Ivory Coast PM will pick govt in two days


Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said yesterday he had asked for two extra days to form a government to replace the one that his president sacked almost a week ago.

President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the government and electoral commission after a row over voter registration last Friday, sparking a political crisis and opposition demonstrations across the world’s top cocoa grower.
“In the meeting with the head of state (on Thursday), we insisted on getting 48 hours extra to permit us to finalise the consultations we are engaged in,” Soro told journalists in the capital Yamoussoukro.

The leaders of West Africa’s former economic powerhouse have come under increasing international pressure to resolve the crisis and restart an electoral process that is already several years overdue.

Gbagbo’s decision taken after he accused electoral commission head Robert Mambe of illegally adding names to the electoral register to boost the opposition vote is certain to push back the latest election time frame of early March.

The opposition have called for civil disobedience and massive street protests, but thus far demonstrations have been relatively small and peaceful.
“I ask Ivorians to keep their cool and retain their hope. We are doing everything we can to ensure no one is left by the wayside,” Soro said.

Outside and inside pressure

Frustration is growing at years of delays to a vote meant to restore peace to Ivory Coast after a 2002-3 war carved it up between Gbagbo’s government and the rebel New Forces. The presidential election was originally meant to happen in 2005.

Days of protests seemed to fizzle out, but continued in some places.

About 700 protesters, some holding up placards calling for Gbagbo to go, gathered on Thursday in the city of Bouake, capital of the rebel-held north. Some of them smashed up a bus.
“We don’t want Gbagbo,” shouted a man who gave his name as Krokan, 36. “He has to go: his mandate ran out in 2005.”

In the town Agnibilekrou, eastern Ivory Coast, around 100 anti-government demonstrators marched through the streets, witnesses said.

Soro, the New Forces leader, became prime minister under a peace deal signed in Burkina Faso in 2007 which gives him powers to oversee the electoral process. Even if a government is formed soon, picking a new election commission could be a drawn out process.

The United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the US State Department the mediator in Ivory Coast’s crisis, Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore, have all urged Gbagbo to resolve the row and resume the electoral process as quickly as possible.

Rising tensions threaten to hurt a cocoa industry that supplies 40% of world demand, and could stop an election the World Bank this month said must be held if the country is to obtain debt relief. But despite the civil war and years of subsequent crisis, cocoa in Ivory Coast has never seriously been disrupted.

Pic: President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast

Source: www.af.reuters.com