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Mediators Meet to Speed up Peace Process in Ivory Coast

04 September 2007

Rebel and presidential representatives from the Ivory Coast have met in Ouagadougou to evaluate the progress in the country's peace process. Burkina Faso's president and main mediator, Blaise Compaore, complained the peace process, aimed at reunifying the world's leading cocoa producer, is moving slowly. Selah Hennessy reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Mr. Compaore greeted participants with a brief speech, in a renewed effort to end the five-year conflict.

He said there is still much left undone. National identification, disarmament, and army re-unification - the three cornerstones of the peace process - are yet to be completed. The overall aim is a free and fair presidential election, already postponed twice.

The meeting was attended by delegates from the government, including presidential spokesman Desire Tagro, and from the rebel group New Forces, including Sidiki Konate and Louis Dakoury-Tabley.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and rebel New Forces leader Guillaume Soro signed the Ouagadougou peace deal in March. It resulted in the rebel leader becoming prime minister.

Presidential adviser Lambert Bahi says immense progress has been made in the five months since the treaty was signed. "Today the country is peaceful, people travel everywhere they want, the mayors of the ex-besieged zones are now back in their land, people are returning to their homes," he said.

New Forces spokesman Cisse Sindou says the rebels are committed to the peace deal and feel like positive change is taking place.

But he says the identification process, which should provide undocumented Ivorians nationality and voting papers, is a priority and has not yet been done.

"As far as Forces Nouvelle is concerned, our determination is total as far as identification is concerned. This is the reason why we bore arms and I think we are not going to really back down from that point one," he said.

Kissy Agyeman is the Africa analyst for the London-based risk consultancy group Global Insight.

She says she fears Ivorian leaders will rush through with an election before the country is ready. "The fact that the president and [rebel leader Guillaume] Soro, neither of them are willing to say that okay we need to re-timetable this raises some concern," she added. "What it looks like to me is that they are going to just soldier ahead, on the face of it say that the elections will occur and fail to enfranchise the Northerners, which obviously will undermine the whole process."

She says if the issue of voter identification is not resolved before elections, security in the country may be compromised. "The rebels they have not all disarmed and obviously central to their grievances is the fact that the northerners have not been enfranchised so we could see the militias again starting up their campaign and we could see a descent into violence."

Mr. Gbagbo's presidential mandate was originally supposed to end in October 2005, but his term has been extended twice through U.N resolutions, as Ivory Coast remains split in two.

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