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Elections in sight in Côte d’Ivoire


Mediator Blaise Compaore looked to have sealed a deal to end Côte d’Ivoire’s political crisis on Monday after the key players agreed to salvage a political accord and keep long-awaited elections in sight.

Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, clinched the deal after Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo sacked the government and the electoral commission on February 12, sparking deadly demonstrations in the divided nation.

“The results are satisfactory,” Compaoré said after his mediation talks. The main parties “have undertaken to reconstruct the Côte d’Ivoire government [and] to reconstitute the Independent Electoral Commission [CEI] this week,” he said.

This will “allow work very quickly on the quality of the electoral list … but especially to accomplish the other tasks that will allow us to set a date very quickly for the presidential election this year,” he said.

The turmoil had cast fresh doubt on the West African nation’s ability to hold a presidential election, which had been scheduled for March and which has already been postponed six times since Gbagbo’s mandate ran out in 2005.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said he would put forward his new cabinet on Tuesday and “soon after we will hold our Cabinet meeting”, he told journalists.

“Discussions are over and have allowed Ivorian political actors to agree to advance the process of ending the crisis and above all to bring peace back to our country,” Soro said.

Still not convinced
However, the opposition voiced ongoing concern over the deal and its implementation.

“Negotiations are continuing [with Soro] to resolve the deadlock”, Alphonse Djédjé Mady of the main RHDP opposition grouping told Agence France-Presse. “Everything is not yet finished,” he said, questioning how the CEI would be resurrected.

Compaoré’s visit followed fruitless talks in Ouagadougou on Sunday with the two opposition leaders, who are wary of the new government that Soro is trying to form.

Gbagbo dissolved both Soro’s national unity government and the electoral commission, accusing the latter of “fraud” on new voters’ rolls, while the opposition said the president was trying to indefinitely delay the elections.

Violent protests have taken place across Côte d’Ivoire since the shock sackings, which came after investigators said they had found evidence of fraud in the electoral roll being compiled for the poll.

At least seven people have been killed in the unrest.

Two people died on Monday in clashes between security forces and demonstrators in the western town of Daloa, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

A hospital source told AFP that they had received “several dead and several injured” from the scene of the protests, which saw youths erect barricades of burning tyres and throw rocks at police in the north of Abidjan.

Public television quoted a police official as saying two officers had received gunshot wounds in the clashes.

The home of the presidential spokesperson was ransacked by a mob in the central city of Katiola, where rioters tried to burn the local headquarters of Gbagbo’s party and a hotel, Gbagbo’s local campaign director Martin Yao Toure told AFP.

Elsewhere, riot police fired tear gas to disperse opposition demonstrators in the central town of Daloa, witnesses said.

Playing hardball
For days, Soro has been trying to form a new government, but key opposition leaders, ex-president Henri Konan Bedie and former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, had raised objections that they took to Compaore in Burkina Faso on Sunday.

The opposition has opposed the formation of a new government until the electoral commission has been reinstated. More recently they have also called on Gbagbo to resign.

The election is designed to unify a nation split between the south, dominated by Gbagbo’s party, and the north — held by Soro’s ex-rebel New Forces party — since an unsuccessful attempt to oust Gbagbo in 2002. — AFP

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