COTE D'IVOIRE: Deal to appoint Soro as PM

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Relations between Cote d’Ivoire’s government and the largest rebel group in the country took a major step forward on Tuesday when the two sides agreed to appoint a prominent rebel leader to the position of prime minister.

An agreement, signed on Monday in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou, states that Guillaume Soro, head of the Forces Nouvelles, a rebel group that has controlled much of the north of the country since a brief civil war in 2002, will serve as prime minister to President Laurent Gbabgo, head of the government which holds the south.

Soro will replace Charles Konan Banny, an interim prime minister appointed by a United Nations mandate after a delay in the presidential elections last year. Banny said on Ivorian state television on Monday that he is prepared to “sacrifice” himself, and that he had never envisaged holding the post perpetually, though he is yet to officially announce his resignation.

Cote d’Ivoire has existed in a stalemate since 2002 with a line in the middle of the country dividing the two sides, manned by 11,000 United Nations and French troops.

A breakthrough to the stalemate came earlier this month with the government and rebels signing a peace agreement in Ouagadougou, following month long talks. It was the first time the two parties had negotiated a deal without input from the UN or African Union.

Part of the new accord stipulates that a transitional government must be appointed within five weeks to then lead the country into presidential elections before the end of the year.

"Both parties have agreed to appoint the leader of the Forces Nouvelles Guillaume Soro as prime minister in order to implement the road map of the Ouagadougou agreement", Sidiki Konate spokesperson of the Forces Nouvelles said on Burkina Faso national television on Tuesday.

Soro said he would step down following presidential elections scheduled to take place before the end of the year and pledged he would not run in them.

Djibril Bassolet, Burkina Faso’s minister of security and a mediator of the accord said President Gbagbo will sign the decree appointing Soro as prime minister in the coming days.

Gbagbo told journalists on Monday, “The war is finished. The crisis is finished. Soon we will have a new government. And I will go to the north and west of the country to ask the population to return to where they come from, go back to their plantations and restart their work.”

However in the eyes of political scientist Francois Kouassi, at the University of Abidjan, a real solution to the conflict is still elusive.

“The nomination of Soro to the post of prime minister only confirms that a part of the pie has been split which will be even worse for the people than before. We believe that this decision will not change much at all because it is only a deal between two people,” he said. The two people he referred to are Soro and Gbagbo.

Kouassi’s scepticism was widely echoed on the streets of Abidjan, where several people said they had little faith in Soro achieving more than the four prime ministers appointed in the last four years.

The next step in implementing the Ouagadougou Accord is to appoint a full transitional government. Once that is achieved, the new government is to start to disarm militias.

However, leaders from rebel groups other than the Forces Nouvelles have complained that they are excluded from the agreement. On Friday Glofiei Denis Maho, head of the Forces of Resistance of the Grand West rebel movement, told journalists that the almost 11,000 fighters under his command would not be disarmed until he had been invited to talks on the composition of the transitional government.
Author: IRIN
Source: IRIN
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