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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
04 October 2006

COTE D IVOIRE: Protests ahead of regional peace meeting

BOUAKE, 4 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - Hundreds of people protested in the main rebel-held northern town of Bouake on Wednesday to demand the departure of President Laurent Gbagbo ahead of a regional meeting on Cote d’Ivoire aimed at unblocking an impasse on the divided country’s future.

"We, the residents within the zones controlled by the New Forces, condemn the head of state and all of his henchmen for all of the hindrances in the peace process and appeal to ECOWAS and the African Union to demonstrate courage and firmness in their decision," said Zoumana Ouattara, coordinator of civil society organisations in the rebel-controlled zone.

The protesters said the rally was the first of several to come to demand a new transitional government in Cote d’Ivoire.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) begin meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Friday to work out a plan to move the peace process forward ahead of a crucial United Nations Security Council meeting on Cote d’Ivoire in October.

African Union leaders are also expected to meet next Tuesday to come up with proposals of how to end the crisis.

Cote d’Ivoire has been split between a rebel-held north and government-run south since a failed coup in September 2002. About 10,000 UN and French peacekeepers monitor a buffer zone dividing the country.

Gbagbo’s mandate, which was already extended by 12 months under a UN-backed peace plan last year, expires on 31 October and there is no clear indication who will run the country thereafter. Gbagbo has said he will work out his own peace plan and will stay in office until elections are held.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, about a dozen elite army recruits blocked two bridges in the commercial capital, Abidjan, to demand monthly war benefits of between US $180 and US $300.

They fired shots in the air and blocked traffic for about two hours until the army chief of staff persuaded them to leave the streets.

No injuries were reported.



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