Angola denies involvement in Ivory Coast conflict

Angola on Tuesday denied any involvement in Ivory Coast, where army rebels pulled out of ceasefire talks over the reported presence of Angolan troops and tanks in support of the government.

Luanda “vigorously denies any direct or indirect involvement” in the Ivorian crisis, the country’s ambassador to France, Assuncao dos Anjos, told reporters in Paris late on Tuesday.

“I insist on saying it: Angola does not have troops, weapons or military equipment in Ivory Coast,” he said. On Monday, Ivorian rebels who control most of the north and center of the country broke off ceasefire talks with a west African negotiating team, citing what they called the “unacceptable” presence in Ivory Coast of some 500 Angolan troops.

“The MPCI (Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement) is suspending all participation in any mediation so long as Angolan troops called by Mr Gbagbo remain on our country’s soil,” rebel leader Sherif Usman told a press conference in the insurgents’ stronghold of Bouake.

A witness to fighting in the western city of Daloa, the gateway to the country’s cocoa belt, also said four Angolan armored transport vehicles had fought alongside troops loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo on Monday, and were backed by Angolan “technical advisers”.

Dos Anjos qualified the accounts as “rumours”, adding that “diplomatic missions in Abidjan have confirmed that no one has seen the slightest trace of Angolan military equipment.”

“My country is peace-loving and is itself emerging from a long internal conflict,” he said.
“We give priority to dialogue and political solutions.

The ambassador’s comments broke weeks of official silence out of Angola on the uprising.

On September 23, four days after rebels launched their uprising, the office of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos had issued a statement in which it categorically denied that Luanda had sent troops to Abidjan “to protect the airport and ensure the safety of President Laurent Gbagbo.”

Under the long rule of president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who led the west African country from independence from France in 1960 until his death in 1993, Ivory Coast was one of the staunchest backers of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), the rebel group which waged a 27-year civil war against the government.

Gbagbo ended Ivory Coast’s backing for Unita when he came to power in 2000. However, Unita maintained its ties to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast’s northern neighbour, which has been implicitly accused by Gbagbo of backing the month-long rebellion in Ivory Coast. Burkina Faso has also been accused by the United Nations of ignoring an arms sale embargo against Unita and providing weapons to Angolan rebels, who signed a ceasefire with the Luanda government in April.

The southern African state has in the past few years sent troops and military equipment to back leaders in several strife-torn African nations, notably its two northern neighbours, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the smaller Republic of Congo.

In the DRC, Angola supplied one contingent of foreign forces—others were sent by Zimbabwe and Namibia—to back the government in Kinshasa against rebel movements supported by Rwanda and Uganda. In Congo, Luanda lent its support to the government of President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who won a civil war in 1997.

Zambia has also accused Angolan troops of launching repeated incursions on its territory as Luanda’s forces hunted down rebels during Angola’s civil war. - Sapa-AFP

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