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COTE D'IVOIRE: New government formed

ABIDJAN, 9 April 2007 (IRIN) - Côte d’Ivoire’s new prime minister, Guillaume Soro, leader of the New Forces rebel group, has formed a government that is supposed to reunite the divided country and lead the way to elections by the end of the year.

“We have as our mission to manage the unity of the nation and to organise open elections to bring the country out of its crisis,” Soro announced after the first meeting of the new council of ministers in the economic capital, Abidjan, on Saturday.

The new government is comprised of 11 ministers from President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front and seven from the New Forces. Five posts each go to the two leading opposition parties – the Rally of Republicans of former prime minister Alassane Ouattara and the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire of former president Henri Konan Bedie.

There are four women in the cabinet, down from five under former prime minister Charles Konan Banny.

The formation of a new government follows the signing of a peace accord last month. Several previous agreements have failed to end the crisis that has displaced tens of thousands of people and left the country divided between a rebel-held north and government-run south for four years.

Over the years Ivorians have grown cynical about the prospects for peace in a country that was once a model for economic prosperity and stability in West Africa.

“They’re dividing the cake,” said Charles Bamba, a retired teacher in Abidjan. “We prefer a government of 20 or so members comprised of non-partisan technocrats or members of civil society. They would have been better placed to bring us to elections.”

Polls have been postponed twice in the past two years and efforts at disarmament and identification of undocumented Ivorians have stalled. Some 11,000 United Nations and French peacekeepers monitor a buffer zone between the north and south.

The UN said last week that beginning on 16 April peacekeepers would begin their phased withdrawal from the buffer zone by leaving their checkpoints and going to observation posts within the zone. The new peace agreement stipulates that the number of observation posts will be reduced by half each month. The peacekeepers are to be replaced by a united Ivorian defense force.

The UN at the end of March in a human rights report on Côte d’Ivoire called attention to numerous violations committed in the buffer zone. Simon Munzu, head of the UN human rights division in Cote d’Ivoire, told reporters that the violations were committed by armed individuals, militia members, traditional hunters known as ‘dozos’ and other armed groups with impunity.

“We have reports of cases of assassinations, killings, confiscation of goods, abductions, disappearances,” he said.

The human rights report also called attention to numerous rapes of minors committed in the rebel-held north. Munzu said many of the rapes, however, went unreported because victims and family members feared reprisals.

Another problem, he said, was inter-communal violence that continued in the west and southwest of the country, constituting “grave violations of human rights, including attacks on lives, physical integrity and property rights”.

He said members of the Young Patriots aligned to the ruling party, as well as other armed groups, were responsible for violations while security forces routinely used excessive force in their operations.





Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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