Ivory Coast opposition calls off flashpoint march


Ivory Coast’s opposition called off a protest scheduled for the weekend after talks with President Laurent Gbagbo, who wanted it postponed until after an African Development Bank meeting this month.

The march planned for May 15 to protest against the blocked electoral process had been a cause of tension between the government and the opposition in the world’s top cocoa grower.

Presidential polls meant to reunite the country have been delayed indefinitely because of rows over voter registration and rebel disarmament. The opposition accuses Gbagbo of stalling the process deliberately to extend his mandate.

The government had requested the opposition delay the march until after an African Development Bank summit in Abidjan from May 24-28, but opposition leaders had vowed to go ahead with it.
“Faced with the risk of clashes and loss of human life and remembering our commitment to take power by the ballot box rather than violence … the (opposition) presidents have decided to delay the protests planned for May 15 to a date they will fix later,” an opposition coalition statement said.

Gbagbo had been in negotiations with opposition Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI) leader Henri Konan Bedie.

Locals had feared he would just ban it by decree and the opposition would defy him, leading to clashes and bloodshed.

At least seven people were killed in scuffles between security forces and opposition demonstrators in February.

Pic: President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Caost

Source: www.af.reuters.com