afrol News, 26 January - As the peace agreement for Côte d'Ivoire was ratified today at a Paris summit, the first disturbances in Abidjan were beginning. Supporters of the newly dismissed government initiated riots in the country's economic capital. Also several African leaders are dismayed by the French part in solving the Ivorian conflict.
Optimism was bleak, even immediately after today's ratification, in Paris, of the peace agreement - with the presence of the Secretary General of the UN, Chiefs of State of several countries and the French mediating government - which tries to put an end to five months of conflict in Côte d'Ivoire. The country has been fighting a low-grade civil war since 19 September, when rebel groups launched a mutiny that government called an attempted coup d'état.
The French President himself, Jacques Chirac, had participated actively in achieving the peace accord, which includes the destitution of the government of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. France, which still has troops deployed in the West African country, has demonstrated pride and satisfaction after the signature in the Paris peace accord, that foresees the presence of representatives of the main rebel group participating in a so-called 'government of national reconciliation'.
The new government will be headed by former Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, who is from the rebel-held Muslim north. Mr Diarra headed the Ivorian government under the military dictatorship of President Robert Gueï in 1999-2000.
The Paris decision to change government caused anger among Abidjan's inhabitants, who have grown increasingly hostile to northerners. Riots were immediately reported from the city and mobs attacked the French embassy. French troops, counting more than 2,500 in the country, were sent to protect the embassy. The troops were met with raising barricades of furious Ivorians, who were reported to produce great material damages.
In northern parts of the country, however, the population was reported to celebrate the peace accord. Thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate in the rebel stronghold of Bouaké. "The war is over, we have won," they were reported singing. Also rebel leaders in Paris had demonstrated their satisfaction - only to cause more aggression in Abidjan.
In Europe, on the other hand, optimism still prevailed. The European Union immediately announced a possible concession of 400 million euros for the reconstruction of the country in case the peace process is successful.
Meanwhile, in Africa, optimism was not so high today. The clearest voice of critique was articulated by the President of The Gambia, Yaya Jammeh, who described it as "a shame for Africa" that the continent had to resort to France to solve the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. President Jammeh lamented the fact that an African crisis had to be taken out of its context, where "our responsible" had to listen to foreign mediators. He pronounced little confidence in the accord.
During the five months of conflict, The Gambia, along with most of the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), had organised a wide spectre of meetings and initiatives to find a solution to the conflict that threatens the stability of the entire region.
The agreement ratified yesterday foresees the creation of a "government of national reconciliation" of nine ministries, in which four of them will be held by the rebel group 'Patriotic Movement of Côte d'Ivoire' (MPCI), whereas Mr Gbagbo's party of Gbagbo, 'Popular Front of Côte d'Ivoire', will hold two ministries. The MPCI rebel group, which controls the Muslim North zone of the country, is to take over the ministries of Interior and Defence.
Gaining independence from France in 1960, Côte d'Ivoire has undergone a political crisis during the last years that have affected all levels of the country. Laurent Gbagbo was declared president after irregular elections in October 2000 that were marred by boycotts after the favourite candidate to the Presidency, northerner Alassane Ouattara had been barred from presenting himself. Military dictator Gueï first had declared himself winner although the count had indicated another result. Riots forced Mr Gueï to flee and subsequent riots demanded another chance for Mr Ouattara - which was denied him.
Economically, Côte d'Ivoire bases most of its income on exports of
agricultural products. At world-wide level, it is the producer of cocoa,
but in addition the country has an important production to coffee and
tropical fragmentation hand grenade. Despite of its resources,
nevertheless, the Ivorian economy has suffered gravely by the continuous
political crisis since the coup d'état of Mr Gueï in 1999. Since return to
democracy, Côte d'Ivoire has however received major financing from the IMF
and the European Union.
Sources: Based on afrol archives