afrol News, 30 January - As French citizens are fleeing Côte d'Ivoire, the peace accord seems to be collapsing. Several political parties have joined the Ivorian army opposing to hand key ministries over to the rebels. Anti-French riots dominate the streets of Abidjan.
Last week's peace accord, signed in Paris under French supervision, foresaw the establishment of a "government of national reconciliation", headed by new Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, who is from the rebel-held Muslim north. The MPCI rebel group was to take over the ministries of Interior and Defence. While the peace deal caused northerners to celebrate they had "won the war," southerners following President Laurent Gbagbo have rioted ever since.
The ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) of President Gbagbo has joined four other parties that have their stronghold in the Christian-dominated south in protesting the Paris deal. They had never given their approval to give ministries to the rebels, they said in a joint statement, adding that the solution was unconstitutional.
Outgoing Ivorian Interior Minister, Paul Yao N'dré, yesterday said on national television in Togo he demanded to stick to his post. He claimed that handing over his and other ministries, held by an elected government, "amounts to a constitutional coup d'état" and declared the decision "null and void".
Senior officers of the Ivorian armed forces on Tuesday made a statement saying the army would not support the Paris deal. In a memorandum delivered to President Gbagbo, officers said they would not accept being treated on the same level as the rebels.
Meanwhile, in Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d'Ivoire, riots today reached new dimensions, turning stronger against northerners, immigrants and French citizens. France is accused of having forced an unfortunate accord on the south. There are some 16,000 French nationals living in Côte d'Ivoire, in addition to some 2,500 French troops.
French and other Western expatriates today lined up for specially chartered flights out of Abidjan, heading towards their homelands and to Dakar (Senegal). The many French nationals were frightened by riots targeting them in an ever-increasing way - signs saying 'Kill the French!' were observed in the angry crowds. Also other Western citizens have been attacked, among them a Spanish diplomat.
While the Red Cross and Air France were assisting French nationals in their exodus, the Paris government does not yet want to speak about an evacuation. French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, on national radio said government was "following the situation hour by hour" and would "not hesitate" to start a full-scale evacuation if that became necessary.
The French government announced today it would send more troops to Côte d'Ivoire. In particular, France was to send 130 paramilitary gendarmes to Abidjan to protect its nationals and assist their departure. A government spokesman said the gendarmes were to arrive Abidjan later this day.
President Gbagbo is today expected to hold a televised speech to explain the peace deal to his fellow Ivorians. Whereas he earlier had promised the French government to "appeal for calm," observers now fear Mr Gbagbo may be impressed by the rioting Abidjan masses that normally are his political followers. Also the army's pressure has to be taken seriously.
The Ivorian President has two equally disturbing choices when making his speech later today; he could reject the Paris peace accord and thus return to fighting the rebels. This would cost him international support but assure support in southern Côte d'Ivoire. Alternatively he could recommend and explain the peace deal, which carries a great risk of a mutiny in his own ranks. Even a coup d'état - as it happened in 1999 - is not ruled out.
Meanwhile, the disturbances are further paralysing the Ivorian economy. While a few small businesses in Abidjan reopened today, other industries are just about to close down. Many of the Western expatriates are heading some of the country's leading companies, which have been forced to close down by their sudden departure. Also the Burkinabe and Malian immigrants - chased out of Abidjan - are a backbone in the labour intensive cocoa industry, Côte d'Ivoire's leading foreign currency earner.
Sources: Based on press reports and afrol archives