UN Optimistic About Peace in Cote d'Ivoire

By Ruth Nabakwe
Paris, France

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

January 16, 2002

The United Nations is optimistic that the ongoing movement towards peace in Cote d'Ivoire is being reflected by the presence of all protagonists at the Paris roundtable talks that signalled hope for a definite end to the crisis.

The Paris talks that have brought together Ivorian political parties including three rebel groups are being touted as the conference ''of the last chance'' in the resolution of the four month old conflict in Cote d'Ivoire which erupted when rebels took up arms against current President Laurent Gbagbo.

Secretary General Kofi Anan's special representative to the Paris roundtable peace talks on Cote d'Ivoire Ahmedou Ould Abdallah expressed optimism for a resolution of the crisis in an interview with The Perspective soon after the Wednesday opening media briefing session of the talks in the French capital Paris attended by all protagonists to the crisis.

These included the Ivorian popular Front (FPI) government delegation led by prime minister Pascal Affi Nguessan, former President Henri Konan Bedie at the head of his Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI), the Rally of Republicans (RDR) led by Alassane Ouattara including several other smaller parties.

The three rebel groups, the Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire (MPCI), the Movement for justice and Peace (MJP) as well as the Popular Movement of the Greater West (MPIGO) are all represented at the talks.

Abdallah urged the protagonists to demonstrate their capacity to surmount the crisis facing the country saying President Gbagbo's stated desire to negotiate for peace should set the tempo for a lasting solution to the crisis.

But the UN optimism was overshadowed by the clearly hard positions taken by protagonists to the talks who appear to be camped on particular positions depending on their respective interests.

Rebel leaders interviewed by journalists talked of their desire to “reach Abidjan” if their demand for Gbagbo to step down and the holding of fresh polls was not met.

The rebel demand reflected that of the Rally of Republicans party ( RDR) leader Alassane Ouattara who told journalists that the holding of fresh polls was a key condition for the party.

The government delegation to the talks led by Prime minister Pascal Affi Nguessan is adamant that the resignation of President Gbagbo should not even be on the agenda of talks. Instead the government delegation suggests a referendum on the sticky issue of nationality that was used to bar Alassane Ouattara from vying for the October 2000 presidential polls to be held on the grounds that the RDR leader had " doubtful nationality".

For his part former President Henri Konan Bedie leading his Democratic Party of Cote d'ivoire (PDCI) delegation to the talks hinted that his party shared the view for fresh polls in Cote d'ivoire.

Bedie's party also hinted that they intended to use the Paris talks to push for Fresh polls using as their strong argument the fact that he (Bedie) was in fact ejected from power before the end of his mandate in a coup d d'etat by late army general Robert Guei, hence the need for fresh polls.

But the UN representative warned that a solution to the sticky issues could only be found by the way the Ivorian political leadership addressed them.

The UN representative plodded the political class and rebels to resolutely focus on the need for a durable resolution of the crisis saying progress made towards peace in other trouble spots of Africa including Angola, Sierra Leone and the Great lakes region should inspire the Ivorian delegations to the talks to surmount their differences for the sake of their country.

Abdallah dismissed speculations that the crisis in Cote d'ivoire could spiral into another Rwanda if the Paris talks failed to find a solution saying instead that the mood among the Ivorian populations and protagonists was the need to move towards a lasting settlement of the crisis.

"I have just come from Cote d'Ivoire and people seem subdued and tired and they are not used to a situation where they are under curfew and feel being hostage to political leaders, they want an end to the crisis," he said.

Abdallah said the UN was committed to bringing its expertise to the crisis in a bid to see peace restored to Cote d'ivoire.

The participants to the talks later retreated to Linas, Marcoussis a surbub some 30 kilometres South of Paris for closed door discussions expected to end on 24 January.

A meeting of ECOWAS heads of states mediating in the Ivorian crisis would later be held from 25 – 26 January in the French capital.UN Secretary General Kofi Anan including African Union (AU) representatives are expected to attend.