UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: Banny sworn in as new prime minister
ABIDJAN, 7 Dec 2005 (IRIN) - Charles Konan Banny was sworn in as interim prime minister of Cote d’Ivoire on Wednesday, facing the daunting task of restoring the war-divided country to peace in just 11 months.
Banny took over from predecessor Seydou Diarra at a special handover ceremony in the main city Abidjan. The ceremony was closed to the press and no statement was issued.
Diarra headed a power-sharing government that was to have resolved the country’s three-year conflict, but failed. Cote d’Ivoire has been divided in two since 2002, with rebels holding the north and the government in control of the south.
The new prime minister now takes over a deadlocked peace process and will have to organise a long delayed programme of disarmament, resolve the sensitive issue of who is entitled to citizenship, and organise presidential elections -- all before an October 2006 deadline.
An attempt to hold elections on 30 October failed due to the intransigence of the factions on all these issues, forcing the UN to extend President Laurent Gbagbo’s mandate for 12 months by special resolution.
Under the terms of UN resolution 1633, Banny will have “full authority over the cabinet” and has been promised assistance from a specially appointed group of international monitors who will submit progress reports to the UN.
On Tuesday, that working group held its second monthly meeting chaired by UN envoy for Cote d’Ivoire Pierre Schori and Nigerian Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji. A communique said that the working group has drawn up a timetable for electoral preparations, which awaits approval by Banny before it can be published.
To put an end to confusion in the local press as to whether Banny’s mandate is linked to the constitution or to the UN resolution -- Schori emphasised that the UN resolution takes precedence.
“The resolution … has priority over national laws and is mandatory for all parties concerned,” Schori said.
Banny’s first task ahead of the polls will be to address a conflict over the composition of the national electoral commission. Last month, the Supreme Court nullified the already belated election of the chairman of the commission on the grounds that several members were unfairly excluded from the vote.
The row traces a clear divide between members of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, some of whom were barred from the vote, and the unarmed opposition, which gained control of the commission with the election of a chairman from the ranks of the main opposition Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI).
The working group said in a statement that it was up to the UN special envoy for the elections, Antonio Monteiro, to decide on the matter. However, Monteiro has previously told IRIN that he is awaiting consultation with the new prime minister.
The working group also said that cabinet ministers, working through the prime minister, will take over as the country’s lawmakers as the mandate of the national assembly expires on 16 December.
In an unrelated development, Alassane Outtara, leader of another big opposition party, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), was hailed by a jubilant crowd of supporters when he set foot in Cote d’Ivoire late Tuesday for the first time since 2002.
Ouattara, a former prime minister of Cote d’Ivoire, and his wife fled Abidjan with the help of French special forces in the early days of the crisis after their house was attacked by Ivorian security forces. He has lived in self-imposed exile in Paris since.
Ouattara, who is expected to stay in Cote d’Ivoire for a week, returned to Abidjan to bury his mother and has made no political statement.
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