Ivory Coast brings opposition into new government


Ivory Coast announced a new government yesterday which included both main opposition parties, a vital step towards ending street protests and putting the country back on the path to elections.

The announcement followed days of demonstrations against President Laurent Gbagbo’s decision on February 12 to dissolve the government and the electoral commission, which delayed a poll already years overdue and which had been loosely set for March.

The secretary-general of the presidency, Amedee Couassi-Ble, announced the new government at a news conference.

Many senior positions were occupied by the same people as before, with Charles Koffi Diby retaining the Finance Ministry, Désiré Asségnini Tagro the Interior Ministry, and Michel N’Guessan Amani the Defence Ministry.

Addressing journalists after the announcement, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said opposition Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI) of presidential candidate Henri Konan Bedie and the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) of candidate Alassane Ouattara had ministries in the government.
“I have great hope that in 48 hours the government will have started its work,” Soro said.

The opposition had initially said it wanted nothing to do with the new government.

New electoral commission

Soro, a former rebel during the 2002-2003 civil war, said the government expected to announce a reconstituted electoral commission by Thursday, echoing comments by the main opposition coalition earlier in the day.
“The independent electoral commission should be installed on Thursday the 25th (Feb),” he said. “We are in the process of exiting this crisis and we must encourage it.”

Such a step is more important than reforming the government, which has been transitional since its mandate expired in 2005. Elections are seen as the only way of restoring legitimacy and ending the crisis in the Ivory Coast.

Public anger is growing after years of delays to the election. The military has opened fire on protesters, killing activists and raising tension further, although cocoa output in the world’s biggest grower has remained largely unaffected.

Ivory Coast’s opposition parties vowed yesterday that protests, in which at least seven people have been killed, would continue until the commission was reinstated.

They softened the tone of previous days, saying they would accept a new president and four new vice-presidents at the electoral commission so long as the rest of the body remained intact.

That compromise was worked out on Monday in talks mediated by Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, they said.

Soro said the number of ministries had been cut to 27 from 32, with the PDCI and RDR each having four instead of five previously.

There were no reports of large-scale demonstrations yesterday and the commercial capital Abidjan was largely quiet.
“I call on everyone to maintain peace and calm,” Soro said.

Gbagbo dissolved the electoral commission after accusing its chief Robert Mambe of illegally adding names to the electoral register to boost the opposition vote.

Pic: President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast

Source: www.af.reuters.com