UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: Opposition parties suspend role in government
ABIDJAN, 25 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - Ivory Coast's rebels and opposition parties said on Thursday they had suspended their participation in the transitional government after the killing of their supporters who had been protesting for peace in the main city of Abidjan.
This decision, which has been made for an unlimited period, could compromise a fragile French-brokered peace accord, days before the UN deploys its peacekeeping mission in the West African nation. Late Thursday, all opposition leaders called for the demonstrations to continue on Friday.
"We have decided to suspend our participation in the government because it's totally unacceptable for security forces to shoot unarmed people," Amadou Kone, spokesman of the Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire (MPCI) rebel movement, told IRIN by phone from their stronghold of Bouake.
The Rally of Republicans (RDR), one of the opposition parties which has been most critical of President Laurent Gbagbo, has also decided to freeze its role in the power-sharing government in protest at the killings and the non-application of the peace accord.
Opposition leaders said up to 42 persons died in clashes between protesters and security forces, while they gathered for a banned protest against President Laurent Gbagbo.
But, by midday (GMT time), Ivorian authorities conceded only five people, including two police officers, had died in the clashes.
In its evening broadcast, the state television service, RTI, conceded that conflicting casualty figures had come from police and opposition parties and it would take some time to work out how many people had died.
The International Human Rights Federation (FIDH) has condemned the killings. In a statement issued on Thursday, the FIDH said that "more than ten people have been shot dead" by security forces, and more had been injured.
Cote d'Ivoire's rebels - who call themselves the 'New Forces' - joined a government of reconciliation with opposition parties after the signing of the Linas-Marcoussis peace accord in January 2003.
However, the New Forces withdrew from that government for several months last year, accusing Gbagbo of hindering peace and reconciliation efforts. They later returned to the cabinet.
Earlier this month, the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI), suspended its participation in the government of reconciliation, because it was "malfunctioning" and because Gbagbo was using "underhand tactics" to undermine the authorities of its ministers.
In the 41 member cabinet, 21 ministers will be affected by these latest suspensions.
MPCI's Kone, along with the FIDH, asked for an international, independent investigation to establish the responsibility for the killings.
"We'll return to the government if an investigation on the killings is launched and if the president (Gbagbo) gives a positive answer to our grievances," Kone said.
Last Monday, opposition parties gave the UN Secretary General's special envoy Albert Tevodjre a memorandum in which they accused Gbagbo's supporters of "blocking" the Marcoussis accord. The full contents of that memorandum were not made public.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who appealed to opposition parties to call off the march, has issued an appeal for calm and dialogue, urging the conflicting parties in Cote d'Ivoire to put the nation foremost and renew the implementation of the Marcoussis accords.
The UN Security Council is due to discuss the situation in Cote d'Ivoire when it meets in New York on Friday.
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