Ivorian army, rebels agree on dates for disarming

Army and rebel officials in Côte d’Ivoire have agreed to begin disarming by late September, just one month before crucial October 30 presidential elections, officials said on Sunday.

The two sides came to their agreement, including a timetable for laying down weapons, after three days of talks ended on Saturday in the capital, Yamoussoukro.

Officials declined to make the schedule public, apparently fearing it wouldn’t be met. However, rebel delegation member Inza Diomande said on Sunday that all parties decided disarmament will begin on September 28 and end by October 8.

A day earlier, the head of the national disarmament commission, Alain Richard Donwahi, was vaguer, saying only that both sides have agreed to disarm and that “peace is truly on the rails so that elections can be held on October 30”.

Army officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Both sides have repeatedly missed past disarmament deadlines—the last on June 27.

Rebels are demanding that Parliament pass key laws on nationality and ensure a yet-to-be-formed national electoral commission includes rebel representatives.

At the Yamoussoukro talks, all sides reaffirmed their commitment to disarm pro-government militias by August 20, as was agreed at separate talks earlier this month in South Africa.

In late April, both sides pulled back heavy weapons from front lines that have divided the nation between a rebel-held north and a government-held south since a failed rebel coup attempt in 2002.

About 10 000 United Nations and French troops have been deployed to the West African country to bolster security and help prevent all-out war.—Sapa-AP

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