COTE D IVOIRE: AU hands down new peace blueprint

Thursday, October 19, 2006
The African Union has recommended that Cote d’Ivoire’s current transition be extended for twelve more months with President Laurent Gbagbo remaining in office, despite rebel and opposition leaders insisting he step down.

After meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the Peace and Security Council of the AU said Gbagbo should stay on as head of state, but transfer control of the army to Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny.

"President Laurent Gbagbo shall remain head of state until the end of the transition period," the final statement released on Wednesday said.

Echoing proposals made last week by the Economic Community of West African (ECOWAS), the AU said Banny "shall have all necessary powers and means" to organise disarmament, identification, redeployment of the administration, and to prepare for elections considered crucial to restoring peace.

Banny is to have "the necessary authority over all the Ivorian defence and security forces to enable him to carry out the tasks assigned to him", the statement added, without specifying how this should be done. Gbagbo currently controls the Ivorian army.

Clear roadmap

The recommendations are to serve as a blueprint for a new United Nations Security Council resolution due to be hammered out in New York later this month.

A previous peace plan drafted by African leaders and endorsed by the UN resulted in the appointment of Banny, but ultimately failed to reunite the divided country.

Gbagbo's official five-year mandate expired twelve months ago and presidential elections have been postponed twice because of delays in a scheme to register new voters and disarm and reintegrate rebel and militia fighters.

Gbagbo says he will not step down until elections are held, while rebels and opposition leaders insist he must go.

The AU also decided that the Ivorian council of ministers must be allowed to rule by ordinances or decrees, in particular on issues concerning the identification programme designed to provide up to three million people with proof of identity.

"This is a clear roadmap on how to proceed - this document is agreed by all African leaders and there is little doubt that the UN will make it into binding law," Pierre Schori, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cote d'Ivoire, told reporters on Wednesday.

"It was a very good decision by Gbagbo to participate and come to the summits," Schori added. Gbagbo refused to attend a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in September that was meant to decide a way forward for Cote d'Ivoire.

“Going in circles”

The AU's decision to extend the tenure of Gbagbo and Banny may come as a disappointment to both hardliners within the Gbagbo regime and rebel and opposition leaders.

Gbagbo said earlier this month he wanted to appoint his own government and would ask the AU to replace the French peacekeeping force with African troops.

He also sought a formal condemnation of the rebel movement which has been occupying the northern half of the country for four years, according to the presidential website.

A presidential aide told IRIN that Gbagbo had not signed the final statement. "Banny has failed and all that's left for him to do is step down," Ben Soumahoro, who is close to Gbagbo, said.

Earlier this week, thousands of opposition supporters gathered in the main city Abidjan to demand the departure of Gbagbo, who won the 2000 presidential elections after the main opposition candidates were excluded from the vote by the then military junta.

Cisse Sindou, spokesperson for the New Forces rebel movement, said the rebels would not oppose the peace plan, but added that little had changed.

"We are going around in circles," he said. "The African leaders had an opportunity to move the peace process forward, but all I can see is that things have not moved at all."
Author: IRIN
Source: IRIN
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