riches were systematically plundered and trafficked in the occupied zones to the detriment of the national economy; the ceasefire was repeatedly violated; and there was continued defiance of State authority, as well as overt calls for secession.

Asked what the Accra conference would change anything, given that the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement had not been implemented fully, Mr. Djangone-Bi replied that the international community had to look at the accord once again and see what had worked and what had not worked. The Agreement should be considered as a means of achieving peace and as an end in itself. If there were problems on the ground, they must be dealt with and settled.

The same correspondent asked what the conference could do to improve the situation.

He responded by emphasizing the importance of sticking to the text of the Agreement. The objective of the conference would be, he hoped, to see what the accord actually said and what was being done. The other party had not yet made a single gesture. With a review or re-examination of the Agreement, everyone’s responsibility could be seen and action could be taken in the light of that responsibility.

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